When I was in my mid-20s, I spent $80 of my hard-earned money on a pair of white pants, which I couldn't wear. It was an undergarment issue: Panties bunched or showed lines, thongs were too uncomfortable, and girdles, or shapers, were made of a thick material that felt like you were wearing athletic clothes beneath your nice ones.

So one day, I cut the feet out of a pair of pantyhose so I could wear my white pants. That was my "aha" moment. I kept my idea to myself. The only people I told were patent lawyers and people in the undergarment industry. Ideas are fragile in their infancy, and I sensed that if I talked about it with friends, I might be discouraged.

A lot of million-dollar ideas are squashed because people want to tell you all their concerns. Once I had the prototype and patent in 2000, I sat my family and friends down and said, "Are you ready? Footless pantyhose." I then had my mom and best friend try them on, and their reaction was instant and emotional. "I love it! So comfortable; no bulges! I can now wear things I wouldn't wear before, like cream-colored pants!"

We still get the same reactions from our customers. We have never formally advertised. It's not that complicated--your customers get really passionate and emotional, and they become your advertising.

As told to Inc. contibuting writer, Liz Welch.


The "Aha" Moment That Launched Spanx
From the February 2014 issue of Inc. magazine