Happy Birthday-SARA BLAKELY
When Sara Blakely appeared on the cover of Forbes Magazine in March 2012, her story caught my fancy. I read raptly about this entrepreneur who cut the feet out of her pantyhose to create an invention called SPANX - a shapewear with a start-up capital of USD 5000 and landed an initial order from Neiman Marcus for its seven stores, and to fast forward 2012: 11,500 doors later and a business valued at a Billion Dollars to the cover of Forbes as the then, world's youngest self-made billionaire.
Sara Blakely was tenacious about her idea and worked on it on nights and weekends while she worked at her day job at Danka, selling photocopying machines door to door in Florida. As I read the Forbes article rapturously, she seemed to be my soul-sister: the PR panache and the Charisma, her tenacity and power of convincing the manufacturer in North Carolina to make the first prototype, to her mother sketching on the patent application, calling journalists from magazine bylines and giving samples to Oprah's stylists. Her story resonated so much with me, and I was doing the same kinda hustle back in Mumbai.
Back home in MUMBAI, I was working on GOLMAAL in 2012, a womenswear brand in the affordable segment. I had garnered a good amount of Brand Buzz and traction with the women consumers and worked tirelessly to create a unique product - dresses, tops, kurti's and a 'total look' for this segment. I would too, send samples to the press editors, train the retail staff, push them on sales targets, merchandise and source collections, follow-up with the customers on their needs and feedback, often measure them up myself and run all prototypes with my mom, always my cheer-leader too.
So, I was inspired by Sara from Atlanta, that I tore the Cover of the Forbes magazine, and stuck it on the my 'vision board'. I devoured all of Sara's Youtube videos on the internet and knew her well 'like a close friend'. I knew where she went to school, where she grew up (in Clearwater, Florida), what her parents did, and her backstory................
Towards the end of that year, back in Mumbai, India my friend Smita Mankad and alum of Fortune/US State Dept prog (she worked with India's lconic retail brand Fabindia, and who I would call from time to time to bounce off ideas), told me one day. "I am going to nominate your name to the US Consulate in Mumbai" she said, matter of factly who were looking for women entrepreneurs from various countries to take to the United States and be paired with a woman CEO of a Fortune 500 company (the Fortune/US State Department mentorship program).
I was selected and on March 21, 2013 exactly a year after I first saw Sara Blakely on the cover of Forbes Magazine, I got to know, I am going to SPANX for my mentorship program !!! I clearly remember when I got that call from the US Consulate in Mumbai I screamed with joy, I was ECSTATIC. I was going to SPANX, and to meet and be mentored by Sara Blakely ! ! This couldn't be happening ! !
Through a series of events and things lining up, we were going to meet. No, not only meet but I spend two weeks at SPANX. I met her first employee and friend, I met people who were with her from the early years prior to the 11,500 stores SPANX was distributed in, by 2012.
The three weeks in the US was a dream - I carried my 'vision board' with me all the way to Atlanta to show Sara that I had manifested her back in India. When I met her, it was like catching up with a girlfriend. She was warm, friendly and curious about me. She looked at me, and said, 'I too believe in the power of manifestation'. We met and connected through series of events stacking up for us from 15000 miles apart.
Sara Blakely, says in all her interviews that she owes her success to her mindset. She wanted to create an invention which would change and empower women, and whilst she sold fax machines door to door for seven years, she knew she was meant for bigger things. One day, she pulled up her car to the curb and told the Universe, 'wrong movie' Universe, When the idea of cutting the feet off her pantyhose came to her on a friday night while going out, she knew this could be her big idea. She persisted for years as no one wanted to produce a prototype of her invention. But, she never gave up.
When I asked her, how it all came together, she said 'When you are on the right track, the right people appear' ! She got the leg-up on Oprah's favourite things and never looked back since.
When I asked her, how is she so down to earth, she hugged me, and said, 'I don't know how else to be' ?
My inspiration, Sara Blakely, Happiest Birthday to you from India.
Written by Simrita Dhillon, Founder, SANDA | Co-founder, GOLMAAL.