“I Feel The Divine Feminine Rising”- Spanx Founder Sara Blakely On How Intuition Led To Her $1.2 Billion Blackstone Exit

“I Feel The Divine Feminine Rising”- Spanx Founder Sara Blakely On How Intuition Led To Her $1.2 Billion Blackstone Exit
“I Feel The Divine Feminine Rising”- Spanx Founder Sara Blakely On How Intuition Led To Her $1.2 Billion Blackstone Exit

Sara Blakely didn’t know how she’d feel as she prepared to hand over a majority share of her shapewear company Spanx in October to Blackstone.

Blakely confessed that she began to cry as she wrote.

“I cried, I was crying for so many reasons,” she said to Moira Forbes, Forbes’ Executive vice president and President of ForbesWomen, at Thursday’s 2021 Forbes Power Women’s Summit. I felt every emotion simultaneously. I felt proud, overwhelmed, grateful, sad, and nervous all at the same time.

At Thursday’s Power Women’s Summit, Sara Blakely (left), founder of Spanx, discusses the company’s growth with Moira Forbes (right), Forbes Executive Vice President Moira Forbes.

Blakely, 50, experienced a torrential flood of emotions. Blakely, 50 years old, had never accepted outside funding in the 21 years that she established her pioneering shapewear brand. Blackstone valued Spanx at $1.2billion in October. That’s enough to lift Blakely back to billionaire status.

The Atlanta-based entrepreneur appeared on the cover of Forbes in 2012. She became the youngest self-made woman billionaire in 2012 when she was just 21 years old. Her hosiery firm was earning 20% profit margins on close to $250 million in annual sales. Wall Street analysts valued Spanx for $1 billion. Blakely said at the summit, “It was a life-defining moment.”

Blakely credits her intuition with the timing of Blackstone’s sale nearly a decade after the fact. “I’ve been able to run this business and my life. I feel very, very connected with intuition. This is something we all have. It’s an inner knowing,” she explained to Moira Forbes. “I have always said, “I’ll just know, it’ll be the right time for my business.” It will be the right time for you.

Blakely stated that Blakely was compelled by her inner voice to protect her company over the years and refuse any external funding. Blakely explained that her intuition was clear from the start that if she allowed outside investors in, it would lead to me losing my voice. “I didn’t look for growth simply for the sake of growth. I have always make an effort to be a best consumer by what we do and make.” Spanx’s laser-focused focus on the customer was a critical factor in its success. The founder stated that the company spent no money advertising over 16 years. Instead, they relied on word of mouth, such as Oprah Winfrey. Winfrey voted Spanx her favorite product in 2000. Blakely, a mother of four, said she tried to “shine a spotlight on other women” by investing in female founders, hiring female leaders, and including female-founded businesses in Spanx’s catalog. This was published in 2004.

At the summit, she also remembered a conversation at 29 when she met several men at a cocktail party. They had read about her fledgling business in a local Atlanta paper. They said, “Business was war, Sara.” She said, “I hope that you are ready.” Blakely was skeptical. She said, “I went home to my apartment that evening… and just thought, I am not going to be at war, and this is going to be very different.” I’m going to honor the feminine principles of empathy, kindness, and intuition a lot. [And] just allowing myself be vulnerable through this whole process.”

Blakely has avoided all-out conflict, but she has steered Spanx along turbulent waters. Spanx faces new competition from Honeylove, Shapermint, and Kim Kardashian West’s Skims brand of shapewear. Blackstone is betting on a Spanx with a broader focus. It now sells sports bras as well as leather leggings. This could help it grow even more in the face of increased competition.

Blakely’s Blackstone deal also aligned her commitment to helping other women in the business industry. Blackstone and Spanx made it clear that they would create an all-female board. Oprah and Reese Witherspoon joined the board as investors, while Bumble’s Whitney Wolfe Herd joined Bumble. Blakely led the Blackstone deal team that Blakely worked with. Her lucrative Spanx deal may have been a turning point in the lives of female founders.

Blakely observed, “I feel the divine femininity rising. I can sense it in all,” Blakely said. It’s giving this permission at work and incorporating America that perhaps that’s not a weakness. Maybe the feminine strength should be harnessed and must have a voice at the table.

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Adam Collins
Adam writes about technology, business and economics. With master's degree in Economics, he's presented six papers in international conferences. As a solivagant in the constant state of fernweh, curiosity is the main weapon in his arsenal.

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