The year was 1998. She was selling fax machines door to door in Florida. At work, she struggled to eliminate annoying panty lines whenever she wore light-colored slacks.
Eager to solve her problem, she decided to cut the feet off pairs of pantyhose and wear them under her pants. That’s when the idea for Spanx was born. Blakely started working nights and weekends visiting manufacturers, researching patents, and developing a prototype.
Spanx exploded in 2000, when Oprah Winfrey (more on her in just a second) said she liked them better than regular underwear. Then Blakely appeared on a reality show with Richard Branson in 2004, who became a mentor and friend.
Since then, Spanx has developed into an Atlanta-based “shapewear” company of slimming and toning garments. The product line has expanded to over 200 items, including yoga clothes, jeans, and even undershirts for men. Blakeley’s company does about $400 million in annual sales, and in 2012 she became the youngest self-made woman on Forbes’ billionaire list!