Found via Santangel’s Review.
Sara Blakely stands topless at a conference room table. It’s Monday morning at the Spanx headquarters in Atlanta, and the founder of the hosiery company has been in a product development meeting for all of five minutes before walking out abruptly. She returns a minute later in nothing but a lacy taupe bra with black pants and beige wedges and adjusts herself in a full-length mirror, worrying aloud about the metal clasps on this early prototype. Will they create lumps under her clothes? Her CEO, Laurie Ann Goldman — petite and glamorous in a leopard print shift dress — tugs on Blakely’s straps.
The conference room looks like a boudoir designed by Willy Wonka: a jar of gum balls here, a loud houndstooth print there. Blakely hardly blinks in the presence of five colleagues and me as she removes the bra and tries on a second prototype. She’s been getting half-naked in public for the last decade, controlling every detail of the new category in women’s retail—shapewear—that she created from a one-product wonder sold out of her apartment.
Today Spanx is to slimming undergarments what Kleenex is to tissues: a brand that stands for the category. It nets an estimated 20% on revenue just south of $250 million. In recent months four Wall Street investment banks separately valued Spanx at an average $1 billion, a sum Forbes corroborated with the help of industry analysts. Blakely owns 100% of the private company, has zero debt, has never taken outside investment and hasn’t spent a nickel on advertising. At 41 she’s the youngest woman to join this year’s World’s Billionaires list without help from a husband or an inheritance. She is part of a tiny, elite club of American women worth ten figures on their own, including Oprah Winfrey and Meg Whitman.