Start small, think big, scale quickly

SPANX founder Sara Blakely on how to bootstrap a billion dollar business

Women’s history month is a time to celebrate the tremendous contributions that women all over the world have made. And in this episode, we’re bringing you an interview with one woman who has changed history.

Her name is Sara Blakely, and Tony had the pleasure of speaking with her at his recent Business Mastery event in Palm Beach. She’s the founder of shapewear company SPANX, and in 2012 – at just 41 year old – she became the first female in the world to become a billionaire, on her own, without the help of an inheritance or spouse.

Sara’s story is incredible. She went from failing the L-SAT, to being a greeter at Disney World, to selling fax machines door to door, to turning $5,000 of her own savings into a billion dollar empire. But what you may not have heard before is everything in between: The exact steps she took to get her business off the ground, how she’s overcome negative self talk, and limiting beliefs by doing the deep, emotional work that many people unfortunately neglect, and how honoring both her feminine and masculine energies – and finding balance between them – has been a key to her success.

Beyond her extraordinary accomplishments, Sara is an extraordinary person. She is authentic. She’s isn’t afraid to fail, to embarrass herself, or to be vulnerable. She’s the first one to admit that she had no idea what she was doing when she started SPANX, but instead, she had an insatiable determination to improve the way that women feel in their clothes.

Most importantly, Sara is grateful. She hasn’t lost sight that she was born in the right country, at the right time – and the fact that there are millions of women around the world who are not dealt the same deck of cards upon their birth. And because of that, she invests heavily in women, through her foundation, and through The Giving Pledge, a commitment by the world’s wealthiest individuals and families to dedicate the majority of their wealth to giving.

Sara says this in her pledge: “I pledge to invest in women because I believe it offers one of the greatest returns on investment. While many of the world’s natural resources are being depleted, one is waiting to be unleashed – women.”


[00:36] Episode Intro
[00:55] Sarah Blakely’s background
[01:33] Who Sarah is
[02:00] Sarah’s gratefulness and contribution
[02:45] Intro to Tony and Sarah’s conversation
[03:15] Sarah on her experience with Tony
[03:55] Sarah and the LSAT
[04:54] Disneyland isn’t quite the fairytale
[05:30] Cold calling
[05:50] Sarah realizes she’s in the wrong movie
[06:30] Journaling her vision
[07:13] Sarah asks the universe a question
[08:00] On manifesting and setting intentions
[08:34] Execution trumps knowledge everyday
[08:54] Childhood tragedy strikes
[10:00] Nobody taught me how to think
[10:20] Sarah and high school
[11:28] Death is a coach
[12:00] Life is not a dress rehearsal
[12:45] Sarah talks about how all we have is this moment
[13:30] How door to door sales helped Sarah’s career
[14:00] What’s in it for me
[14:30] The importance of humor and vulnerability
[15:30] The four different personality types
[16:00] Selling to a Thinker
[16:24] Tony ties in the DISC model
[16:50] Sarah was encouraged her to fail
[17:30] Positives of failing
[18:20] Tony talks about John Wooden
[19:05] How you know when you won
[19:30] Sarah talks about her mother’s influence
[20:00] On failure
[20:40] Sarah talks on other people’s opinions
[21:10] The practice of embarrassment
[21:40] It makes a good story
[22:20] Sarah continues to grow
[22:55] It’s all about the fanny
[23:30] Sarah on the mechanics
[25:00] The prototype
[25:45] Sarah’s cold calling comes in handy
[26:30] Patents and Trademarks
[27:30] You’re on candid Camera
[28:00] Packaging that’s made to feel like a gift
[29:00] When you don’t know how, you’re going to do it differently
[30:18] How to close the gap
[31:26] Sarah calls on Neiman’s
[32:33] You can kick me out in 10 minutes
[33:30] Sarah pays attention to the non-verbal cues
[34:30] I get it!
[35:20] Oprah’s Favorite Things
[36:20] Trust in not knowing
[37:00] Sarah talks about her marketing philosophy
[37:45] Brand awareness
[38:20] Hire your weaknesses
[38:55] Sarah’s second employee
[40:00] The last of the first
[40:30] Sarah talks about her personal model
[41:00] Complexity is the enemy of execution
[41:30] Be OK starting small
[42:15] Product is king
[42:50] Tony talks about Sarah’s longevity
[43:30] Sarah talks about business expansion
[44:00] The Hero
[44:40] Sarah talks about her newest product
[45:45] Sarah on the importance of questions
[46:17] Fall in love with your client
[46:38] Sarah talks about the power of vulnerability
[47:30] Spanx Days
[48:20] Sarah doesn’t ask for permission
[49:10] Breaking rules
[50:00] Tony talks about delusion in business
[50:30] Sarah acts as brand model in unique way
[51:30] Don’t leave one stone unturned
[52:00] Sarah looks the part
[52:40] Tony talks about a real-life treasure hunt
[53:30] Tony asks Sarah, “what is your why?’
[53:55] Sarah looks back to look forward
[54:30] For all the women that still don’t have this opportunity
[55:00] Sarah on contribution
[55:42] Business is a spiritual game
[56:30] Sarah realizes there weren’t any other women in the room
[57:00] Tony talks about the modern-day woman
[57:50] The power of femininity
[58:30] Sarah talks about a balance of energy
[59:20] Business is war
[59:45] That’s not my script
[1:00:00] The #1 reason Tony wanted Sarah to speak
[01:01:00] Sarah talks on embracing the feminine
[01:02:00] Finding like-minded people
[01:02:30] Sarah’s brothers
[01:03:00] How do you talk to the universe?
[01:03:55] Sarah talks on what she would do differently
[01:04:25] Stay in your lane
[01:05:00] Sarah feels far removed from what originally sparked her joy
[01:05:40] Stay close to your love
[01:06:30] Be willing to start small
[01:07:00] Bootstraps
[01:07:30] Experts aren’t always the answer
[01:08:20] Sarah’s daily habits
[01:09:00] Sarah talks on what she makes time for
[01:09:42] Bucket your days
[01:10:00] Pulled in every direction
[01:10:30] Monkey brain
[01:11:00] Sarah models RPM
[01:11:45] The concentration of power
[01:12:00] Your best place or time to think
[01:12:30] Sarah and her fake commute
[01:13:00] Sarah’s scariest business challenge
[01:13:30] Losing your way
[01:14:20] Sarah reclaims her role
[01:15:00] Panties with power
[01:15:30] Not a one-hit-wonder

Team Tony

Team Tony cultivates, curates and shares Tony Robbins’ stories and core principles, to help others achieve an extraordinary life.

related posts

The Unshakeable Business 

Read More
Health & Vitality

Life Mastery Virtual: How to Prepare for an Outstanding Event

Read More
Mind & Meaning


Read More

Get Tony Robbins' articles, podcasts and videos in your inbox, biweekly.