Spanx put Sara Blakely among billionaires

In 2014, Wealth-X and UBS released a survey of billionaires. Of 2,325 billionaires in the world at the time, 286 of them were women.

One of them was Atlanta's Sara Blakely, founder of shapewear company Spanx.

She started Spanx in 2000 at age 27 after selling fax machines. On trips, she found existing hosiery uncomfortable.

So Blakely invested $5,000 to create a shaping pantyhose more comfortable than anything else in the marketplace, eliminating pantylines and seamed feet. That year, she was able to get Oprah Winfrey to try Spanx, and Winfrey loved it. Winfrey named it one of her annual “favorite things” on her talk show, giving the company a huge boost.

Spanx was profitable from day one, generating $10 million in revenues by year two.

In 2004, Blakely participated in a short-run Richard Branson adventure reality show on Fox and came in second. Branson told Forbes she didn’t need the win. She was already successful. Instead, he gave her $750,000 to start a charity foundation, which has since raised more than $17.5 million to support girls and women.

Spanx is now, as Forbes noted at the time, “a brand that stands for the industry” like Kleenex is to tissue. Her company has since expanded beyond hosiery into shorts and pants.

Blakely for several years ceded the CEO role to other women but recently came back as head of the company. She still owns 100 percent of Spanx with headquarters in Buckhead. She's also part of the ownership group that took over the Atlanta Hawks last year.

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