“Sometimes million dollar and billion dollar ideas come into our lives daily,” explained Sara Blakely at a recent New York City Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship event, which celebrated young entrepreneurs from all over the world.
“Sometimes they come and go, or sometimes you grab hold of them,” she continued.
Blakely’s billion-dollar idea, which turned into the booming business Spanx, surfaced one night when she could not figure out what to wear under white pants, and she made sure to grab hold of this idea — in a less than traditional way.
She first finagled her way into a meeting with the luxury fashion retailer Neiman Marcus. “People were like, ‘How in the word did you land them?!'” she recalled. “I didn’t know it, but they had trade shows and most people in the industry would attend and hope Neiman Marcus would come to their booth. I simply called them. I called the buyer over and over until she picked up the phone.”
After flying to Neiman Marcus’ corporate head quarters with a pair of Spanx in her lucky red backpack, Blakely managed to convince the buyer to carry her undergarment product in seven regional stores.
What she did next was truly innovative.
Worried that the department store would drop her product if it didn’t provide revenue, she called everyone she knew living near the seven stores — from college friends to elementary school classmates she hadn’t spoken to in years — dispatched them to purchase Spanx, and mailed them a reimbursement check.
Neiman Marcus kept Spanx around, and hundreds of other stores across several countries came knocking on Blakely’s door.
Hustle doesn’t always look pretty — but it can unlock the creativity and innovation necessary for entrepreneurial success.
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