“An idea is the most vulnerable in the moment.”

A billion-dollar idea can die if you let ego in the way. This is why Spanx founder, Sara Blakely, didn’t tell her friends and family about her shapewear idea for a year. She chose to do the work to pursue the idea, instead of defending the idea in the early days.

Nowadays, she is not secretive about her entrepreneurial journey. Sara gave the best advice on how to build a billion-dollar business in a recent online summit. With nothing but drive, she went from a door-to-door fax salesperson to becoming the youngest self-made female billionaire in 2012. 

Sara shares 6 keys to her success

1. Learn how to think

At age 16, Sara was going through a difficult time in her life. She witnessed a very tragic accident of a close friend and her parents were going through a separation. Before her dad left home, he handed her cassette tape series by Wayne Dyer, and the title was “How to Be a No-Limit Person.”

She listened to these tapes over and over again and learned about visualisation and law of attraction. It was the first time in her life that she was taught how to think and not just what to think, and this changed the trajectory of her life forever.

2. The only failure is not trying

Growing up, Sara’s father encouraged her to fail. Around the dinner table, Sara’s father would ask Sara and her brother about what they’d failed at that week, and if they didn’t have anything, he would be disappointed.

This practice redefined Sara’s definition of failure and taught her that the only failure is not trying

3. Find something bigger than yourself that you care about and you’ll find more courage

Sara had inner-dialogue with herself if she deserved to have money, and she had to put in the work to feel good about her success. She realised that Spanx was a platform for her to elevate women and feel good about themselves.

4.   What you don’t know could be your greatest asset

As an outsider without any knowledge about “how things are meant to be done” in the undergarments industry, Sara was able to make sure that every step of the making Spanx was different.

This helped her business be unique and stand out from other options a customer can have.

5. Sell the problem as well as the solution

Whenever she talks about Spanx to buyers like customers or the media, she clearly defines two things: why Spanx is different and why Spanx matters for the customer.

She starts by painting a picture “Do you have clothes at home that you don’t know what to wear under?” Then she describes the undergarments available in the market are not that great: girdles are uncomfortable and bulky and ordinary underwear didn’t provide the support women needed, and Spanx was what filled that gap.

6. Carve out thinking time

Sara leaves an hour early to get to work and goes on a longer drive or what her friends call a ‘fake commute’ for some thinking time. Her driving time was a mundane and repetitive task that allowed her to think. Similarly, Eisenstein famously developed good ideas while shaving.

She believes in honouring every idea that she has and writes herself notes on her phone.

Everyone has great ideas but not everyone acts on them. Follow Sara’s advice and you might create something meaningful. As she said, the only failure is not trying.