Who Is Sara Blakely? Guest Shark Tank Judge

sara blakely shark tank guest judge

A new Sharkett entered the foray in seasons 9 and 10 of Shark Tank Sara Blakely, billionaire businesswoman and entrepreneur who founded the infamous Spanx the Intimate Apparel and Clothing company when she was in her 20s.

This company has continually come out with new, more comfortable solutions for women’s shapewear, undergarments, and outerwear, like their popular, make my butt look good leggings. Even swimwear!

Sara’s Creation of Spanx

Born in Clearwater, Flordia Blakely originally planned to become an attorney. She rethought it over, however, after scoring a very low score on the Law School Admission Test.

Instead, she opted for a job at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, where she worked for three months. Within a few months of her Disney stint, Blakely left Disney and accepted a position with office supply company Danka, where she sold fax machines door-to-door. Quite successful in sales, she was promoted to national sales trainer at the age of 25.

The only downside was having to wear pantyhose as part of her sales role. Pantyhose in the hot Floridian climate is not fun, and she disliked the seamed foot’s appearance while wearing open-toed shoes. Still, she liked how the control-top pantyhose eliminated panty lines and made everything look smoother.

When attending a private party, she experimented by cutting off the feet of her pantyhose and wearing them under slacks. However, the stockings continuously rolled up her legs in annoyance; she did achieve her desired results. She created a more smooth, streamlined, firm look under a pair of white slacks. And we know how unforgiving a pair of white slacks can be.

Relocating to Atlanta, Georgia, at age 27 and still working for Danka, Blakely spent the next two years researching and developing her new hosiery idea. Then she drove to North Carolina ( where most of America’s hosiery mills are located.) to present her idea. She was turned away by every representative.

Two weeks after returning, Blakely received a call from a mill operator based in Asheboro, North Carolina, who offered Blakely’s concept support, as his daughters had strongly encouraged him. A year later, the prototype was completed.

Blakely then used her credit card and purchased the “Spanx” name as the trademark name. Spanx was born. Sales were okay, but when Oprah Winfrey announced Spanx as her “Favorite Thing” (Blakely had previously sent Winfrey’s television show team a gift basket of Spanx for her to explain her desire.)

Spanx took off like a rocket (As well as Blakely taking off permanently from Danka.) She soon earned a contract with the QVC home shopping channel.

Spanx raked in 4 million in its first year and $10 million the next. She says if it weren’t for her failure, she would not be here today, owing to her father’s  teaching her, “Failing simply just leads you to the next great thing.”

Ranking Forbes

In 2012, Blakely was named the youngest female billionaire by Forbes magazine. After selling a majority of Spanx, Inc’s stakes to the Blackstone Group, she still held the position of Executive Chairwoman, and the company’s value was estimated to be US$1.2 billion.

Blakley currently ranks number 22 on Forbes America’s Self Made Women’s list and ranks 93rd on the most powerful women’s list, and is number 2248 on the Forbes Billionaire list, with a real-time network of 1 billion.

Best/ Worst Shark Tank Investments

During Sara’s stint on Shark Tank, she collaborated with fellow Sharks on numerous female-run businesses, including Alice’s Table with Mark Cuban. The Kombucha Shop with Barbra Cocoran, Brazyn Life with Lori Greiner, and Sonnet James solo.

But what are some of the best/worst Shark Tank investments to date?

Bombas (Best)

A company that sells comfort socks and now T-shirts that donates one item per item sold to help the homeless, Bombas is ranked the top investment with Daymond John, founder of FUBU apparel at the biter.

With more than $225 million in lifetime sales, Bombas has generated the highest sales on “Shark Tank .”With $200,000 in funding for a 17.5% stake, Bombas has brought in more than $225 million in sales.

Toygaroo (Worst)

The premise of the business was unique. A company that rented and sold toys gave parents an option to save money. Since kids get sick of toys quickly, this gives them the chance to try them out on a rental basis and buy them later if it works out.

Mark Cuban was a taker, along with Kevin O’Leary, each invested for a total of $100K for 35% total equity in the company. Unfortunately, the company’s sudden boost in sales caused issues as it was impossible to source the toys affordably.

They had hoped their newfound investors would help them with contacts at Mattel, but nothing came of it. Within a year, they filed for bankruptcy. Cuban and O’ Leary’s investments were lost.

Charitable Causes

If that was not enough, Blakely has also created the Sara Blakely Foundation to support women through education and entrepreneurial training and funding scholarships for young women at the Community and Individual Development Association City Campus in South Africa. Her other donations include:

  • Following her appearance on Oprah’s show, she donated US$1 million to the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls.
  • Paid $162,500 for the black pants Olivia Newton-John wore in Grease at an auction where proceeds went to Newton-John’s cancer treatment center in Melbourne, Australia.

Not only that, she is actually one of the only self-made millionaires to sign the Giving Pledge, a charity Warren Buffet and Bill and Melina Gates started where they promised to give half of their wealth away.

She recently gave 5,000,00 in a pledge to support female-run small businesses during the covid-19 pandemic. She supports women being anything they choose to be, but especially the courage to be their own boss!

Blakely currently resides in Atlanta with her husband, Jeff Itzer, and four children.