Sunday, March 18, 2012

Spanx Bootstrapping Founder: "Hire your weaknesses."

By now, most of you have heard about 41-year old Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx undergarments, a bootstrapper, who in under 12 years turned a dissatisfaction in the unattractiveness of her own under apparel into a billion-dollar business. Quite a feat by any stretch. Much to learn from her experience.

She was recently interviewed by Kai Ryssdal on American Public Media's Marketplace. Some tidbits:
Kai: "How did you get, though, from that $5000, to a billion dollar company by some estimates, with no debt, no investors, and without really having to spend a whole lot on advertising? How'd you do that?"

Sara: "You know, I-I didn't know better, Kai, I'd never taken a business class, so I really did not even know how it was done. I didn't, I didn't even realize that people went out and got tons of VC, or raised all kinds of money. So, I thought, okay, w-, you know, I've got to do as much of this as I can on my own."

Kai: "Let me ask you the entrepreneurial question, though, how did you know, when did you know, because you're the founder not CEO of this company. How did you enough, how did you know enough to get out of your own way and hire a real CEO?"

Sara: "That's a great question. I feel like a lot of entrepreneurs end up getting in the way of the growth of their own business, because it's a totally different skill set, to run operate a business, grow it year over year versus be the one who started it. So, I knew, I had to be every department when I started it... I learned very quickly what I liked to do, what I didn't like to do, what I was good at, and what I wasn't good at, and as soon as I could afford to hire my weaknesses I did."

Kai: "Um, uh, not that you need to, but as you think about expanding, which-which obviously you are, uh, it's gonna take some resources, it's gonna take some capital, are you thinking at all uh-uh about taking this firm public?"

Sara: "You know, I never ever was open to it, uh until recently. And recently I just started saying, you know I-I feel open to the possibility of either something like that, or bringing in possibly an outside investor, 'cause I've been funding the business solely myself, and where we are right now, and the growth we want to uh have internationally ... it's gonna require a significant amount of investment, in order to do it. So I d- I just I want to do what's right for the business, and if it makes sense then I-I will do it."
Food for thought.

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