In honor of Hillary Kerr and Katherine Power’s new book, The Career Code: Must-Know Rules for a Strategic, Stylish, and Self-Made Career ($12), we’re running an interview series featuring 17 questions (in honor of the book’s 17 chapters) about the work lives of the most inspirational female leaders in the fashion industry. So far, we’ve tapped Sally Singer, Emily & Meritt, Rachel Zoe, and more. Up next? Sara Blakely.
Back in 2000, frustrated with the lack of comfortable, functional undergarments on the market, Sara Blakely founded Spanx. Fast-forward 16 years and you’ve got a gamut-spanning empire of women wearing Blakely’s shapewear pieces, which have expanded into categories like leggings, jeans, active, and even swim. Her growth and success have also been marked by efforts such as the Sara Blakely Foundation, supporting education and entrepreneurship among women. Additionally, she has been included on Time’s 100 Most Influential People list, was featured on the cover of Forbes, and three years ago signed The Giving Pledge (an organization focused on billionaires giving back), a generous endeavor that translates to donating half of her wealth in efforts to support women.
We can’t say we’re surprised by Spanx’s gargantuan success. After all, it taps into one of the most simplified desires shared by virtually every woman: the need to look and feel good. On that note, scroll down to read our interview with this inspiring entrepreneur!
“Entrepreneur, inventor, mom of four under 6, before and after butt model, after having kids, before and after tummy model, crusader for women!”
“How often we take our clothes off in meetings and are sitting just in undergarments—no modesty here—all in the name of making better products!”
“A cobalt blue suit from Casual Corner. But after I got the job, I started painting my nails wild colors and wearing candy necklaces. It was the only loophole I found to express myself with the strict, conservative dress code. I was also known for occasionally wearing wigs when I would get bored with my hair color.”
“Steve Jobs and Walt Disney—if only!”
“Instagram, magazines, and the world around me: people, colors, textures. I’m constantly taking pictures of pages in magazines. I also take pictures of strangers, which gets really interesting, trying to pretend I’m taking it of something else so they don’t catch on.”
“Whenever I don’t follow my gut, I end up regretting my decision/the outcome.”
“I look for passion in an employee, someone who loves the brand and the products or is a customer themselves and wears the products. I look for optimism and enthusiasm. I like people who are overall intelligent, resourceful, and glass half full. I also look for scrappy problem solvers who can anticipate as much as they can react.”
“Red lipstick and my lucky red backpack.”
SHOP: Redland London Backpack ($80).
“I asked her (she’s been my assistant for 12 years): funny, generous, creative, and respectful.”
“I get in the car, listen to great music, and drive. I have identified that all of my best thinking happens in the car.”
“For lunch it’s usually salads with a side of fries—it’s all about balance. And for breakfast I try to make a smoothie. Here are my ingredients (my husband thinks I am insane every morning when I make it): a chocolate protein powder pack, half an avocado, two dates (dates are the key—they add sweetness and make everything else tolerable), kale, a full lime juiced, chia seeds, frozen wild blueberries, four to five frozen dark cherries, two scoops of ice, cold water, basil, fresh mint leaves, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper. Walnuts on the top. Eat it with a spoon.
“My go-to drink, which a restaurant in Atlanta actually named the Blakely, is fresh squeezed grapefruit juice, silver tequila, and muddled jalapeños.”
“Not speaking up.”
“These accounts are funny, wise, entertaining, and inspiring. My list of favorite accounts could go on! Cara Delevinge (@CaraDelevigne); Richard Branson (@RichardBranson); my husband, Jesse Itzler (@the100mileman), Build Your Empire (@BuildYourEmpire_), and Spanx (@Spanx).”
“With four kids under the age of 6, nothing about my morning or evening rituals helps with productivity!”
“The best piece of career advice I have received was about delegating. If you feel that the job is being done 80% as well as if you did it yourself, then that’s good enough—let it go.”
“Three game-changing products, all three in fashion. And one philanthropic idea. Also, last year I broke my leg, and I want to invent better crutches at some point. If I don’t get around to it, someone else should!”
Pick up your copy of Hillary and Katherine’s new book below:
If you had a chance to sit down and talk to someone about her career, who would it be? Let us know in the comments below!