Spanx founder Sara Blakely made her employees some of the happiest people on Earth when she surprised them with two incredible gifts: first-class plane tickets and $10,000 in cash to go with it.
Investment management company Blackstone had purchased a majority stake in the company, valuing it at a whopping $1.2 billion. Blackstone announced the deal in a press release, noting that Blakely will maintain a “significant equity stake in the business.”
The investment firm didn’t reveal just how much it paid, but CNN reports that it’s eight figures, which means Blakely received a massive sum from the deal.
While most CEOs would keep those payouts for themselves, the 50-year-old entrepreneur decided to use a portion of it to reward the employees who have helped her business grow.
Blakely shared the news of the deal to her 500+ employees with a party, where she shocked them all by announcing that she was giving them two first-class Delta flights to anywhere in the world along with $10,000 in cash.
“‘When I started the company in Virginia Highlands on a white board in my room, I wrote a goal down. And I said this company will one day be worth $10 million,” she told them. “And everybody laughed at me.”
Having far exceeded that goal, Blakely stood next to a globe perched on a table.
“Why am I spinning the globe?” she asked. “I was spinning the globe because to celebrate this moment, I have bought each one of you two first-class tickets to anywhere in the world.”
Upon hearing those words, the crowd erupted in cheers, applause, and happy tears. In a video of the moment shared on Instagram, champagne-holding employees can be seen cheering, clapping, and in some cases, crying.
Little did they know that Blakely had another surprise coming.
“You know, if you go on a trip you might want to go out to a really nice dinner, you might want to go out to a really nice hotel, and so with everybody’s two first-class tickets to anywhere in the world, you are each getting $10,000,” the CEO said.
The cheers and screams intensified, and more women started crying. Others stood in shock with their mouths wide open.
Later, several employees were asked where they planned to go. Many named countries like Croatia, Japan, South Africa, and even Antarctica.
“I really want every employee to celebrate this moment in their own way and create a memory that will last them a lifetime!’ Blakely wrote on Instagram. “Cheers to 21 years of magic and many more to come.”
The incredibly successful businesswoman got involved in several other careers before launching Spanx in 2000 with just $5,000 in savings.
Blakely’s first career choice was to become a lawyer. However, she tanked the LSAT twice. When she realized law school wasn’t for her, she tried to be Goofy at Disney World. That didn’t work, too, because people had to be 5’8 to play Goofy, and she was only 5’6.
Instead, she got the part of one of the chipmunks.
“I worked at Disney for three months and put people on rides at Epcot. I was never actually the chipmunk; I left Disney before I got the chance,” she told Glamour.
Blakely’s next job was selling Danka fax machines door-to-door in Clearwater, Florida. At the time, she also did stand-up comedy at night.
Although Blakely knew she was good in sales, she didn’t exactly love it. She started to really think about her life and wrote down in her journal, “I want to invent a product that I can sell to millions of people that will make them feel good.”‘
The idea of Spanx came to her when she couldn’t find undergarments that worked with her cream-colored slacks. Determined to use them, she cut off the feet of a pair of control-top pantyhose and wore them under the slacks.
Although Blakely felt great wearing her DIY underwear, the pantyhose rolled up her legs all night. So, she created her own design that would offer all the benefits of the shapewear without all the discomfort and irritation.
Blakely went on to ask several hosiery mills to manufacture Spanx, but she got countless rejections.
“The cold-calling to sell fax machines was an amazing training ground for hearing “no.” I just learned that there’s a formula, you have to go through a certain number of “no’s” to get to a “yes,” so don’t let it discourage you,” she told New York Magazine.
Blakely finally found a manufacturer who told her that his three daughters all loved the concept.
She got Neiman Marcus to stock Spanx in seven stores by wearing a pair of white pants for a buyer in the bathroom—with and without Spanx.
Blakely’s humble business quickly grew from there, and Spanx is now one of the most successful companies around.
Employees are the lifeblood of a company, and Blakely surely knows how to express her gratitude for all their hard work!
Here’s a video of the happy moment.
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