When it comes to expressing gratitude to employees, Spanx founder Sara Blakelyor two. A day after reaching a deal to sell the underwear maker to a private equity firm, she gave each of her 500 workers first-class plane tickets and $10,000 in spending money.
Blakely revealed her largess at a party last week to celebrate an October 20 announcement that Blackstone was buying a majority stake in the Atlanta-based maker of slimming briefs, bras, pantyhose and other undergarments. The transaction, which values the company at $1.2 billion, will have Blakely keeping a sizable interest and continuing to run the company with its current management team. She'll also be executive chairwoman once the deal closes.
To celebrate, Blakely told her employees they were all getting two first-class plane tickets to anywhere around the world along with $10,000 to cover the cost of accommodations, prompting cheers and some tears in a video posted to social media.
When Blakely started Spanx in 2000, her goal was to "one day be worth $20 million, and everyone laughed at me," she said in the videotaped remarks. Still, she built a company "delivering amazing products to women to use their very feminine principles in a very masculine space, which is business," Blakely said.
While 50% of entrepreneurs are female, just 2% of venture capital funding went to women last year. "This marks a moment for female entrepreneurs," she said.
A trailblazer in a category that now includes Kim Kardashian West's Skims, the 50-year-old Blakely started Spanx with $5,000 she made selling fax machines door-to-door. She wrote her own patent and invented her company's first undergarment in her apartment, cutting the feet out of pantyhose to wear under cream-colored pants.
"I wear Spanx because I don't want a panty line," Blakely recently told CBS Mornings when asked whether her products align with a cultural moment that emphasizes acceptance of all body types.
Asked if the company promoted a positive body image, she said, "Where do you draw the line on highlighting your hair, makeup and all the things we do to make ourselves feel better?"
The youngest woman to make Forbes Magazine's list of, Blakely in 2013 became to sign the Giving Pledge, joining other wealthy people in vowing to donate the majority of their wealth to philanthropic causes.
For Blackstone, the deal with Spanx is its latest investment in a female-founded company, including Whitney Wolfe Herd's online dating app Bumble and Reese Witherspoon's Hello Sunshine media company.
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