Sara Blakely, Founder, Spanx

“My life was laying the groundwork for Spanx,” Sara Blakely says.

After attending Florida State University, she planned on becoming an attorney. But she failed the LSAT—twice. So, she worked briefly at Disney World, then sold fax machines door-to-door. While at the office supply company, Blakely came up with the genius idea to invent a footless pantyhose that would smooth her figure and pair seamlessly under white pants. And the rest is history.

Blakely spent the next two years developing the invention, writing her own patent and cold-calling hosiery manufacturers. Finally, she got a call from a manufacturer whose daughters liked the idea.

She named the product Spanx. When she showed it to a representative of Neiman Marcus—by trying on and demonstrating the power of Spanx in the bathroom—the representative agreed to stock Spanx in seven stores. In November 2000, Oprah Winfrey named Spanx one of her favorite things causing sales of her Spanx to surge.

In 2006, she launched The Sara Blakely Foundation to help women through education and entrepreneurial training. In 2012, Blakely was named the youngest self-made female billionaire and ranked the 93rd most powerful woman in the world by Forbes.