After agreeing to sell a majority stake in her shapewear brand for a whopping $1.2 billion last week, Clearwater native and SPANX founder Sara Blakely is giving back to her employees in a big way.
At a special company event Friday, Blakely announced she was giving every SPANX employee two first-class plane tickets on Delta Airlines to anywhere in the world, along with $10,000 to cover spending expenses. In an Instagram video that has since gone viral, SPANX employees can be seen erupting in cheers and tearfully embracing each other over the news of the thoughtful gift.
“I really want every employee to celebrate this moment in their own way and create a memory that will last them a lifetime,” said Blakely in the Instagram post.
A handful of employees were asked where they planned to visit on their all-expenses-paid trip, with answers ranging from Japan to Antarctica. One woman said she was using the gift for her honeymoon in Bora Bora.
The celebration and subsequent generosity came just days after Blakely announced she was selling a majority stake in the company she founded in 2000 to global investment firm Blackstone for $1.2 billion. Blakely and SPANX’s senior management team will continue to oversee daily operations, and Blakely will become the Executive Chairwoman.
“I received a sign from the universe 21 years ago to start the company, and I received another sign that it was the right time to take in a partner, and specifically, Blackstone,” said Blakely in a separate Instagram post following the closing of the sale. “After meeting with the all-female deal team, I knew they were the right partners to grow our mission and scale our purpose.”
Blakely founded Spanx 21 years ago using just $5,000 in savings. She had never taken a business class, and was selling fax machines door to door at the time, but set out to take on the male-dominated shapewear and undergarment industry. She wrote her own patent and created the first SPANX undergarment in her apartment.
In 2012, Blakely was named the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire by Forbes Magazine, and one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People. SPANX is headquartered in Atlanta, and can now be found in over 50 countries worldwide.
“This is a really important moment in time for female entrepreneurs,” said Blakely in a press release. “I started this company with no business experience and very little money, but I cared the most about the customer, and that gave me the courage to launch the company.”
“Now, together with Blackstone, we will have even more opportunity to further our mission of making the world a better place … one butt at a time!”
In the release, Anne Chung, Global Head of Consumer for Blackstone Growth, said that “Sara is an iconic businesswoman who bootstrapped SPANX into not only a category create and household name, but also a symbol of authenticity, confidence-building and female empowerment. ”
Blakely was born in Clearwater and attended Clearwater High School. She went on to graduate from Florida State University with a communication degree. In 1999 Blakely would relocate to Atlanta, where she would then launch the SPANX empire.