Before Spanx founder Sara Blakely became the youngest self-made female billionaire, she sold fax machines door to door because she needed the money and health insurance.
Now, two decades after Blakely launched the pioneering womenswear company, global investment firm Blackstone is buying a majority stake in Spanx, which is valued at an estimated $1.2 billion in the deal.
In a video posted on Instagram last week, Blakely celebrated the sale with her employees. A globe sat on a nearby table, and eventually she asked: “Why am I spinning a globe?”
Then, before the quiet crowd, she announced the reason: because she has bought two first-class tickets — to anywhere in the world — for each employee.
But that wasn’t all.
“You know, if you have a trip, you might want to go out to a really nice dinner, you might want to go out to a really nice hotel,” Blakely said. “So with everybody’s two first-class tickets to anywhere in the world, you are each getting $10,000.”
Cheers erupted and tears flowed — and a dance party filled the room.
When employees were asked how they’d use their gifts, their answers ran the gamut: from a honeymoon in Bora Bora and an elopement in Sweden to a South African safari.
In the video, Blakely spent time reminiscing on how far she had come since the long nights and weekends she had spent working on her idea for women’s shapewear and cold-calling manufacturing plants.
“I said this company will one day be worth $20 million, and everybody laughed at me,” Blakely said as she began to tear up.
Blakely took a moment to make a toast to all the women who came before her and “all the women in the world who have not had this opportunity.”
While 50% of entrepreneurs are women, she said, they receive only 2.3% of venture capital.
“In a moment like this, I think of my mom and my grandmothers and their lack of options and all the women that came before them,” Blakely said. “This would have only been a very remote dream.”
Tien Le is an intern on NPR’s News Desk.