Sara Blakely (1971-)
Size: Estimated value, $1 billion
In 1998, 29-year-old Sara Blakely emptied her savings account of $5,000 to develop a line of shapewear that would make women look slim and trim. Blakely, whose employment history until that moment consisted of ride-greeter at Walt Disney World and fax salesperson, came up with the idea because, as she has frequently said, she “didn’t like the way [her] butt looked in white pants,” and she was certain other women shared her frustrations. The result: her company, Atlanta-based Spanx, became one of the hottest selling body shaper lines worldwide, with 2011 sales estimated at $250 million dollars and an estimated corporate value of $1 billion.
“My dad encouraged us to fail. Growing up, he would ask us what we failed at that week. If we didn't have something, he would be disappointed. It changed my mindset at an early age that failure is not the outcome, failure is not trying. Don't be afraid to fail.”