Written by Staff Writer
Shari Prazak, CNN
Over the years, Spanx founder Sara Blakely has been celebrated in song and featured on a myriad of magazine covers. She’s been feted as a role model to female business leaders, an entrepreneur building a billion-dollar empire.
Now a documentary and Hollywood biopic are in the works.
Yet, Blakely, 49, is not usually known for treating her colleagues to pricey gifts.
The CEO of Spanx recently set out to change that.
At a workplace Christmas party this month, Blakely surprised a dozen employees with large gift bags — which included free bottles of one of her favorite wines, Prosecco — as well as a handwritten note explaining why she was gifting them.
“I’m a single working mom,” the note read. “My kids are in their own apartments. I don’t have anyone to cook dinner for them and my housekeeper often doesn’t take time to cook. Because of that, I only want Spanx in my life when I’m working. For me, simply wearing pants every day has changed my life. It’s made me feel incredible. It has changed my family’s life as well.”
Blakely doesn’t work out in the evenings, or on weekends, she wrote.
But she told them that the way she operates just “brought me joy.”
“I want you to feel the same way about your careers,” she wrote. “When you take on something you are passionate about, be passionate about it. In the long run, nothing can hurt you.”
It wasn’t her first time giving someone a surprise at a Christmas party. A couple of years ago, the mogul tucked a box full of socks in her gift basket for a dozen employees.
Blakely — worth an estimated $2.4 billion, according to Forbes — was thinking of her company’s employees, which include just five people from India.
Spanx is the undisputed queen of the shapewear category.
It’s the undisputed queen of the shapewear category, making up about 80% of the market in the US, and 20% worldwide, according to the brand’s website.
The product’s popularity led Spanx to make a foray into foundations, a move that brought the company over $250 million in annual sales.
With multiple brand extensions, Spanx also launched a $20 million deal with Target to sell men’s shapewear and Spanx-branded sleepwear.
In 2016, the billionaire recently launched Spanx Kitchen in partnership with pastry chef Daniel Boulud, to create premium versions of snacks to serve at her food bar at her $27 million Georgia home.
In 2014, a store-bought version of Blakely’s shampoo sold out in hours during a Black Friday promotion at Target.