SPANX billionaire Sara Blakely has an incredible story for small business owners on how to get their products into big retailers.
Speaking at the Goldman Sachs’ (GS) 10,000 Small Businesses Summit in Washington, D.C., Blakely shared how she successfully pitched her shapewear to high-end department store Neiman Marcus.
In her 20s, she called a Neiman Marcus executive multiple times per day for about a week and a half. She kept on getting the executive’s voicemail.
“I knew from selling fax machines that you don’t leave a message,” she said.
Eventually, this executive answered the phone.
“I was like, ‘Hi, this is Sara Blakely and I invented a product that’s going to change the way your customers wear clothes and it’s going to make a real difference for them. Can I have ten minutes of your time?’ And, I will fly to Dallas.”
The Neiman Marcus executive granted Blakely the ten-minute meeting. Blakely packed her “lucky” red backpack from college with a prototype and mockup of the packaging and flew to Dallas.
Five minutes into her pitch, she could tell that the executive wasn’t buying it.
“I was losing her big time. Like five minutes into it, she says ‘kind of.’ I said, ‘You know what? Will you come to the bathroom with me?’ She was like, ‘Excuse me?'”
Blakely convinced her to go to the bathroom so she could demonstrate her white pants with and without SPANX.
The executive thought the concept was brilliant and tried the product out in seven stores.
Blakely became the youngest self-made female billionaire at 41.
10,000 Small Businesses is a program that aims to help entrepreneurs grow their businesses and create jobs by providing access to education, capital, and technical assistance. More than 2,200 small business owners convened in D.C. for the summit.
Julia La Roche is a finance reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.