Jean Chatzky
With a pair of control-top panty hose in one hand and scissors in the other, Sara Blakely went from an everyday working woman who wanted her body to look flawless in white pants to the inventor of Spanx, a footless undergarment that has become a staple in the wardrobes of women worldwide. Sara talks with Jean about the success of Spanx and offers advice to women who want their great idea to become the next big thing.

Sara says Spanx wasn't exactly the result of intense market research. Instead, it was her take on improving an existing product and bringing it to the marketplace. "You are your own focus group, and when I saw this homemade solution worked better than anything else I could find or buy, I knew I was on to something," she says. "I didn't invent pantyhose, and I didn't invent shape wear. I took an existing product that had been around for over 40 years and cut the feet out of it and made a multimillion-dollar business."

If you have an idea for an invention or want to start your own business, Sara offers this advice:
  • Think positive. "I often tell people to take mental snapshots of your future and what success looks like to you," Sara says. "If you mentally see yourself in a scenario, you will subconsciously start to make decisions in your life to get you there."
  • Your idea should either fill a need or improve an existing product. If it doesn't do either of these things, Sara says your invention may not sell.
  • Get your product made. It might take some perseverance, but without a finished product in hand, Sara says your idea may be hard to sell to buyers.
  • Come up with a clever name. "If you can make someone laugh or smile with your product's name and marketing, you are going to get an extra 30 seconds with them," Sara says. Also, it is easier to trademark made-up words rather than a word that already exists, Sara says.