By Richard Danielson Tampa Bay Times
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Spanx founder Sara Blakley started out with $5,000 bucks, a dream and plenty of grit. The billionaire entrepreneur who originally hails from Clearwater, Florida will return to her hometown early next year to share her journey at the annual "Synapse Summit" which aims to support local entrepreneurs.
Spanx founder and chief executive officer Sara Blakely will be the keynote speaker for the two-day Synapse Summit 2020, the annual innovation convention organized by the nonprofit entrepreneurship support group Synapse Florida.
Blakely, a 48-year-old native of Clearwater, launched Spanx as a one-woman venture with $5,000 from savings.
In 1998, she came up with the idea of cutting the feet from a pair of pantyhose to look better in a pair of cream-colored pants while still being able to wear open shoes. In 2000, she made her first major sale. In 2012, Forbes named her the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire.
Time Magazine has since named her one of its “100 Most Influential People." In 2006, she founded the Spanx by Sara Blakely Foundation, which is focused on supporting women through entrepreneurship, education and the arts. She was the first self-made female billionaire to join the Giving Pledge, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett’s venture to encourage the world’s richest people to give at least half their wealth to charity.
In 2017, she was named, along with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Starbucks’ chairman Howard Schultz, as an investor in Steve Case’s $150 million “Rise of the Rest” seed fund to promote entrepreneurship outside of Silicon Valley.
“Sara is the quintessential innovator and an inspiration," Synapse vice president for community engagement Lauren Prager said in an announcement of the booking Friday. “Her achievements in business and philanthropy have empowered and emboldened so many.”
This year’s event at Amalie Arena featured more than 330 exhibitors and 300 speakers and attracted more than 5,500 attendees. Next year, organizers anticipate a crowd of 6,000 innovators, entrepreneurs, investors and corporate partners at the arena on Feb. 11 and 12.
“We believe this is the best event to get connected to the innovation community and we hope more people will attend, get engaged, and become a true part of innovation in Florida,” Synapse co-founder and president Brian Kornfeld said, adding that having Blakely on stage will be a game-changer for the event. ___ Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.