Atlanta, TX

This Atlanta woman was the first female billionaire to promise to give away her wealth

Ash Jurberg

Last week, I wrote about Ted Turner, the Atlanta billionaire who promised to give away most of his fortune. It received many positive comments from Atlanta readers, so I thought I would highlight another generous Atlanta business leader and entrepreneur today.

Sara Blakely is the richest self-made woman in Atlanta. But more importantly, she was the first female billionaire in the United States to promise to give away most of her wealth.

Let's take a quick look at her story.

The Atlanta woman that was the first female billionaire to promise to give away her wealth

Sara Blakely is the founder and owner of Spanx.

Blakely was born in Florida in 1971 and earned a communication degree from Florida State University. After graduating, she took a sales role at an office supply company called Danka.

While working in the Florida heat, she found the design and appearance of the pantyhose she was forced to wear lacking and decided to experiment with her own designs.

Blakely moved to Atlanta in 1998 and spent the next two years researching her hosiery idea before launching Spanx from her apartment in Atlanta in 2000.

The product was a success from that start being picked up by Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdales, and Saks before being featured by Oprah Winfrey as one of her favorite things.

In 2012, Blakely made history when she became the youngest self-made female billionaire globally. In October 2021, the Blackstone Group acquired a majority stake in Spanx, Inc, which valued Spanx at $1.2 billion.

Blakely also has part ownership in the NBA franchise, the Atlanta Hawks.

Thanks to all of this, Blakely has a net worth of $1.1 billion. And she wants to give most of it away.

Philanthropy

Blakely's philanthropy is focused largely on helping women through education and entrepreneurial training and awards scholarships around the world. In 2006 she launched the Sara Blakley Foundation, and through Spanx, she also runs Leg-Up, which features other female entrepreneurs' products for free in the Spanx catalog.

As Blakely explains, "we have also built homes for families together, sent women to college, funded entrepreneurial programs in girls' schools, joined in a dance flash mob to stop violence against women, and even rendered the queen of talk, Oprah (and our accountants at the time), speechless when we donated $1 million to her Leadership Academy for girls in South Africa."

In 2013, Blakely took her commitment to helping others one step further by signing the Giving Pledge and promising to give away most of her wealth. She was the first female billionaire to make this commitment.

“I am committed to the belief that we would all be in a much better place if half the human race (women) were empowered to prosper, invent, be educated, start their own businesses, run for office—essentially be given the chance to soar! I pledge to invest in women because I believe it offers one of the greatest returns on investment.”

Readers, what do you think of Blakely's story? What organizations in Atlanta would you like to see her support?

Please leave your comments below.

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