Claudia Kalb is a New York Times bestselling author and independent journalist who captures the essence of famous people and illuminates new insights about high achievers throughout history. In her latest book Spark: How Genius Ignites, From Child Prodigies to Late Bloomers it focuses on 13 star achievers including my mentor Sara Blakely!
Read the excerpt below where the author perfectly captures when I proposed to Sara…
...With his arm outstretched, Raz invited his guest to make her entrance. "It is my incredible pleasure to welcome to the How I Built This Summit, the founder of Spanx, Sara Blakely!"
Blakely walked onto the stage in high-heeled pumps and a cherry red dress with black-and-white flowers. With her capacious smile and effervescence, she waved to applauding attendees and gave Raz a hug. Then, just as she was about to sit down, Blakely noticed a young woman in the audience holding up a sign that read: "Sara, Will You Marry Me?!" The words appeared neatly in all-caps black ink, except that "Marry" had been crossed out and replaced with "Mentor" in red letters-Spanx's signature color. Blakely stopped, pointed, and laughed. "Oh my gosh," she said. "I love it!"
Over the next 30 minutes, Blakely told stories about her journey one rejection after the next, the self-doubt and fear, the boxes piled up in her apartment, the Spanx T-shirt she made for herself as a walking billboard. The attendee with the sign, Emily Kenison, was captivated. But it was an encounter that took place off-stage after the interview ended that sent her into entrepreneurial nirvana.
The founder of a start-up called Straplets, Kenison had just dashed out of the auditorium to visit a friend at the nearby San Francisco Museum of Modern Art when she spotted Blakely standing outside. She rushed over to introduce herself. "I guess I'll go down on one knee, I'll make a whole to-do about it," Kenison said as she lowered herself down onto the cement plaza.
Straplets are an accessory that slip over dress shoes, adding flair while also keeping heels solidly attached to a woman's foot-a need Kenison identified after awkwardly stumbling in front of co-workers in the black patent leather Manolo Blahniks she splurged on after graduating from law school.
Looking up at Blakely, who threw her head back with an encouraging laugh, Kenison asked: "Will you mentor me?" And then, in what can only be described as a Cinderella-esque moment, Kenison slipped her T-Straplet, made from vegan leather and decorated with gold studs, onto Blakely's shoe.
"Good idea, Emily, good idea. Belts for your shoes!" Blakely said. Once upright, 30-year-old Kenison and 48-year-old Blakely stood with arms draped over each other as Blakely turned to a handful of observers. "What do you think, people?" she asked rhetorically with a lilting pitch to her voice. "Which shoe looks better?"
"Well, listen," Blakely said as she high-fived with Kenison, "I think I have to mentor you. I don't think I have a choice!" Kenison, who had left her job as a lawyer, reached out and hugged Blakely. "Thank you so much, Sara," she said. "You're my inspiration!" A few minutes later, Kenison stopped to process what had just happened. "I can't believe it," she said. "I'm still shaking."
Sara Blakely—idol to countless young entrepreneurs like Kenison...