Atlanta-based entrepreneur Sara Blakely has always has the desire to uplift women.
Not only did the founder of Spanx create products that give women a firm foundation, she saw the company as a platform to do good from the very start. Her intention, in products and practices, has always been to make women feel better.
Now Blakely is bringing her brand of #girlboss power specifically to women entrepreneurs in Atlanta. In partnership with the Center for Civic Innovation (CCI), Blakely has provided a $250,000 grant to help support 10 local female entrepreneurs each of whom has received $15,000 for their businesses. CCI will utilize $100,000 to provide training and development for the women over the next year.
"I was looking to focus on women in my own backyard," said Blakely. "I wanted to focus on Atlanta and that bought me to CCI and these women who want to create businesses that will impact the town I live in."
The 10 women are social entrepreneurs who are engaged in running community based social enterprises with the goal of shaping the future of Atlanta, said Rohit Malhotra of CCI, a business incubator that helps public organizations become more efficient and increases civic participation.
When Blakely met with the entrepreneurs from CCI, she discovered that many of them had investable businesses that could also make a strong social impact. In addition to receiving funding from Blakely, the selected companies had a special mentoring opportunity with the members of Maverick1000, an organization that uses unique ways to move businesses forward.
The program kicked off Wednesday with the Spanx EmpowerHER mentorship event which partnered the 10 business owners with Maverick1000 entrepreneurs to help them solve one problem with their business.
"Today is about elevating women, elevating communities and ultimately elevating the world," said Blakely. "Women are one of the world's most underutilized resources. Once we really unleash them and support them and empower them we are all going to benefit as a whole on this planet."
Blakely's entrepreneurial mindset was shaped early. She learned not to fear failure, but to fear not trying at all. At Spanx, employees are encouraged to celebrate their failures and mistakes, she said. She gets her mind ready for business by driving aimlessly around the city and using the time behind the wheel to think. And when she needs a tune-up, she reaches for the decades old Wayne Dyer motivational tapes that helped shape her thinking long before she created her billion dollar brand.
At the event, Susanna Spiccia, Executive Director and creator of reimagineatl.com , described her company which provides local teens the opportunity to create content in music, film, and other media. She hoped to get advice on how to monetize the content the teens create.
Another entrepreneur, Beth Malone, founded Dashboard, a company that creates art installations in vacant properties and offers artists that may not have traditional exposure a chance to be seen. Malone said she was interested in learning how to balance the desires of her company with clients that are financially successful.
" Do you have a list of the companies you would like as clients?" asked Blakely.
"No," said Malone. "Problem solved."
For most of the women entrepreneurs at the event, the biggest challenge was how to continue doing what they do while also making a living and growing their business. Blakely hoped the women at the EmpowerHER event would get that kind of valuable business insight right along with some tips for self-development.
Long before she cut the feet out of her pantyhose (which led to the creation of Spanx), Blakely said she had been preparing herself to become an entrepreneur. She has been asked multiple times a day for the past 16 years how she started Spanx and the many questions inspired her to find a way to tell her story on a larger scale.
For two years, she has been developing an online workshop that will give entrepreneurs around the world access to her insights and the many things she did to develop an entrepreneurial muscle before she had to use it.
"We spend a lot of time on our physical bodies…what do we do for our mindset?" she said. "I am a believer in laying the foundation inside before you can focus on a building a business plan and the external things."
For an inside look, check out @sarablakely on Instagram.