Blakely encountered a crucial aspect of sales throughout her years of failures and rejections. The USC Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies honored Sara Blakely, CEO and founder of Spanx, as 2019’s Entrepreneur of the Year at Town and Gown Monday. Blakely spoke about her experience in business and discussed how femininity inspires her company’s image. Blakely’s goal with her business is to balance femininity and masculinity in fashion. She said the world’s issues between men and women are less about gender and more about energy. “One of the most important things in being a great salesperson is being a great listener,” Blakely said. Greif Center Executive Director David Belasco moderated the discussion with Blakely, which was attended by nearly 500 people. Belasco led the conversation by asking Blakely about her history as an entrepreneur. “He was redefining failure for me,” Blakely said. “So, failure for my brother and me didn’t become about the outcome, it became about not trying.” Blakely realized this after her father provided her with tapes on motivational speaking in the wake of the death of her friend. She would carry this understanding throughout her career, inspiring creativity and innovation. “We all have male and female energy inside of our bodies … and I feel like the feminine has been suppressed for a while, probably for about 3,000 years. I feel like everyone will all be better served when the feminine and male is more balanced,” Blakely said. Blakely focused her business of solving clothing issues that women had previously encountered. In fact, she acknowledged at a young age that she wanted to help women and said she was inspired by her mother and grandmother. Belasco recognizes the ties between this realization and how she founded Spanx. “Money just makes you more of who you already were,” Blakely said. Blakely remained confident in the face of these failures and even embraced them. She attributes this steadfast determination to her father, a trial attorney, who raised her and her brother to embrace failure. “Sara’s larger purpose is woven into the fabric of her company,” Belasco said. In 2012, Forbes named Blakely the world’s youngest, independent female billionaire. During the same year, Time recognized her as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. In 2013, Blakely signed onto the Giving Pledge, a philanthropic organization founded by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, promising to donate half of her wealth to charity. “I realized that I had just spent 16 years of my life in school being taught what to think, but no one had ever taught me how to think. It never dawned on me that I could actually control how I think,” Blakely said. Listening allowed her to think critically about the needs of the customer and to approach business as a way of thought. Blakely commented on the difference between schooling and business in their approach to thought. Eventually, Blakely became inspired to create her clothing brand, Spanx, after cutting the feet off a pair of pantyhose to wear to a party. After some difficulties getting off the ground, her product and the eventual brand became a household name. Sara Blakely, the CEO of Spanx, was recognized as the 2019 Entrepreneur of the Year Monday evening, during an event hosted by the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies. (Ally Wei | Daily Trojan) Blakely concluded the discussion by providing her thoughts on how money affects a person. Blakely, a Florida native, started her entrepreneurial career by going door-to-door selling fax machines. According to Blakely, she was met with years of rejection and failure, but that did not discourage her from continuing her sales venture.