Spanx Creator to Speak at CSU’s Blanchard Leadership Forum

COLUMBUS, Ga. — Spanx founder Sara Blakely, one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World for 2012, has been added as a speaker for Columbus State University’s Jim Blanchard Leadership Forum 2014.

Blakely, 43, whose line of flattering undergarments made her the world’s youngest self-made billionaire, was confirmed as a speaker for the Aug. 25-26 event at the Columbus Iron Works and Trade Center by CSU’s Leadership Institute, which organizes and hosts the forum in partnership with Synovus and TSYS.

A Florida State University graduate, Blakely was working for an office supply company, selling fax machines door-to-door, when she came up with the idea for her hosiery product. It wasn’t until she used her life savings, moved to Atlanta and found a manufacturer that she was able to launch her company from her home in August 2000. Three months later, Oprah Winfrey proclaimed Spanx her favorite product of the year and sales took off.

Her success and self-determination is exactly what makes her an excellent addition to this year’s forum.

“Many of the young professionals I talk with are intrigued and inspired by entrepreneurs,” said Ed Helton, executive director of the Leadership Institute. “They like the independence and the thrill of opportunity. We chose this year’s theme for the Jim Blanchard Leadership Forum (Leadership: Seizing the Opportunity) with that idea in mind. I can think of no one that best exemplifies this than Spanx founder Sarah Blakely.”

Blakely joins an impressive roster of speakers for CSU’s Blanchard Leadership Forum 2014, including:

  • Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer for Facebook.

  • Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, business magnate, investor and philanthropist.

  • Scott Harrison, founder-CEO of charity: water, a nonprofit organization bringing clean, safe drinking water to people in developing nations.

  • Retired U.S. Navy Vice Admiral John R. Ryan, president and CEO of the Center for Creative Leadership, a nonprofit organization focusing on leadership education and research.

  • Author Marcus Buckingham, a leading expert on employee productivity.

  • And Ronald A. Heifetz, senior lecturer and co-founder of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

For more information on and to register for the Jim Blanchard Leadership Forum, visit

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