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Sara Blakely — Spanx

One night, Sara Blakely cut off the bottom of her pantyhose and the idea of Spanx was born. Armed with $5,000 in savings, Blakely researched and wrote her patent for footless pantyhose and drove around North Carolina begging mill owners to make her product. Most told her it would never sell, but one owner decided to take a chance and help her make her “crazy idea.”

In 2000, her prototype was perfected and she started hitting up high-end department store buyers. In the first three months, she sold over 50,000 pairs from the back of her apartment. Now her “crazy idea” has grown to include a full range of products that are sold around the world, and Blakely is soaring high. In March, she landed on the Forbes World’s Billionaires 2012list, which estimated the company’s revenue at just under $250 million.

Photo: Joe Kohen | WireImage | Getty Images