How to Stay Innovative?

[Darci Riesenhuber gives us the entry below. She was excited to meet this person, and she wants us all to know her story and perhaps provide some feedback.—CM]

Sara Blakely, a local Atlantan, started the company Spanx out of her apartment. After several failed attempts to find the right undergarment to hide imperfections and panty lines when wearing white pants with open-toed shoes, she decided to cut the feet off her pantyhose. This worked beautifully! So, she wondered, why doesn't this already exist? Rather than wait for someone else to get the credit, she decided to research it, patent it, manufacture it, and distribute it, all on her own, since everyone she pitched the idea to thought it was laughable. (Not surprising ... can you imagine ... she was pitching the idea to men.) After 2 years of effort, including research, cold calls, door to door sales, and a prototype, she got her first distribution contract with Neiman Marcus and a spotlight on the Oprah Winfrey Show. (You might even have seen her on The Rebel Billionaire, the reality TV show with Richard Branson.)

Currently, with over 40 different products, Sarah is well on her way to a $30M (solely owned) company. Her biggest challenge right now is how to stay innovative and ahead of her competition as her company continues to grow. So, my question to readers is this: How do you keep the entrepreneurial, innovative, risk-taking spirit alive as you expand from a small to a large company?