Joy Mangano invents her way to success

Whether it's "Huggable Hangers" or "Forever Fragrant" decorative snowflakes, whenever Joy Mangano appears on HSN she moves thousands of items within minutes. Mangano is not just another bubbly TV personality offering money-back guarantees or products that will "change your life," however. She holds over 100 patents and trademarks,and her company brings in more than $150 million in sales each year for the shopping channel.

The single mother of three didn't set out to be a household name when she first broke into the business of inventing affordable and easy-to-use household products almost two decades ago. Back then, times were tough. In 1989, the divorced 33-year-old was juggling odd jobs and a night gig waiting tables to make ends meet. Then one day she had a eureka moment. Tired of getting her hands dirty from the disgusting water after mopping the floors, she came up with the idea for the self-wringing Miracle Mop. "It came to me. A self-wringing mop! It sounds so easy," she says. "[I]t changed the entire stick good industry with an easy twist."

Mangano had always had a knack for coming up with ideas for simple products that could make people's lives better. When she was 16, she invented a fluorescent flea collar to prevent family pets from getting hit by cars at night.But she was too young and inexperienced to figure out how to get the collar to market. A year later, Hartz Mountain came out with a similar product, and she vowed she would never let another idea like that slip through her fingers.

When the idea for the Miracle Mop came to her in 1989, she scrounged up roughly $100,000 from her savings and from friends and family to create her first prototype and order 100 mops. Soon afterward, Mangano hit the trade show floors with the Miracle Mop, while her kids filled the orders.

"I was one of those women you see doing demonstrations in the grocery aisles, only I didn't have a tasty chicken pot pie available for sampling," says the Long Island, N.Y. native. "I had a mop.

After lengthy negotiations, QVC agreed to sell the mop on live TV. However, the mop wasn't a hit until Mangano convinced the producers to let her demonstrate the product. "QVC took a chance and put me on," she says of that life-changing event in 1992. "As I stood on the stage demonstrating the mop, the phones went crazy and we sold out of every last one. It was an amazing and life-changing moment that I will never forget."

It certainly was: Mangano sold 18,000 units of the Miracle Mop in 20 minutes. The rest, as they say, is history.

From Mop Maker to Mogul

Mangano incorporated in 1991 and renamed her company Ingenious Designs LLC (IDL) in 1992. The company -- which designs, invents and markets Mangano's wares -- also holds patents and trademarks for more than 100 products that she has invented, including the Jewel Kit, a jewelry storage roll, and the no-slip Huggable Hangers that seem to be the current rage. So ingenious were her products, that business mogul Barry Diller soon came calling.

In 1999, she sold IDL to Diller's InterActiveCorp and became a wholly-owned subsidiary of HSN Inc. It is one of the fastest growing divisions of the network. "I found a home on HSN, and have always felt it was a strategic business decision," says Mangano, who remains president of Ingenious Designs, which has become a multi-million dollar business.

Success has also given her the confidence to venture into other business arenas. While she continues to appear on HSN, she is also developing and managing other celebrity names, including guitarist Esteban and fitness guru Frank Sepe. In 2005, she helped chef, Todd English, launch a line of cookware, tableware and appliances called the Todd English Collection. Two years later, with supermodel Iman, she assisted in creating Iman's Global Chic line of jewelry and fashion accessories. Last April, she partnered with tennis great Serena Williams to launch Williams' Signature Statement accessories line.

That doesn't mean Mangano is letting her own product lines slip. "As an entrepreneur and inventor at heart, as well as president of Ingenious Designs, I will always continue to design and invent extraordinary and innovative new products for consumers," she says. Recently, Huggable Hangers and the eco-friendly cookware line that she developed with English, called GreenPan, expanded into bricks-and-mortar retailers, including Target, Crate & Barrel and The Container Store, she says. Since its debut in 2007, she and English have sold 2.8 million GreenPans.

As if she isn't busy enough, Mangano, now 53, opened her first restaurant, Porto Vivo, in her hometown of Huntington, Long Island, in August. Despite being told that it was foolhardy to open an upscale eatery during these tough economic times, she stuck to her guns. The rustic Italian grill, which she co-owns, has since become a hot dining destination.

"I felt strongly about bringing in a new premier restaurant to the area where I was born," she explains. "Plus, it was an opportunity to bring employment to the community. Not to mention, I will never go hungry again!"

Following her instincts has proven to be Mangano's formula for success. In fact, she was recently named one of Fast Company's Most Creative People in Business. "I never thought that I would be in this place, all because of a mop," she says. "I am truly living the American Dream!"
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