I recently had an opportunity to watch the movie “Joy” – which is loosely based off of inventor and entrepreneur Joy Mangano. While the film had all of the makings of a Hollywood story – I found in researching Mangano that her true story isn’t that far off.
Mangano was born in the 1950s in Long Island, New York, and was practically born an inventor. When she was a teenager, she worked at an animal hospital, and invented a colorful flea collar for dogs and cats designed to make them easier to see at night. A similar product was released the following year and Mangano realized the practical and important value of a patent. Importantly, this was an important lesson for her to learn at a very young age, and she promised that her next invention would be a success.
Mangano started developing the Miracle Mop in her father’s garage – a self-wringing mop made from a continuous loop of cotton that could be wrung out without using your hands. From a prototype, she developed a small number of units from her own savings and donations from friends and family. She got her big break after selling on consignment at QVC – a home shopping network. In fact, while the network resisted at first, she eventually went on-air and sold the product itself – skyrocketing sales. This wasn’t common at QVC at the time, and Mangano had to convince them that the regular sellers at the network would not know how to sell her mop.
Today, Mangano is at the Home Shopping Network, and holds over 100 patents – including their best-selling product of all-time, Huggable Hangers. 100 patents! What struck me about Mangano’s story was the commitment to innovation, and how quickly she learned lessons from one invention to the next. After failing to patent her collar, she learned that her next invention needed protection. After initially selling on QVC using their own sellers, she convinced them that she needed to sell her own product – and succeeded. And after the success of the Miracle Mop, she could have stopped, but she went onto develop over 100 new products. Products that you and I likely have in our homes – I have some version of the Miracle Mop, the hangers she developed, and the organizational luggage she marketed. In each of the things we own, we take something for granted – someone paid attention to their design, someone created them, someone put their lives on hold or at risk so that we could own them. Your phone, your light bulbs, even your pen. Something to consider as we enter into the Holiday Shopping season…