Joy – An Italian American Dream

Joy Mangano and Jennifer Lawrence at the premier of the movie "Joy."

Joy Mangano and Jennifer Lawrence at the premier of the movie “Joy.”

The Academy Award nominations are out and Jennifer Lawrence has received the nomination for Best Actress for her portrayal of Joy Mangano in the movie Joy.

The movie Joy is not entirely the factual story of the QVC and Home Shopping Network sales maven Joy Mangano, but her struggles as a single mother, vision and determination as an inventor are certainly true enough.

Joy Mangano was born on Long Island, New York, on February 15, 1956, and raised in Huntington. Her father was an inventive mechanic and Mangano had always had a talent for observing a chore and figuring out a better way of accomplishing it. While still a teenager, Joy worked in an animal hospital. Seeing the number of pets that had been hit by cars in the dark roads of Long Island, she devised a florescent-colored collar for cats and dogs to make them easily visible to cars at night. She didn’t patent the devise and as luck would have it, Hartz put out a similar product a year later.

Unlike the character in the movie, Joy did complete college (she graduated in 1978 with a BA in business administration from Pace University). After college, she went on to hold a variety of jobs including waitressand airline reservations manager, while getting married and having three children. By 1989, Mangano was divorced and living in Smithtown, New York. Another feature of the movie that didn’t represent the real-life events of Joy’s life involved aspects of her divorce. Joy and her husband Tony parted on amicable terms and remained close friends. Believe it or not, Tony Miranne is an executive vice president at Joy’s company – Ingenious Designs. She says that “he’s a great salesman” and that his position helps him to stay in close touch with their children, two of whom have active roles in the company.

The product that started an empire—the Miracle Mop.

The product that started an empire—the Miracle Mop.

The product that launched Mangano’s success was the Miracle Mop. Cleaning up after three kids would not be the stuff of inspiration for most of us, but Mangano, sick of wringing out a mop in dirty water realized that there had to be a better way. She conceived the idea of the Miracle Mop – a plastic mop with a head made from a continuous loop of 300 feet of cotton that can be easily wrung out without getting the user’s hands wet.It required a lot of effort to create and develop the product, but by 1990 Mangano had the prototype and 100 of the mops were made. The development had cost Joy almost $100,000, money that she had saved and borrowed. With little money for advertising, but with a keen talent for sales, Mangano sold a few thousand Miracle Mops at trade shows and in local stores on Long Island, but something else was needed to take it to the next level. Her break occurred in in 1992. Mangano pitched the Miracle Mop to QVC executives and sold them 1,000 units on consignment. It was marketed on the TV channel, but it didn’t do well. Joy suggested that if she appeared on the next broadcast, she would be able to move the mop. She was right. In her first appearance on QVC, Joy sold over 18,000 mops in less than 30 minutes. A star was born!

The mop served as a launch pad for her success. Having sold millions of Miracle Mops, Mangano went on to invent several other products, such as Rolykit, Huggable Hangers and the Piatto Bakery Box. In 1999 Mangano sold her company, Ingenious Designs, to the parent company of the Home Shopping Network (HSN), and she stayed on as the company’s president.

Today Mangano is CEO of Ingenious Designs, a multimillion-dollar company she built while becoming a household name on the Home Shopping Network.

Joy Mangano with her three children Bobby, Jacqueline and Christie.

Joy Mangano with her three children Bobby, Jacqueline and Christie.

Joy encourages others to follow through on their ideas too. “If it’s anywhere near a realistic goal, I say, “Go for it” because, look at me! I mean, in a million years, I never thought that I would be in this place, in this situation 20 years ago. All because of a mop that started it. It truly is the American dream.”

As implied in the movie, Joy has achieved monumental success at HSN, with hourly sales regularly exceeding $1 million. Her invention, Huggable Hangers, became the best-selling product in HSN history.

Mangano holds more than 100 patents for her inventions. “I think my products have been successful because they have mass appeal,” she has said. “I’m just like everybody else out there. I’m a mom, I work, I have a house to clean, things to organize. We all have certain similar needs, and I address them.”

Mangano has partnered with several celebrities and other television personalities to bring their products to HSN. They include tennis star Serena Williams’ line of jewelry, Frank Sepe fitness products, and fashions from supermodel Iman.

In 2009, Mangano opened the restaurant Porto Vivo in Huntington, New York. Its executive chef is Joseph Balbo, and its pastry chef is Elizabeth Pititto.

Among her business accolades are – Long Island Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young (1997); she was ranked number 77 on The 100 Most Creative People in Business in Fast Business (2009); and was listed in the publication’s list of The 10 Most Creative Women in Business (2010).

As interesting and compelling as the movie is, sometimes truth is more fascinating than fiction and the truth of Joy Mangano is a joy to behold.

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