By Kavita Kumar
Star Tribune (Minneapolis).
Joy Mangano has shattered numerous selling records in the home shopping network world, where for years she hawked her self-wringing Miracle Mop and Huggable Hangars that do not let your clothes slip off.
So why does she need Target?
“I’m a firm believer in the circle of commerce,” said the 59-year-old entrepreneur who has built a $3 billion empire that has changed the way many Americans clean and organize their homes.
When customers see her on the HSN cable channel, they may not necessarily buy her products. But if they see them when walking the aisles of Target, they might say, “Oh, I’ve got to try it,” she said.
Mangano was a guest earlier this week at Target’s headquarters, where she sat on a stage in front of a standing-room-only crowd of several hundred employees who listened intently while she was interviewed by Chief Executive Brian Cornell.
Target is one of a handful of retailers who earlier this month began carrying an expanded assortment of her products since she became the subject of the major Hollywood film “Joy.”
The movie chronicles Mangano’s struggles and eventual success to launch the Miracle Mop from humble beginnings. She is portrayed in the movie by actress Jennifer Lawrence.
“When is a mop ever the star of a movie?” Mangano asked. “It was perfect timing. … That movie romances the whole industry. So it all plays so nicely together.”
Target now has a prominent display of her products in its stores. Other retailers who have picked up her products include Bed Bath & Beyond, the Container Store and Macy’s.
Mangano spoke at Target as part of its recently formed Outer Spaces series in which the company brings in prominent business leaders to help inspire employees. Other recent speakers have included Ben Silbermann, the chief executive of Pinterest, and Evan Spiegel, co-founder of Snapchat.
“We’ve really tried to make a commitment to bring in outside voices to our team,” Cornell said in an interview. “And she’s a great story for our team to think about the possibilities as we work with up-and-coming vendors and entrepreneurs.”
During the 50-minute Q&A with Mangano, Cornell peppered her with questions about some of the topics he’s confronted at Target, such as her approach to building a good work culture and how to set priorities.
Of course, there were also some requisite questions about what it was like to be the subject of a big-time Hollywood movie (“surreal” and “amazing”) and her reaction when she first heard Lawrence would play her (she called her children, then her lawyer).
But there were also more serious, business questions such as one from an employee about how she protects her inventions, which are often copied. “What do they say, imitation is the best form of flattery? It is in some cases, but in some cases it’s not,” Mangano said laughing.
She added that she tries not to get too worked up about copycats because consumers are smart enough to search out the authentic products.
Mangano’s company, Ingenious Designs, is now a subsidiary of home shopping network HSN. She still often makes appearances to hawk her products. But she still has a love of brick-and-mortar retail, too.
While she has spent most of her career on the TV side, she said it’s the in-store experience that she finds most significant because it’s where you can feel the product. She told Cornell that it’s easier to sell items in a store because retailers have a captive audience.
“I wish it was that easy,” he fired back playfully.
Still, there is one thing Mangano hinted that stores like Target could do better. She wishes she could be in the store to sing the virtues of her products directly to customers. So she asked the employees to do that in her place.
“I want you to do what I can’t do,” she said. “Once they know about the product, they will never walk away without that product. That’s my challenge to Target.”