What did inventors Wilbur and Orville Wright (airplane), Richard Drew (scotch tape), George Westinghouse (air brakes), Willis Carrier (air conditioning), Thomas Edison (incandescent light bulb), Alexander Graham Bell (telephone), Clarence Birdseye (flash freezing foods), and countless others before or since have in common? At the risk of oversimplification I would say one word: perseverance.
Yes, there are many traits a successful inventor has to have, such as, among others, the vision to spot a need, sufficient financial backing, technical expertise to actually build or create the product or service, and marketing ability to sell it, but in my opinion the one crucial element is the ability to persevere. One has to have the faith and confidence to overcome the “naysayers,” the doubters, those who will say it can’t be done. “If it could have been done,” they will say, “it would have been.” In addition, the invention will likely not be successful at first. Typically, one must suffer through years of trial and error, failed experiments, derision, ridicule and rejection before achieving success. Moreover, often, the doubters will include those who are closest to the inventor, such as spouses, parents and siblings. That is why it is so uplifting to hear the tales of success.
Such is the case of Joy Mangano. Joy was born in New York City in 1956, but she was raised on Long Island where she still lives. She began to exhibit her flair for inventing as a teenager. While working in a local pet store she developed the idea for a fluorescent flea collar for dogs. However, she failed to secure a patent , and, eventually, Hartz Mountain patented and marketed it. However, that became a valuable learning experience.
Joy’s early adult life was fairly ordinary. She graduated Pace University with a degree in business administration; she got married, divorced and raised three children as a single mom; and she had various mundane, non-fulfilling jobs, such as a waitress and an airline reservations clerk.
At some point, she began to realize one major deficiency in the floor mops then in general use. Typically, when mopping the kitchen or bathroom floor one would have to wring out the wet, dirty mop by hand several times to complete the job. This was not only sloppy and uncomfortable, it was also unsanitary. I am sure many others also recognized the problem, but Joy was the one who did something about it.
She invented a plastic mop with a head composed of a continuous 300 foot loop of cotton. The so-called “Miracle Mop” could be wrung out without getting one’s hands wet and dirty. This time, Joy remembered to file the necessary patents. Fine, but then she had to mass produce it and sell it. She had to overcome the “naysayers,” including some in her own family. Eventually, she figured out how to mass-produce the mops , obtained the necessary financing and figured out how to sell it to the masses. Along the way, she endured much ridicule and suffered through rejection after rejection. As I said in my opening paragraph, all this took a great amount of perseverance.
Eventually, she convinced QVC to agree to market her mops. Initially, they didn’t sell well, but she convinced QVC to let her “pitch” them herself. This was unheard of at QVC. They had always used professional pitchmen, but Joy would not take “no” for an answer. Due to her enthusiasm and product expertise, Joy turned about to be a very successful “pitchman,” and she was on her way.
Joy did not stop with the Miracle Mop. As of today, she holds patents on over 100 products, such as “huggable hangers,” Home Shopping Network’s best selling product of 2010, which are no-slip hangers with a thin profile that requires significantly less closet space, and “forever fragrant,” a line of home odor neutralizers. Joy prefers the direct selling approach, and, as I mentioned above, she excels at it. She is HSN’s top salesperson with annual sales in excess of $150 million.
In addition, she has become a bona-fide celebrity. For example:
- She has partnered with celebrities such as Serena Williams, Frank Sepe and Rosie O’Donnell to sell their products on HSN.
- She has appeared on television shows, such as “The View.”
- In 2009 she opened her own restaurant, Porto Vivo, on Long Island.
- In 1997 Ernst and Young named her “LI Entrepreneur of the Year.”
- In 2009 Fast Company ranked her #77 on its list of “The 100 Most Creative People in Business,” and in 2010 it included her on its list of “The Ten Most Creative Women in Business.”
- Hollywood has released a movie about her and her successes, called “Joy.” It stars Jennifer Lawrence as Joy and features Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper, Virginia Madsen and Elizabeth Rohm. I have seen this movie and I recommend it. Guys, it is not a “women’s movie.” It is a “feel-good” movie with an excellent cast about achieving success against all odds.