ST. PETERSBURG — As chief executive officer of the TV and online retailer HSN, Mindy Grossman wants every employee and customer to know that she believes in zero.
Zero, as in no child goes hungry, dies from a curable disease or goes without clean water or education.
HSN has partnered with UNICEF to raise money and awareness for the charity's Halloween campaign, now in its 63rd year. Grossman went on air Monday night with Caryl Stern, leader of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, to promote the sales campaign and Stern's new book, I Believe in ZERO. It was the first time since Grossman took over as CEO in 2006 that she appeared on a show on her own network.
"I felt it was the right time to talk about our culture of generosity and have our customers hear what we are doing," she said in an interview. "I felt that this was a very important book."
Through Oct. 31, the St. Petersburg-based company is donating 10 percent of the purchase price of select Halloween home accessories and jewelry at HSN.com and two of its sister brands, Chasing Fireflies and Grandin Road. Shoppers can also donate directly to UNICEF, and all proceeds from the sale of Stern's book go to the children's fund.
The charitable campaign marks the most significant and far-reaching for HSN, a publicly traded company with annual sales of $3.3 billion. The products come from such notable names as Martha Stewart, Vern Yip and jewelry designer Heidi Daus.
Grossman started the company's philanthropic arm, HSN Cares, with the goal of helping women, children and families — the heart of its customer base — at the local, national and global level. The company has worked with Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas County, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Pinellas County and other local charities, and last year it raised more than $1.5 million during a Christmas campaign for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
Grossman teamed up with UNICEF's U.S. Fund, its first global partner, after joining its board of directors last year and traveling to Senegal with her 23-year-old daughter to see aid efforts.
"We feel like we have a responsibility," she said Monday, during a campaign launch event with Stern and HSN employees. "Children don't have borders. They don't make the circumstances they come into."
HSN's involvement is about raising money but also awareness of the trick-or-treat campaign, which generates $4 million to $4.5 million a year but hasn't grown. Exposure on HSN, a multiplatform retailer that reaches 95 million homes, could draw many new supporters who either took part in the orange box trick-or-treat campaign as a child or want their own family to get involved, Stern said. The first nine days of the campaign alone raised more than $100,000.
UNICEF works in more than 190 countries to provide health care, immunization, clean water and sanitation, nutrition, education and emergency relief. Every dollar donation can provide a child with 40 days of water.
Susan Thurston can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 225-3110.