Trigaux: Behind movie 'Joy' lies a real household products entrepreneur and empire owned by HSN

Jennifer Lawrence stars in 'Joy,' which opened in theaters on Christmas Day.
Jennifer Lawrence stars in 'Joy,' which opened in theaters on Christmas Day.
Published Dec. 29, 2015

"After spending the past two years re-engineering this amazing Miracle Mop, I'm so excited to help people across America take cleaning to a whole new level with this smartly designed, easier-than-ever-before, self-wringing mop. Oh, and we have a variety of joyful colors because who ever said mopping can't be fun?" — Joy Mangano

Am I really writing about a mopmaker? Did I just quote somebody suggesting mopping is fun? Does America really care about this stuff?

Enough to make a movie out of it starring a top Hollywood actor?

Well, yes, yes, yes. And yes.

The movie Joy debuted Christmas Day. It's about Long Island housewife-turned-entrepreneur Joy Mangano, who built a business from scratch by creating new takes on old household cleaning products and personally selling them on TV home-shopping shows.

While that generic plot line may not propel you to the theater, the fact that the movie stars Jennifer Lawrence along with big names like Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro and Isabella Rosselini might. Joy generated a modest-but-respectable $17.5 million in ticket sales by Sunday, a ho-hum "C+" review by Times reviewer Steve Persall, and even a little Oscar buzz on social media.

Not to mention some great PR for St. Petersburg's HSN.

Joy is a business movie that offers a glimpse at a rare commodity: a woman who fights to make her startup idea into a viable business. A very viable business.

"I am an inventor. A product designer," the real Joy Mangano says online in a recent interview. "I am an on-air celebrity with that product in this electronic retailing industry. I am an entrepreneur. Beyond that, I am a mother and part of a wonderful family that is part of a wonderful business."

Mangano founded her business called Ingenious Designs LLC in 1991. HSN, the TV home-shopping company that now sells products across the online spectrum, bought her company in 1999.

Mangano went on to become one of HSN's all-time top-selling brands, pitching her own products with names like the Miracle Mop, Huggable Hangers (close to 700 million sold so far) and My Little Steamer.

Ingenious Designs now also develops and manages product lines for such HSN on-air names as supermodel Iman, celebrity chef Ming Tsai and Grammy Award winner Keith Urban.

And Mangano? She's now worth an estimated $50 million. And counting.

Rosselini, who in Joy plays the girlfriend of Mangano's father (played by De Niro), boils down the movie to this: "It is about a woman making money, wanting to have an empire."

Lots of folks can appreciate that theme. Especially these days as entrepreneurs start to gain more respect and as business communities belatedly realize that nurturing startups plays a key role in the health of a regional economy.

HSN obviously valued Mangano's product genius and salesmanship, buying her company for an undisclosed price 16 years ago after she got her start at rival home-shopping network QVC.

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HSN, publicly traded and now worth $2.7 billion, is no fool when it comes to leveraging the current publicity about Joy.

On Sunday, HSN will debut Mangano's New Miracle Mop "with never-before-seen patent-pending features" during a 24-hour special blitz of her product designs. The mop comes in black or white or even fuchsia, complete with new tech but still priced at the same $19.95 it was 25 years ago.

I'm still not sure who said mopping can't be fun. But I am sure who found it enriching.

Contact Robert Trigaux at Follow @venturetampabay.