4 Life Lessons for Entrepreneurs: The Joy Mangano Story

At the cinema watching a movie, surrounded by popcorn & pick'n’mix I wasn’t expecting to find my next blog post, but that’s how these things go sometimes. 

Joy is the new film from American Hustle director David O'Russell, starring Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper. But what really caught my attention was the the story of the woman behind the lead character, Joy Mangano - a single mum and inventor turned entrepreneur who designed a revolutionary mop and made her millions selling it on QVC.

Joy’s story is one of passion, courage, determination, of a woman who succeeds against the odds. It marries innovation and entrepreneurialism with a true human touch and shows that the insight underpinning innovation is priceless, especially when it comes to connecting with your consumers. Joy is the underdog that wins out to become a true business icon.

Joy Mangano’s story is an inspiration to entrepreneurs and women in business everywhere, so I thought I’d share some of the entrepreneurial lessons Joy’s story has left with me and hope you find them as motivating as I did….

You are your brand

“People identify with me because I am a regular person with cleaning and household needs just like anybody else out there. I’m a mom, I work, I have a house to clean, things to organise. We all have certain similar needs, and I address them.’’ - Joy Mangano

When you start your own business, it is a reflection of you and it becomes everything that you put into it. Your thoughts, your actions, your values, and your direction. You are building your brand.

Photo by RomoloTavani/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by RomoloTavani/iStock / Getty Images

How you act and behave, how you relate and connect with your customers and clients are all important aspects of your brand that you have within your control.

With any brand its important to consider what are the qualities that your brand should demonstrate - i.e. how you will act, what can your customers and clients can relate to, what makes you different from the competition and why they should pick or choose you? By writing these down you are setting your brand values.

Quite often as an entrepreneur, you are also the closest person to your audience and are best placed to understand their needs, and demonstrate how your brand, business, product or your service can meet them.

Joy was both her brand and her target audience. Her inventions made her life easier and so when it came to selling them she understood what she had to talk about to make her audience interested. She could talk with authority and passion about what was important to her and her family, and this built trust and credibility in her brand.

Getting a close understanding of your consumers needs is critical - as otherwise how do you know what they are looking for? Do your research, ask questions, see things from their point of view and try and walk in their shoes if you are not your audience. This will ensure you understand how to best sell your product or service to them in a credible and authentic way, and this too will build your brand in line with your values and your reputation.

Trust your instincts…not the opinion of others

“People thought I was crazy to try and mass market the Miracle Mop. They told me a mop, is a mop, is a mop.” - Joy Mangano

You’ve recognised a gap in the market, you have an idea, you think about it night and day as it formulates itself, grows, builds. You finally build up the courage, determination and backing to go out there alone and start creating your dream and telling people your idea…and what are you faced with?

People will always have an opinion. If you put yourself out there you will always be met with questions, cynicism and people thinking they have more experience than you, know better than you or could do it better than you.

Photo by idealistock/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by idealistock/iStock / Getty Images

Well, they are wrong. Look around you, the fact that you are doing it in the first place is further than any of them have got. Always remember that. 

Your instincts will help you suss out what is the right direction for you, and you are your own best judge when it comes to you and your brand. It’s your vision that you are following, no one else’s.

Steve Jobs pretty sums this up brilliantly.

“Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” ― Steve Jobs

Helpful advice and experience can be beneficial, but you have to recognise the place where this advice comes from, and if it is honestly going to be beneficial for you to bear it in mind. If it is, great. If not, then quite often it can motivate you to trust your instincts even more. 

It is worth remembering that it is always much easier to comment on an idea in progress than it is to come up with something in the first place!

Always believe in yourself

“I knew in my heart that the Miracle Mop would make people’s lives a little better…so I took my idea everywhere I could, and I told everyone who would listen. I believed in it, and I knew deep down they would too.” - Joy Mangano
Photo by BrianAJackson/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by BrianAJackson/iStock / Getty Images

For any product or service to be credible it needs to have brand advocates. People who love it, use it, rave about it and are willing to pass it on, share it and recommend it to others. Brand advocates are what you are trying to build for your business through your customer service, through social media and through all interactions with your audience.

As you start out, you will need to be your biggest and best brand advocate. And to do this well requires strong self belief, belief in your self and belief in your ideas. 

The whole entrepreneurial journey starts with believing in yourself, and that belief being bigger than the fear or challenges that may get in your way.

Although at times this can be tough, and you will learn things along the way, having a strong belief in your product/ service and brand is critical, as Joy Mangano and her story prove. Your authenticity and credibility and your passion to make a difference with your ideas will mean that you will have the power to persuade others as well. 

You make your own path

“For me personally, there was no path. A mom and a woman way back then, to sit at a coffee table and say, ‘Yeah, I’m an inventor’? It was like, ‘Okay. She needs to go to therapy.’ ” - Joy Mangano

As an entrepreneur, you are always carving out your own path and thanks to people like Joy, this path is easier to find than it was back then. 

Photo by zefart/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by zefart/iStock / Getty Images

By its definition, and entrepreneur is “A person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit”. Oxford Dictionaries.

There are almost half a million new start ups created each year (SFEDI report) and the no. of female entrepreneurs has risen by nearly 10% in the last 2 years (Office of National Statistics). Now 19% of business owners are female RBS, Women In Enterprise Report and 26% of FTSE 100 board members are women, up from 12.5% in 2011, however there is still a long way to go to reach gender balance in the board room or as business owners Women on Boards, Davies Review 2015.

The journey and progress that female entrepreneurs have made in the last 25 years huge, and and I’m looking forwards to seeing what we can do over the next 25 years to bring things even further into balance.

Go watch it

If you have a spare few hours over the next month or so I would definitely recommend watching Joy. I left the cinema feeling slightly warm and fuzzy, but most definitely like I’d learnt some powerful entrepreneurial life lessons to take forward in to 2016. 

Thank you Joy for sharing your story and being an inspiration to others with a great idea, and the will to make it happen.

For more information on Joy Mangano’s story and for the quotes featured above, visit The Telegraph 

Written by Lesley Stonier, Founder & Director of We Mean Business, London | Marketing Consultancy . We support entrepreneurial individuals and women in business with their marketing needs. If you need help with marketing or you know someone who does, come and say hello.