I ran a 10K in Boston this past October because sometimes you just have to put yourself out there—way out there.
Through podcasts, self-help books, and countless articles, I have always heard, "We all have the power to make a positive change!" I love it; we all do! It's inspiring. But I thought it was up to other people to do it. I mean, I was very busy.
I had a big career, a great husband, two healthy kids, a dog, a fish, six chickens, and a home in a beautiful seaside town. It's a lot to handle, but how could I have been unhappy? Well, I was in a soulless job with a fat paycheck and a pension. I was more empty than unhappy. If anyone at a party asked what I did for a living, I quickly changed the subject; it just didn't interest me.
Oprah once said, "There are only two emotions in this world, love, and fear. Which one do you want to come from?"
I was at a job that had me traveling two or three nights a week, working insane hours, and becoming more and more detached from my family. And it was all driven by fear.
But, what if my career choice came from a place of love?
It worked for Oprah. So, what if I can do something I love and make a positive change? Why not me? It was my brother who finally convinced me to take the leap into entrepreneurship. He believed in me more than I believed in myself, and for that, I am forever grateful.
My first website didn't even have a photo of myself as the founder. I was too afraid to put myself out there. At the advice of a friend, I started by adding my story to the website. I slowly became my brand—speaking endlessly at every sporting event, meeting, and party about the importance of organic menstrual hygiene products. I hosted period parties at my home, and even now, I can't believe people came!
Then my friends started to host period parties (Titos, Tacos & Tampons, it's a thing!), and the buzz began to grow. Women have realized that when we lift each other up, amazing things can happen. It was for this reason that shortly after my launch, my cousin Denielle, who I had not seen in over 25 years (long story), found me on Facebook and asked what she could do to help. She is now my co-founder and magical unicorn. I cannot imagine doing this with anyone else.
She also had a big career and was at a crossroads in her life. Could we really leave these high paying jobs to see if we can make it as social entrepreneurs?
The regrets people have in their last days are the things they did not do, the risks they did not take. We decided to swing for the fences and change the narrative around menstrual hygiene. It is a category that has been controlled by two big companies in the US with little innovation, no transparency, no environmental or sustainable choices, and no one speaking up for the one in five US women who experience Period Poverty.
We are mothers of daughters, and we were going to do something about it—for our girls and for all girls.
As a self-funded startup, we nearly decimated ourselves and our bank accounts, building our direct-to-consumer business. Blissfully naive about fundraising, we spent several months on the venture capital circuit and didn't raise a dime. We almost closed our doors, but something about our purpose and the momentum we could feel from the women around us wouldn't let us give up.
Denielle bought a pink glitter unicorn headband, and I bought a Tampon costume from a Halloween website. It was time to dig deep. The unicorn headband brings us good luck, and Denielle wears it every day in the office. The tampon suit is just really funny, and luckily other people thought it was too.
First, we posted photos of me in it.
Then we made YouTube videos.
Then I ran the Reebok Boston 10K for women in the tampon suit.
And then we got noticed by retailers, by investors, and (most importantly) by women everywhere.
Denielle and I both had strong Mommas, who were trailblazers met with a lot of criticism for working outside of the home. We were very fortunate to grow up in the next generation, where many women went to college and had great careers. However, the women we came up with professionally were, simply put, mean. They were mean girls competing for board seats. Why weren't we working together? The men didn't tear each other down to get ahead. The guys laughed all the way to the board room, slapping each other on the back.
Our daughters are growing up in a time where women are supporting each other. We can be role models and show them the magic that can happen when women build each other up. We are not just changing the narrative about menstrual care. We are changing the culture of how to build a business for good.
You have to believe in the power of unicorns; you just have to put yourself out there. We can all be that person who lifts someone else up, and we all have superpowers to make a positive change in the world—sometimes, it just takes a unicorn headband and a tampon suit to start.
How many times have you looked at something and thought: I wish this did more? And how many times have you thought long and hard about what else you could make it do, if you had the resources, time, and a factory-load of people working for you?
We've all certainly been there. Whether we were 5 and inventing a flying Barbie, or futuristic football, or 35 and looking at the kitchen imagining a self-taught robot that would help with the nightly dinners. We've all come up with what we thought were million dollar ideas - but almost none of us follow through because we're already too busy, and somebody else has probably invented it already.
For one woman, this very sequence of events took place when she was just a teenager. Unimpressed with her dog's collar, she created a new one with florescent sides (making them more visible to cars at night) that would fit more comfortably on a dog or cat's neck. But because of her relative youth, the collar was never produced, and a year later was released and patented by another company.
The girl, Joy Mangano, vowed this would never happen again.
Fast forward to 1990. Single mother-of-three, Mangano has a bigger, bolder idea. This time, the Miracle Mop is born, launching her career as an entrepreneur and setting her up for a life in the spotlight with her product launch on QVC. Between then and now, Mangano has accrued 100 patents (for products like the Huggable Hanger and My Little Steamer) and her company, Ingenious Designs is worth over $50million.
This story was told in Hollywood by David O.Russell in 2015 with his Golden Globe winning movie, Joy. Jennifer Lawrence's portrayal of Mangano served to highlight the difficulty of entrepreneurship and instruct on the minefield of patent disputes.
Mangano's latest product is one she says she's been working on for her entire life: a journal, a manual and a self-help for entrepreneurs wrapped up in her book, Inventing Joy: Dare to Build a Brave and Creative Life.
SWAAY spoke with Mangano about the necessity for this kind of book in this age of entrepreneurship, and how it will resonate with aspiring female inventors and change-makers.
Drawing on her success and the pains it took to get there, Mangano has penned a book that will no doubt be a bible for those looking to take their flying Barbies or futuristic footballs to market. "I️ believe it will be a resource for people they can keep coming back to," she remarks. "This book truly is a lesson for anybody - in their careers, no matter what age."
Her family have been crucial to the whole process of building her brand and expanding Ingenious Designs, for the last 17 years, and have informed many of the chapters in the book. "I️ am fortunate enough to work with my children, family and friends and they were completely integral (to the books production)," says Mangano. Her daughter Christie serves as SVP Brand Development, Merchandising & Marketing Strategy having worked with her mom for thirteen years. “She's my left brain," laughs Mangano. Both her son Bobby and other daughter Jackie have worked elsewhere before also coming under their mother's umbrella. Bobby currently serves as Executive Vice President of the company and Jackie is involved with the fashion side of the business, which is certainly no mean feat, as she is also involved in styling for the upcoming reboot of The Murder on the Orient Express.
"When you can do things in life - work and follow your passion with people you love - it makes it all that much more meaningful and pure happiness."
The launch of her book signals new territory for the serial inventor, who has her first opportunity to tour the country and speak to those whose homes she has appeared in for the past 15 years on QVC and HSN.
"This is really one of my dreams," she comments. "I️'ve always wanted to go around the country and meet all of my customers and this is one way to do that. It couldn't be better."
"95% of my customers are women so I️ can't help but be an advocate always."
While on tour, Mangano is destined to meet a host of people that will tell her of their inventions or start-up ideas, but none more so than the millennials, who are completely reinventing the notion of entrepreneurship. Mangano hopes that through the book aspiring female entrepreneurs will be able to take solace in the fact they don't have to do it all. "I️ truly believe - this is a generation I️ watch, a lot of them work for me and with me - today, more than ever, they think they have to do it all."
"Dressed beautifully and in a meeting, they'll say 'I've been up since 5. Dressed the kids. Fed the kids.' And then (after work) they'll come home, have quality time, bath time. And I️ say - you can miss a game." If there's one thing she would invent for millennial women, it's this very advice, she says.
Rather than a product, or an item, it's this advice that, contrary to the millennial mindset, you don't have to be five places at one time or working 20-hour days to get where you want to be. Instead, Mangano has sections of the book that will inform on how better to manage your time and your ideas - to employ her methods - so you can become successful with (a little) less stress.
When asked how social media and the digital age has influenced her real-world inventions (like mops, hangers, steamers and pillows), Mangano chuckles. Technology, rather than impairing the invention of real world application actually opens up a 'wider range' tells the inventor. “It opens up a direct - to - consumer feedback and enhances your platform."
"With Instagram and Facebook my customers communicate with me. That's critical for looking at what you do and for the future of what you do."
Out of the dozens of things she's invented, Mangano won't say what her favorite is. "What am I️ most proud of? That's hard to say - that's like asking what child do you love the most and I️ don't think I️ could be prouder of any of them."