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SPARK OF THE CORPORATE

We're going into new areas of business.. It's just the beginning…

Many would as to how would a first-time CEO with no experience in television or direct-to-consumer retailing turn HSN around? But if one were to browse through the life of Mindy Grossman so far, one would not be surprised at how it has transpired. Grossman has had this strange streak of taking up an altogether different path, surprising people, even shocking some, and then making a big success of it. Right since her child-hood, Grossman’s life is full of queer twists and turns that even a fiction writer would fail to come up with, and we ordinary mortals fail to decipher. Her letting-go of law school to join the fashion and apparel industry, and then years later moving from a global behemoth where she wielded enough power and exercised authority to a relatively unknown commodity called HSN which was still trying to find its feet in a consumer-driven market – were all strange choices but which proved to be strokes of genius eventually.

That is why perhaps, she has succeeded all along in her illustrious career of more than 35 years to just get everybody to think in a whole new way. And, by doing so, she was able to make the biggest of gambles work with HSN look like common-place entrepreneurship – she turn around a half-billion something company into a $3 bn company in a mere just about a half-decade since she took over the top position.

Early Years & Education

Grossman is the adopted daughter of a produce dealer, Donald Waldman and his homemaker wife, Elaine. The couple raised Grossman Long Island, New York, where she attended Manhattanville College before eventually going to George Washington University to study law. The parents gave her all the love, care, and attention that the child needed and provided her with enough avenues to grow up in the best manner possible – so much so that she was the first person in the family to go to college – that in itself was a big responsibility to complete her education and make something out of her life and further, excel in it. In her own words, she was the great white hope of the family. That is one reason why she finished high school in her junior year.

Fashion Fascination

She was all but ready to pursue her aspirations to become a lawyer but something snapped in her last semester at college and she decided, just like that, to quit all she had been gunning for – a career in the legal field, marriage to her high-school sweet-heart (she had been engaged to him while she was still at George Washington University) and so on, to take up a career in the big, bad, and intriguing world of fashion.

She began her career in the menswear industry in 1977, when one would think of it as a career-limiting move given her education and also her interests at that point in time. But she stuck to her decision with conviction and made a fantastic career out of it and, in the process, went on to hold senior positions at Tommy Hilfiger and Oxford Industries.

Her new-found passion toward the fashion industry triggered a remarkable career in the industry and she has never looked back thereafter - if anything, she has only gone from strength to strength. In the next decade or so she worked with a host of top brands in the and left an indelible mark on each of them besides the fact that she held some very crucial and defining positions at each of those firms. She was the President of Chaps Ralph Lauren and Senior Vice-President of Menswear for Warnaco, Inc. from 1991 to 1994, Vice-President of New Business Development at Polo Ralph Lauren Corporation from 1994 to 1995, and President and CEO of Polo Jeans Company from 1995 to 2000.

Then she joined the global apparel and sports-wear giant Nike in the year 2000 as Global Vice-President and led Nike’s $4 billion apparel business upto April 2006. Further, she was also responsible for the development and growth of Nike's global women's business and served as Co-chair of its Women's Leadership Council.

The Spark

Everything was going on smoothly for the now-become thorough-bred of the fashion and apparel industry. She had hit the ceiling as far as growth at Nike was concerned. She had all along been yearning to be associated with something that touched the lives of many and work for a direct-to-consumer business. Apparently, Grossman had heard that Barry Diller (IAC) was looking for someone to head its retailing business, made up primarily of HSN and a high-end catalog company, Cornerstone. And then, suddenly one fine day – as was her wont- a new spark triggered in Grossman. That day, Grossman had her retail revelation while she was cooking. Although initially circumspect of her suitability for the job, she began watching HSN as she cooked, flicking back to one of her favorite cooking shows. That is when it struck her. When she was researching HSN, she felt it fit all the things that she was excited about doing. She had a gut feeling that here is an opportunity to create a network that combines content and commerce through entertainment.

She thought what if HSN offered more lifestyle programming, with all the products showcased being for sale? At that very moment she was, as with her other decisions in life, confident that it would work. Now she only needed to the float the idea across to the HSN big-wigs. So, she took the idea to Diller, and without batting an eyelid, he gave her the go ahead.

She was taken on-board as the Chief Executive Officer of IAC Retailing (a business segment of InterActiveCorp.) in 2006.

The HSN Saga

When she took over the reins of HSN, so to say, one of the first things she did was to revamp the website. Today, HSN.com is a top-ten most trafficked e-commerce site, with digital sales accounting for more than 35% of HSN's total revenues.

Further, her knowledge of brands, the market, and dealing with temperamental designers besides, most importantly, the fact that there were women with style and money who would be open to shopping sell-a-vision, got HSN on the perfect track.

One can easily say that she is the biggest factor in the transformation of HSN into a lifestyle network, diversifying its portfolio of brands and personalities, and spearheading efforts to evolve what was a pretty linear network into a multi-platform business.

She got many people from the fashion and apparel industry to align with HSN ever so seamlessly. She managed to enlist housewares designer Jonathan Adler, maternity queen Liz Lange, and octogenarian New York fashion icon Iris Apfel, who is doing a line of silk scarves and costume jewelry. She also got Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey, and P. Diddy—all of whom sold fragrances on HSN—as well as chef-model Padma Lakshmi, who has a collection of teas and sea salts called Easy Exotic.

Grossman today oversees an HSN retail portfolio that encompasses HSN, a leading interactive multichannel retailer that offers a curated assortment of exclusive products and top brand names, and Cornerstone, a dynamic multichannel retailer of lifestyle brands, including Frontgate, Garnet Hill, Ballard Designs, Grandin Road, Improvements, Chasing Fireflies and TravelSmith. All these combined make up to generate more than $3.2 billion in revenue.

Not only that, Grossman has also led HSN's digital expansion into mobile with the development of applications for the iPhone, Android and iPad, as well as online gaming with the successful launch of HSN Arcade in 2011. In an effort to further consolidate HSN’s digital position, she oversaw the launch in 2010 of a second 24-hour television shopping channel HSN2.

HSN Goes Public

After completing a tempestuous two years as CEO of HSN, during which her leadership was in full expression, Grossman then turned towards bringing in wider acceptability to the great idea called HSN. This she did by taking the company public in 2008. Today, the company’s shares are believed to be traded at a much premium that some of its closest competitors, who are actually much bigger in size and scale than what HSN is. This is a testimony to the brand Grossman that HSN has attached to it.

Other Associations

Being one of the most enterprising women that she is, it can only be expected that her charm, persona, and qualities are more likely to brush people that happen to come across her. She has enamored and impressed people with her accomplishments that were good enough to gain their confidence and, which resulted in her being associated with many other entities.

Thus, she has been an independent Director of Bloomin' Brands, Inc. since September 6, 2012. She serves as a Director of Fisker Automotive, Inc., on the Board of the National Retail Federation, Inc., as well as Cosmetic Executive Women. She also served as a Director of The Scotts Miracle-gro Co., (January 2006 to April 19, 2006). She is the Co-Chair of the Fashion Institute of Technology’s Executive Women in Fashion Advisory Board, and is also a member of the Advisory Board of the J. Baker School of Retail at the Wharton School of Business.

Awards & Honors

Ernst & Young's Corporate Innovator of the Year award, 2012
Financial Times listed her as one of the top 50 women in world business, 2010
Forbes named her one of the 100 most powerful women in the world, 2009 (An honor she has received three times)
Recognized as one of Fast Company's Top 100 Most Creative People in Business
Ranked by the Financial Times as one of the top 50 women in world business, 2010 & 2011.

Quotes

  We're going into new areas of business, creating a cross between media, tech, retail and entertainment. It's just the beginning.
  When I joined the company, everybody said, `What are you doing?' They thought I had lost my mind when I left Nike.
  I worship at the altar of Phil Knight (Nike CEO). Working for him was my M.B.A.
  When I got my first VP title at 26. My parents finally stopped asking when I was going to get my law degree.
  People were awful. You ever have that feeling when you know people are talking behind your back, but you can't turn around? There was so much whispering." (About her move to HSN).
  I never bet against anyone. If people do something that has a true purpose and they do it with boldness, I root for them.
  It seemed like I woke up one morning and had an epiphany. I thought: I cannot do this. I do not want to get married. And I'm not going to law school—it just doesn't excite me. I'm not wasting anybody's money. I'm going to move to New York.
  

Hope viewers caught up the spark…

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