Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

How Mindy Grossman made home shopping hip

From Isha Sesay, CNN and Phoebe Parke, for CNN
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1507 GMT (2307 HKT)
  • Mindy Grossman is the CEO of a TV shopping network
  • She changed people's view of home shopping with celebrity endorsements
  • She cites risk taking and being your own customer as keys to her success

Editor's note: Leading Women connects you to extraordinary women of our time -- remarkable professionals who have made it to the top in all areas of business, the arts, sport, culture, science and more.

(CNN) -- "Hi I'm Mindy Grossman. I'm a mom, a wife, the CEO of HSNi but most of all I'm a disruptor."

Mindy Grossman has been the driving force behind making the Home Shopping Network both hip and profitable, by bringing in celebrities from Jessica Simpson to P. Diddy and boosting sales dramatically.

Digital sales now account for approximately 45% of HSNi's (HSN and Cornerstone) total revenues, according to Forbes.

CNN's Isha Sesay finds out how she did it and what inspires her.


Isha Sesay: You didn't study fashion, so how did you get into this business?

Mindy Grossman: I probably have one of the most unconventional career paths ever. My parents married young but weren't able to have children so my father's boss in the produce business lent them the money to adopt me. I felt a real responsibility to be the first one to go to college, and the first one to be successful.

I grew up very fast, I took things very seriously. I graduated high school at 16 and went to college, determined to be an attorney. I also got engaged very young, at 19.

Early on I was told I could do anything I wanted to do. It wasn't an issue being a woman or not coming from a wealthy family.
MIndy Grossman, CEO of HSNi

But when I was in my last semester of senior year of college I realized I was leading someone else's life and I wasn't really recognizing things that were inside me that were really important. Creativity and curiosity and really experiencing things.

I moved to New York and was offered a job working for a company called Manhattan international. It was a menswear conglomerate at the time, working for the president of their international division. I was 20.

Early on I was told I could do anything I wanted to do. It wasn't an issue being a woman or not coming from a wealthy family, and that is what always inspired me.

The vision

IS: How was it perceived when you first joined HSN in 2006?

MG: It was definitely an interesting time. I spent the first 18 years of my career in the menswear industry. When I started polo jeans, which was my startup experience, and then I went to Nike, so those were somewhat difference transitions.

When it was announced that I was leaving Nike, to go to what at the time was called IAC retail, it wasn't exactly looked at as aspirational.

IS: But why was it so attractive to you?

Grossman speaks at the FORTUNE Most Powerful Women Summit with Instagram's Emily White, Disney's Anne Sweeney and WIRED's Jessi Hempel.
Courtesy Paul Morigi/Getty Images for FORTUNE

MG: Because I had seen the world changing. I had the opportunity to be traveling globally, to Japan to China, Latin America. I saw the wave of growth of mobile interaction in Japan that wasn't even glistening here at that time.

How people were interfacing with brands. How technology was going to change things, how content was becoming power. So I knew that there was something there and I thought this could be part of it.

I was at home watching HSN, keeping an eye on the competition but I'm also food network lover. I remember my husband saying "what are you doing" and I said "I'm trying to see what's gonna click".

I believe that the reason that I really understand our consumer is I AM her.
MIndy Grossman, CEO of HSNi

All of a sudden I saw Wolfgang Puck -- who was engaging and entertaining and he wasn't selling. He was inspiring and engaging customers and they wanted to buy his product because of that. The next day I went and had lunch with Chairman Barry Diller at the Four Seasons and kind of laid out this vision.

And what's wonderful, in pure Barry fashion he was like, go forth. And you know - I jumped in.

IS: Do you shop at HSN?

MG: I'm going to tell you the truth. My husband once burst out laughing and I said what's so funny. He said you just got a letter from yourself for being one of the best customers at HSN!

IS: How much do you buy?

MG: I think I might be one of, if not the biggest jewelry customers.

I believe that the reason that I really understand our consumer is I AM her. I love the thrill of it, I love discovery, I love the story behind what I'm buying. You can walk with me in my home and I will tell you the story of where I found that chair and how I found that chair and every single piece.

The celeb factor

Grossman believes in the power of celebrity. Here she is with model Iman at the New York Women In Communications Awards in 2013.
Courtesy Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for New York Women In Communications

IS: Part of the reason for your success has been you attracting major celebrities and their brands and bringing them to HSN. Why has it done so well?

MG: One of the things that we said early on is if we're going to have credibility in this idea of editorial program commerce, we need every one of the individuals that come to HSN, they have to have a great product, a great story and be a great storyteller.

It's about the story, so if you look at our recent 100 Foot Journey or Maleficent with our Disney partnership, those are things that can transport people they can feel they're part of that journey and then they can be inspired to want the product, and that's what we're trying to do.

The challenges

IS: What are some of the challenges you've faced in your time here?

MG: The challenge was getting people to embrace the new, and dealing with being dismissed. It hurts because you take it personally, but it makes you stronger.

I'll never forget when I first went to some fancy cocktail party in New York, somebody said asked what I did, and I said i was the CEO of IAC retail and we have HSN, and they go (whispering) "I've shopped on HSN" and I go, "Why are you whispering?!" But it was a very sobering experience and one that really, reinforced my belief of how to behave, as a leader as an individual.

Read: Bobbi Brown's billion-dollar idea: 'Lipstick like lips'

Inspire: Actress who became NASA's 'secret weapon'

Part of complete coverage on
December 3, 2014 -- Updated 1743 GMT (0143 HKT)
Women's-only private members clubs are becoming more popular, offering spaces to work, socialize and relax, albeit with hefty membership fees.
November 28, 2014 -- Updated 1515 GMT (2315 HKT)
A new social network for women claims to be 'troll-proof' and was created by Karen Cahn, former Google, YouTube, Aol executive.
November 27, 2014 -- Updated 1418 GMT (2218 HKT)
She's the daughter of a Beatle and counts Kate Moss among her friends, but she had to create her own mark in the fashion world.
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 1743 GMT (0143 HKT)
Alli Webb always loved having her hair done, so she decided to bring that happy feeling to millions of women worldwide with her business, Drybar.
November 17, 2014 -- Updated 1324 GMT (2124 HKT)
NASA's chief scientist Dr Ellen Stofan wants to land humans on Mars by 2035, but there are some serious challenges to overcome before then.
November 4, 2014 -- Updated 1041 GMT (1841 HKT)
The Design Museum hosts a power dressing exhibition, from Joan of Arc's short tunics, to Joan Collins' eye-gouging shoulder pads.
October 30, 2014 -- Updated 1520 GMT (2320 HKT)
Opinion piece from architect Zaha Hadid on growing up in a very different Iraq, to close Leading Women's month of STEM coverage.
October 30, 2014 -- Updated 1227 GMT (2027 HKT)
Leading Women ran an iReport assignment which resulted in some amazing images of girls in STEM from our readers.
October 29, 2014 -- Updated 1108 GMT (1908 HKT)
Robots can be many things -- knowledgeable, dexterous, strong. But can they ever be genuinely laugh-out-loud hilarious?
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 1830 GMT (0230 HKT)
Victoria Beckham has come a long way from Posh Spice. She has now been named Britain's top entrepreneur, by magazine Management Today.
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 1447 GMT (2247 HKT)
Just one in seven engineers are female. STEM experts share their ideas on how to get more girls into the industry.
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1007 GMT (1807 HKT)
In 2006 she sold her business to Estée Lauder in a reported multi-million dollar deal, five years later she started a brand new company.