Miracle Mop inventor Joy Mangano: Ask these 3 questions before pouring your life savings into an idea

Joy Mangano and Macys CEO, Terry J. Lundgren visit Macy's Herald Square at Macy's Herald Square on January 9, 2016 in New York City.
John Lamparski | WireImage | Getty Images

Over the past three decades, Joy Mangano built an entrepreneurial career selling nearly $4 billion worth of household consumer products, like her self-wringing Miracle Mop.

Her advice to others: Don't necessarily follow in my footsteps.

Mangano, a divorced mother of three, was an airline booking clerk in the early 1990s who drained her life savings and took loans from family and friends to make the mop's prototype. She became an overnight success in 1992 when she appeared on QVC to advertise her invention, selling more than 18,000 mops in her first 20 minutes on television.

But now, she says, she typically tells new entrepreneurs to have a "reality check" and "really look at your life" before going all-in on an idea.

"I don't want people selling their homes and putting their family at risk," Mangano, 65, tells CNBC Make It.

Instead, she says, you need to answer "yes" to these three questions before taking the leap:

  1. Are you truly passionate about the idea?
  2. Are you sure it can make a difference in people's lives?
  3. Are you willing to fully commit to it, regardless of any obstacles that may arise?

In retrospect, Mangano says, she went all-in on the Miracle Mop because she fully believed in the product's ability to help people save time and energy. Then, she focused on taking each part of the entrepreneurial journey one step at a time — including the inevitable rough patches.

For example, Mangano spent her early days selling mops in parking lots, flea markets and boat shows before making it onto QVC. "You must keep moving forward," she says.

Mangano's other top piece of money advice is to separate your business from your personal financial life. Treat your financial life as a second business, she recommends: Keep track of your spending and plan for the future, while allowing for a certain level of risk tolerance.

That way, she says, the failure or success of your start-up or side hustle won't crater your ability to build wealth or spend money.

"I was responsible for putting my children in school and college," Mangano says. "I like to believe I didn't make too many mistakes that way."

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