With Mindy Grossman at the helm, look for innovation at Weight Watchers. Whether that involves new marketing and media strategies, products or ties to retailers remains to be seen.
“We are really brainstorming a lot,” Grossman told WWD at the AJC fundraiser Wednesday night at Guastavino’s on East 59th Street, where she was honored with AJC’s National Human Relations Award.
The former HSN chief executive officer, who became president and ceo of Weight Watchers International last July and serves as vice chairman of UNICEF, hinted at the possibility of Weight Watchers deepening its imprint on the retail landscape. “You never know,” she added, citing Weight Watchers’ partnership with Loblaws in Canada, which involves utilizing the grocery chain for meetings. “Clearly, we are not a retailer but we are a community-based organization. We have 15,000 meetings a week,” Grossman said. Much of the retail/shopping center industry, she observed, “is moving to health and wellness.”
Wednesday’s event raised nearly $1.5 million for the AJC, which fights anti-Semitism, defends Israel’s place in the world and advocates for the rights and freedoms of all people. Among the 400 at the event were Tony Spring, Frank Doroff, Jack Hruska, Anne Keating, Liz Rodbell, Morris Goldfarb, Bill Brand, Larry Leeds, Paul Auersperg, Jerry Storch and Jill Granoff.
“Mindy lifted HSN to new heights. I know she’ll do the same for Weight Watchers,” said Carol Hamilton of L’Oreal USA. “Thinking outside the box is the only way Mindy thinks.”
“If you want learn about Mindy’s bio, read it on Google. I really want to tell you about Mindy the person,” said Caryl Stern, of UNICEF USA. Stern recalled that when the corporate partnership between HSN and UNICEF was failing, she needed to apologize to Grossman. “I was expecting to meet this fierce ceo but instead she said, ‘What do we do next and how do we do it better?’ That is Mindy Grossman. I found myself responding to Mindy’s warmth. We renewed the partnership. Mindy is a connector.”
Addressing the crowd, Grossman told the story of a Jewish couple, struggling to make ends meet, who after 12 years of marriage remained childless, and unable to afford an adoption.
“In an act of kindness, the owner of a produce business where my father worked nights surprised him with a gift — the money to adopt a child. I am that child,” she said. “From the very beginning I was told that I was special and that I could do and be anything I set my mind to and that I was unconditionally loved. That knowledge also came with a deep sense of responsibility and a desire to use the gift that was my life to have an impact on others.
“When I’ve been asked, ‘Don’t you want to know who your real parents are?’ I would immediately answer, ‘I already do.’”
But Grossman did recently get her DNA tested. “Turns out I am of English and Irish descent. Does that make me any less Jewish? I don’t think so.”
Grossman went on to speak about defending diversity, empowering women, helping people lead healthier lives at Weight Watchers, fighting prejudice, and fostering “an authentic, transparent and respectful culture where people can flourish — a culture where diversity is not merely tolerated but celebrated.”
“Now more than ever AJC remains indispensable. We have to forge a united front against hate…Those of us who have achieved positions of influence must take personal responsibility for championing diversity,” she said.