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The Voice of the Black Community


Handle business like a 'shark'
Business tips from FUBU founder Daymond John
Published Thursday, March 7, 2013 9:00 am
by Michaela L. Duckett

Over the past 20 years, FUBU founder Daymond John has evolved into a successful entrepreneur, industry pioneer and highly regarded branding expert.

FUBU founder and "Shark Tank" cast member Daymond John shared advice with local entrepreneurs and business leaders.

Since joining the cast of ABC’s hit show “Shark Tank” in 2009, John has continued to surpass new heights of commercial and financial success as a marketing professional, fashion icon, author and motivational speaker.

John was in Charlotte during CIAA to speak at an event sponsored by Time Warner Cable at Byron’s South End.

Several dozen business leaders and entrepreneurs - mostly members of the Black Chamber of Commerce and Carolinas Minority Supplier Development Council – came to hear John speak and offer advice on taking their businesses to the next level. Here are a few of the lessons he shared:

Make affordable moves

John said successful entrepreneurs keep an eye on the bottom line. For example, when he first launched FUBU, John had no budget for marketing so he loaned apparel to rappers to wear in their videos.

“I did that for several reasons,” he said. “I knew that rappers were perceived as people that had opulence and wealth and could afford anything. So if they are wearing this brand it must be the brand to buy when you get to that level.”

His tactics worked. “Before I knew it, I was a waiter at Red Lobster, and FUBU was perceived as this huge company when really it was nine T-shirts in my basement.”

Count up the cost

Succeeding in business is not for the faint of heart. It involves a lot of risks. This is a lesson John said he learned from experience.

“I lost my family due to my work,” he said. “Not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur… They may go out and risk everything to make a couple of dollars. It’s about what you are risking and what you are risking it for.”

Brace for failure

Throughout his career, John said he has launched 15 lines, and seven have failed. He’s even had to shut his company down multiple times after running out of money.

“You are going to fail way more than [succeed],” he said. “But you only need one hit.”

John said the key is to not give up but learn from past mistakes.

Keep good company

John advises surrounding yourself with people who are “smarter than you.” He said you should also take note of the company they keep. John is leery of doing business with anyone who does not have friendships that have lasted more than one or two years. He believes it is a testament to their character.

Keep learning and grow

John said it’s important to keep “young blood” around to keep you on your toes. He said everyone, even the mail clerks, played a role in the vision of FUBU.

“It wasn’t just a dictatorship of what I liked,” he said, adding he continues to learn from his fellow sharks as well as contestants on the show.

Be able to sell yourself

John said the impetus for his second book “The Brand Within,” came after he joined the cast of “Shark Tank.”

“I realized that for the most part, we invest solely in people and if people don’t realize that then they won’t understand why they are not progressing,” he said. “I really fell in love with seeing people come up there with that same twinkle in their eye that I had and being able to be a part of somebody’s dream.”


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