Daymond John: Entrepreneur, author, and philanthropist, a made in America success story

Damond John (Image Credit – The Shark Group)

The 80’s was the beginning of the wave of entrepreneurship in the United States. It was the right time to strike in a variety of industries such as entertainment, technology, marketing, sports, and aerospace.  Entrepreneurship was all about individuals starting with nothing and building their specific niche, turning empires into international conglomerates.  This was the era that brought us FUBU. In the late 80’s  Daymond began his global company in his mother basement while working at Red Lobster.

Growing up on the streets of Hollis Queens New York, Daymond John learned how to sew from his mother a skill customarily reserved to mend clothing. He instead utilized this essential ability to craft wool hats with the tops tied off. A technique he applied after noticing that hats of this type were being sold on the street for $20. This was the beginning of Daymond making his merchandise which he sold for half the price of his competition.  He and his business partner reinvested all proceeds from the wool hats back into the business and started selling t-shirts on consignment at events around the city. His mother was his first investor using their home as collateral for his clothing line. One of the lessons Daymond learned while building his business was “know your numbers and financials! That way you do not go out and spend money foolishly on things that you don’t need. “

Over several years Daymond worked hard utilizing rising stars such as LL Cool J and others in his brand campaign which ultimately led to FUBU being known throughout the world as “For Us By US.” In 2009, John became a household name via Shark Tank, a show featuring other startup entrepreneurs. He also authored books in the hopes of mentoring the next generation in an effort he explained to “share the knowledge that I have gained from others around me.”

Daymond has now come full circle giving others the opportunity to have investors make their dreams a reality as his mother did for him. He has won awards and recognition from several organizations such as Crain’s New York Business Forty Under Forty Award, Ernst & Young’s New York Entrepreneur of the Year Award, the Advertising Age Marketing 1000 Award for Outstanding Ad Campaign, and the Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship.  When he first heard that Former President Barack Obama was appointing him a Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship, “it was absolutely an honor, and I was shell-shocked. Had I not had the opportunity to meet him once or twice before casually, I would’ve said “you are full of s*** and he doesn’t even know who I am. It was cool!”

Your last book, Power of Broke became a New York Times Bestseller. In January, you will release Rise and Grind, which is the follow-up book.  Why do you feel it is vital to deliver your message through books?

The reason why I write books is that I believe in the theory that people’s attention spans are limited and there is information online, but I feel print is something that will be around forever in the physical form. I also think releasing the book itself allows me to share the knowledge that I have gained from others around me. This presents me with the opportunity to address the top 10 to 20 questions that inspiring entrepreneurs always ask me. There is no one place where you can find all these answers from entrepreneurship, and that is why I feel it is important to deliver my messages through books.

“No one in the world is holding back the ultimate answer to success. We write these books to show other individuals different ways to take that journey, but it is ultimately up to you.”

You have been very public about dyslexia. What does it mean to you to now have written five books?  Symbolically, do you see these books as a challenge to your fight?

It’s kind of funny, someone who has dyslexia writing books, but there have been so many individuals like myself that have done the same. Albert Einstein was dyslexic, and it’s not as though individuals think people that have it cannot read, it just takes us longer to process information.  So, when I proofread my book in comparison to you proofreading your book it will take you two days, but it will take me eight days. I usually look over my material four times to make sure my writer and I wrote the content accurately.

This is the same process that you would do in any other industry that you want to be successful in. If you are going to take on a task you are going to make sure everything is perfect. That is why people that have dyslexia want to outwork everyone because they know their weakness and are willing to work double time to achieve their goals.

(Image Credit Daymond John)

The Power of Broke had a unique presentation and was very anecdotal with celebrities and leaders of industry? Will Rise and Grind be similar? Also, why did you choose that approach instead of your typical first-person biography?

The reason why I took this approach compared to the first-person biography, is because it allows the reader to get many different perspectives from a collection of fifteen well-known individuals that study in a variety of industries.  Even though everyone is in a different industry, there are standard techniques that they are using, and that is what I’m trying to showcase in these books. The last book had a theory “You don’t need money to make money” that was like giving a cooking lesson. This next book will provide you with the recipe of what people implement every day to be successful.

If teenage Daymond John was just getting started out in 2017, what advice would the current you give the “youthful you” to get started in today’s day and age? And how similar is that information to the help you are providing current entrepreneurs throughout the country?

Know your numbers and finances! That way you do not go out and spend money foolishly on things that you don’t need.  The whole purpose of business is to make a profit and to grow it, but if you’re spending your finances on things you don’t need, your venture will fail. So, the first advice I would share is, know your business and numbers. Next, research your business before spending any money at all for the first six months to a year as you are starting your small business. Do your diligence take classes if you are financially equipped if that is not an option seek out an internship or work somewhere for free.  I would also advise individuals to spend two to three hours on the internet examining information and building a community. Make sure you are spending time learning your craft, but not spending time and money. After that find, a mentor if you can’t locate someone in your specific occupation seek out an individual that can teach you the basic concepts and fundamentals.  Finally, build a team around you of likeminded individuals that have similar goals and know what their strengths are within the company.

A general view during the filming of Mark Burnett's "Shark Tank" in Chatsworth, Calif. on July 13, 2009 (by Sarah Hummert for Daymond John).

A general view during the filming of Mark Burnett’s “Shark Tank” in Chatsworth, Calif. on July 13, 2009 (by Sarah Hummert for Daymond John).

We hear so much on Shark Tank about “the numbers.”  Beyond the numbers, what are those secret ingredients you look for when investing in a partner or company?

When I look to partner with a company I focus on the founder or the individuals running the business. I also look to see if they have experience and are you a problem solver. Next, I pay attention to if the company has the potential for growth and can the leadership take it to the next level. Finally, I look at the numbers you can be conducting a lot of business transactions, but not seeing a return on your investment.

You have always said you are goal driven.  Let’s play a game.  Name one goal you have in the following timeframe:

What is a goal you would like to achieve in the next six months?

There is a specific weight class that I want to get down to and maintaining that goal. Another goal would be the number of hours I put into making sure “Rise and Grind” get to the right individuals to receive that message when it is released. The next goal would be increasing my efforts in making sure people know about early detection of ailments and suggest proper treatments before their condition becomes critical.  I also have a goal of spending a certain amount of time with my family.  Finally, I have goals that I want to achieve in business, whether that is a certain number of sales on a quarterly or yearly basis.  All my goals vary in different areas, but they all end at a particular time and then I reset them.

This Time Next Year?

My goal every year is to help position my Shark Tank companies to increase their revenue. I am currently in California shooting episodes for the show right now, but my goals will reset whether that is donating x amount of dollars towards the relief efforts for Hurricane Harvey and Irma. Those will all be different goals that I plan on setting for myself over the next year, but every year I have Shark Tank on my goals because business owners allow me to be a part of their dreams when I invest funds into their companies’ year after year.

In an interview with CNN Money, you talked about having two long-term goals that will expire in 10 and 20 years. Do those long-term goals factor in changing economies and political climates, or are you focused and resolved to succeed no matter the situation?

No! My five-year goals are generally business oriented, focusing on scaling my business or downsizing specific companies that I have assessed, and might not want to be a part of anymore. The ten-year goals usually are dedicated towards philanthropy in the fight against human trafficking, animal extinction, and the relief efforts around the world.  Finally, my twenty- year goal since we do not know where we will be in that time frame, I will have to envision doing business with the new technology that will be available for us to use and where that might be. I will also have to picture what my family will look like in that period and if I’m leaving an inheritance or a legacy.

When you first heard that former president Barrack Obama was appointing you an Ambassador of Global Entrepreneurship. What did that mean to you personally?

First, I wouldn’t have believed it, but I first met Senator Obama at the time. When he decided to run for president, he said to me “Oh My God one of the great entrepreneurs of our day. I looked around like I did not know who the hell he was talking about and did not think he was talking to me. I think some of the greatest entrepreneurs of our time are Henry Ford and Steve Jobs.”

I know he had a great admiration for me and he has used the “For Us by Us” slogan several times in his speeches, so I know that he understood.  So, I said to myself what can I bring to the table for such a great leader, who I think is one of the greatest leaders that has ever existed in our modern day. Thus, it was absolutely an honor, and I was shell-shocked.

If I had not had the opportunity to meet him once or twice before casually, I would’ve said “you are full of s*** and he doesn’t even know who I am. It was cool.”

Have you and the other four sharks that are dyslexic thought about creating a scholarship program? And talk more about your work with Yale.

We have never talked about it because we all have a lot of different passions and drives that we donate to already. As we all know opening foundations or scholarship funds is a very sensitive profession because one dishonest person in the organization can do something that is not in the best interest of the association. This can cause a chain reaction and collapse the entire integrity of the whole organization. It is always best that we work with institutions like Yale and other established organizations that have a proven track record.  I would rather concentrate on a hundred different organizations in comparison to just one of mine.

(Image Credit - The Shark Group)

(Image Credit – The Shark Group)

I see you on Instagram running on the beach or in the car, late at night traveling to a new city. I know music is a part of your journey.  What are a few go-to songs on your playlist?

All film scores like Bill Conti, he does all the Rocky films. Other artists on my playlist are Run DMC, DMX, Tupac, Biggie, Lionel Richie, Bob Marley, Commodores, and Prince.  Bob Marley and Prince are my two favorite artists of all-time.

Are there any new products that we can expect from any of your companies in line with the three-year plan? 

I have developed a new product called Blueprint and Co, and it is a creative workspace where you can work alongside like-minded entrepreneurs all day long at a satellite office created for sharks. So, say you have an office of a thousand people in California, but you need to go to New York. Where are you going to work Starbucks or hotel room?  If you have a membership in this community, you can come work next to other CEOs and their teams from different locations around the world. I am also creating an educational based program called “Daymond On Demand” it is a platform for my books. It is an interactive program that is eight hours of digital curriculum and just like an app it will have updates, and there will be new content.

If you were going to participate in the show Undercover Boss, which one of your companies would you target and why?

I never really understood how Undercover Boss worked, because you must own a company that has 500 to 10,000 employees. I don’t own any companies that have that volume of employees, and that is how the concept of the show works. The reason why I don’t have any companies that size is because you don’t know any of your employees. On the flip side, if someone else was there participating and I could talk to them through an earpiece I would say my “FUBU Mobile Company.” I would want to see how they are treating customers every day in the stores.

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