“In entrepreneurship, you decide to give up your day job at a point where either (A) the hobby/new business is at least making some form of ends meet, or (B) you feel that you need to dedicate yourself for a certain amount of time to it and give yourself the last hoorah.”
To say, Daymond John knows a lot about entrepreneurship, would be an understatement. Not only is the man an icon in the fashion world with a multi-billion dollar empire, he’s an investor, television personality, author, and motivational speaker who quite literally has the world at his fingertips.
The 47-year-old founder, president, and CEO of FUBU has successfully transitioned from being a business man to being a business and has legions of fans and aspiring entrepreneurs who attend his talks, tune into his show and read his books with the goal of duplicating his success.
But how exactly did John manage to evolve from sewing product in his kitchen to becoming one of the most influential men in the country?
It all started with passion.
For John, his “this is it” moment came while he was working full time as a waiter at Red Lobster despite having his fashion designs featured in some of the hottest music videos of the day.
FUBU was more of a hobby at the time, but he decided to get serious and create a schedule that would allow him to put real effort into his brand.
For two years he would wake up at 7am, answer orders that would come in overnight, sew hats by himself, tag, package, and ship them until noon. After that he’d head to a shift at Red Lobster, work until around midnight, come home and make more hats only to repeat the process the next day.
Once Daymond was able to hire on three of his friends, the business truly started to take shape and with the extra help and a $100,000 dollar loan, and investments from Samsung, he was able to quit Red Lobster in 1995 so that he could go full time with FUBU and turn it into the brand we know today.
From Ol’ Dirty Bastard, to Busta Rhymes, the hip hop community was fell hard for FUBU. LL Cool J was so taken with the brand that not only did he wear the line in the “Hey Lover” video with Boyz II Men, but when Gap asked him to do a commercial wearing a pair of their jeans and shirts, he still opted to wear a FUBU hat.
The significance of this move doesn’t simply come from the fact that he was promoting another brands product, but after his 30-second freestyle, he looked directly into the camera and said, “For us, by us, on the low.”
The line was so simple and obscure that no one at Gap (ad executives included) thought anything of it. The $30 million dollar campaign ran and no one on the brand side was aware of the hidden plug until a month later when the ad was pulled and the company fired as many people as they could get away with while still saving face.
At the time, most designers weren’t directly focused on the young African-Americans and Latinos, but FUBU was able to break open that side of fashion paving the way for new designers with a fresh outlook and connection to the urban market.
Today John is more widely known for his role as an investor on the ABC reality show “Shark Tank” where entrepreneurs seek out his partnership to help grow their own businesses which is a role that he has repeatedly expressed a deep fondness for.
There are tons entrepreneurs out there who just don’t understand how to accurately evaluate their product and make it appealing for investors, which is where Daymond has been able to come in and essentially help small businesses move to the next level.
He has become that business guide and mentor for others that didn’t exist when he decided to step out on his own.
It’s clear that wherever this man puts his attention, greatness is sure to follow. And, that’s good for him and the entrepreneurs he invests in and inspires.