Daymond John came a long way from his humble beginnings to become a household name for his business success.
Here what you should know about the Shark Tank investor and his inspiring story.
1. He Started FUBU in Queens, NY
In 1989 he started the urban clothing company, which stands for “For Us By Us,” due to a void he saw in clothes for inner city kids.
In the beginning, he called upon his Hollis, Queens neighbors, L.L. Cool J and Salt and Pepa, to wear his clothes.
“Even though I had placed our product in the hottest music videos out there, I was still working full-time at Red Lobster. To the public, FUBU was a huge company. Little did they know that I was still serving them shrimp and biscuits,” he told Four Hour Week.
People thought he had a huge company but in reality he only had 10 t shirts to back it up. Watch his interview with Entrepreneur, above, where he talks about his early career.
He began with an extremely modest $40 and in 1998, sales were at $350 million. He told Four Hour Week, “…I recognized when launching FUBU that “For us, by us” was such a powerful statement, and I knew that the world needed to see we actually meant it. That’s why my three business partners and I were at the front of a lot of our advertising and media. It communicated to our community that we were authentic and so was our brand.’
His routine would consist of sewing, packaging, and shipping his product in the morning. When he was done, he would start his 4 o’clock shift at Red Lobster, where he was a waiter.
To earn start-up capital, John and his mother mortgaged their home for $100,000. From ’89 to ’92, John had to close down FUBU three times because he ran out of money. One day in 1992, he and his friends made a big order of hats and sold them on the streets of Queens, and made $800 in just a few hours.
A breakthrough for the fledgling company came when L.L. Cool J wore a FUBU hat in the Gap commercial below, and rapped the words “For Us By Us.”
One of the most well-known hits we had with LL was during a Gap commercial. He was wearing a pair of Gap jeans and a Gap shirt, but he was somehow able to sport one of our hats during the commercial. Then during his thirty-second freestyle rap, he looks directly into the camera and says, “For Us, By Us, on the low.” No one at Gap nor any of their ad execs thought anything of it. It wasn’t until a month later that someone at the Gap found out, pulled the commercial, and fired a whole bunch of people after they had spent about $30 million running this campaign.
2. He Didn’t Audition for ‘Shark Tank’
After he found out he had to invest his own money as a shark on the reality show, he declined the offer from producer Mark Burnett.
“I got a call on my office phone, and the person on the phone said Mark Burnett wanted to talk to me. I said, ‘Yeah, right, whatever.’ Then they told me they wanted me to do this show and I agreed, until they informed me I’d have to spend my own money investing in the companies. I said, ‘Nice talking to you. Goodbye,'” he told Jetset.
When he was sent a contract, he had to decline because he had already agreed to mentor the Kardashians on their reality show. “So I declined the show again, because I had given my word to the Kardashians and I wouldn’t be able to do both. Then the Kardashians found out and said to me, ‘Are you crazy?’ They really encouraged me to do the show and it’s all worked out,” he explained.
He told Business Insider what he looks for in contestants:
I look for somebody who is never going to stop no matter what, or somebody who doesn’t feel like I’m the be-all-end-all, that regardless they’re going to to be okay. I look for somebody who is a good problem-solver, and I look for somebody with the same beliefs I have, in integrity or in business, or in relationships, or staffing, or something of that nature.
3. He Runs an Academy
The Daymond John Academy consists of a 3-day training session that John himself almost always attends.
Space is limited, so there is an application process.
It caters to the growth and branding of business as well as aiding in the launch of business ideas.
On its website, John explains:
I meet people all the time that are struggling to make it as an entrepreneur, exactly like I did when I got started. They are making, or are about to make, the same mistakes and have the same problems I did 20+ years ago and many will never figure it out. I’m in a position now to help these people and show them exactly what to do to increase their success rate significantly.
4. He Was Already an Entrepreneur at 6
“When the boys would like a girl in school, they would kick the girls and they would pull their hair. So I saw there was a way to make a profit,” he said in the interview above with the Dream Project Symposium.
Because he didn’t like his male classmates’ approach, he would scrape paint off pencils and paint girls’ names on and sell them.
John considers this his first business venture.
“My principal, he had no vision at all. He made me close that business after one month. Becaude he found out I was stealing the pencils from the guys that were kicking the guys,” he said above.
In an interview with Business Jet Traveler, she explained his younger self, saying, “I was a normal kid who was too smart for his own good and thought he knew everything. I decided not to go to college because I had to help support the house but I thought I was going to be rich no matter what.”
5. He Believes in PreNups
Watch the interview about with The Real, he talks about the fact that he would “absolutely” make a woman sign a prenup.
He is divorced and has two children, and maintains a private personal life.
According to xfinity, when asked what inspires him, he answered, “My kids. Those little brats are very smart. They’re the new moguls of the world.”
John says publishers initially approached him right after his divorce when he lost his family due to “7 or 8 years of having a lot of money … and going in the wrong direction and celebrating and becoming the wrong brand — not becoming the brand that was true to myself but becoming what I thought public perception was going to be.
When he was asked how many times he was in love, he told A Drink With, “In real love? Probably about four. Puppy love? Like 200. I used to fall in love with a new chick at the club every night!”