By Nathan Brantley and Rocío Hernández
As a part of the on-campus celebration of Black History Month, entrepreneur Daymond John, founder of the multi-billion dollar company For Us By Us and a shark on ABC’s award-winning TV show “Shark Tank”, chronicled his life and his clothing company’s history. Organizers said that the event drew 815 people on Friday, Feb. 20 inside the Joe Crowley Student Union Milt Glick Ballroom.
FUBU, John’s clothing company, began in Hollis, Queens, New York in 1989. However, John did not grow up with a passion for fashion. John remembered that when his mother picked out his outfits it would result in him looking like a character from The Muppets.
As he got older, John wanted to follow the emergence of hip-hop in the world of popular culture and later found fashion to be his most profitable outlet. When he was in his teens, John realized that the clothes that were catered to hip-hop artists were too expensive for the genre’s fans and decided to create his own line.
The company’s name FUBU stuck after a comical failure of his initial idea, BUFU, which at the time was a logo for people coming out of the closet.
FUBU’s first manufacturing factory was in John’s house. Everything from shipping to manufacturing was handled inside of John’s home. He financed the costs of these productions by working at Red Lobster.
John said that his company made small mistakes, but John kept trying because he believed he knew the hip-hop industry better than anyone.
“You can make up your own opinions, but you can’t make up your own facts,” John said. “[Hip-hop fans] let us through the door and we knew our client better than anyone.”
When he began as an entrepreneur, John, having not attended college, lacked financial intelligence and was forced to learn business strategies through experience.
John said that in business, “it’s hard to make it, but it’s 10 times harder to keep it.”
After many roadblocks, John’s business idea grew into a $350 million clothing company. John credited his success to the strong support group that he created in his friends and family. Whenever John was at a low point, such as the three times FUBU closed down because of financial instability, his mother would tell him to “take inventory of himself,” assess his situation and his capacity to address the task of the situation.
John considers his family and friends major motivations for his comebacks from difficult moments in his life.
However, John told the audience members that his fortunes did not come without some sacrifices. Because he was so busy, John’s relationship with his wife and children declined and eventually led to his divorce. The experience taught John that in order to live a fulfilling life, he had to find a healthy balance between work and his personal life.
“Being rich only makes you arrive to your problems in a limousine,” John said.
As a Shark Tank fan, University of Nevada, Reno senior Ziad Rashdan attended the talk hoping he would be able to learn more about John as a person, learn from his life experiences and any advice he had for aspiring entrepreneurs. In Rashdan’s opinion, John successfully delivered all three points.
“A few of my takeaways from the Daymond John event were [that] you have to be willing to fight for your aspiration and to always do something each day to get you that much closer,” Rashdan said. “There is no new idea, it is always a constant improvement on current technology and resources. Finally, the ones closest to you sometimes have the best advice for your business and how to grow it.”
John ended his event with a line of questions from the audience including one from a child.
An 11-year-old girl asked John what his most difficult decision has been.
John responded by saying that an individual cannot get stuck on something. He said believes everyone should invest in his or her education. John said it was difficult not having the educational background necessary to start his companies.
Had he received a better education, John believes it might have helped him on his path to success.
Jordan Hill, a JCSU event organizer, said that another lesson students can learn from are John’s five keys to success, or SHARK Points: set your goals, do your homework, adore what you do and remember that you are the brand first. Although John constantly faced challenges on his path to become an entrepreneur, John persisted and accomplished his goals.
“[John] proved that with all odds against [his company] the passion to succeed can overcome it,” Hill said. “He shows that success takes failure and it’s what you do when you fail over how you celebrate success.”
Nathan Brantley and Rocío Hernández can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @TheSagebrush.