There are several business leaders in the world whom I admire. Some of them were handed a small family business and created an explosion that sent the company to the top. Some of them have done nothing more than know how to invest. Some of them started from nothing and built an empire all on their own. One of my favorites in Daymond John [entrepreneur, author, brand consultant, speaker, and co-star “Shark” on the TV series Shark Tank].
Interestingly enough, Daymond John started out (in promotional products!) when he was in grade school. In first grade, he would scrape off the paint from pencils and personalize it by carving a name into it (for a price, of course). He always wanted to own his own business and nothing could stop him.
In the early 1990s, recently out of high school, he expressed to his single mother that he wanted to start an apparel line so she started to teach him to sew. From there, John began spending half of his time working on FUBU – his apparel brand “For Us, By Us,” which started with wool caps – and the other half continuing his job at Red Lobster. He finally landed his big break when big name musicians started wearing FUBU apparel in music videos. But, being a smart businessman, he continued his job at Red Lobster.
Finally, in 1995, he had enough money to quit the restaurant. He devoted all of his time to creating a booming business out of FUBU. By 2016, FUBU earned $6 billion from worldwide sales. Yet, even as the brand’s popularity faded in the early 2000s, John knew that he wasn’t done just yet.
In 2007, he wrote his first book called “Display of Power,” which discusses his success and global reach with FUBU. Then, in 2009, he decided to take a chance on a new reality show called Shark Tank, where strong entrepreneurs choose to (or not to) invest in budding business ideas. After writing a total of five books, starting a consulting brand, investing in over 60 businesses, and starring in 11 seasons – so far! – of Shark Tank, John is estimated to be worth $300 million as of 2020.
I love the story of Daymond John because it is the ultimate rags-to-riches story. All he had was a good idea, a skill set, and ambition. Remember that starting at the bottom doesn’t mean that you have to stay there.