Daymond John started his $6 billion clothing empire FUBU in his mother’s basement with just $40. Thursday, the celebrity Shark Tank host and author came to Miami to share some of his secrets of success.
To the highly fashionable audience of 450 people who packed the Colony Theater on Lincoln Road for the first Thrive Seminar, presented by The Nelson Foundation, John shared advice on authentic branding — extremely important in the age of social media. “You are the brand before anything else; you have to be able to put yourself in two to five words,” said John, author of The Brand Within. “If you don’t know what you stand for, you leave it to us to interpret who you are.”
What characteristics separate successful entrepreneurs from the pack? “The successful ones don’t call failure failure; they know it is part of the process,” he said. “And the successful ones absolutely love what they do. They would do whatever they are doing for free if they could.”
The Shark’s advice for getting started: “Take affordable next steps. Don’t mortgage the farm just because you have this idea. ... you have to try to sell, then sell more and then sell more.”
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Saying that he was challenged to find like-minded people and mentors when he was getting started with FUBU, he advised the audience to build a mastermind group of people around them with the same objectives to pull one another through the tough times. And, he said, be brutally honest with yourself on why you are starting a company. “If you are doing it for fame, for money, you are not going to make it.”
Visualize your goal and build a strategy to get there, and finally, do your homework, said John, who has spoken in Miami several times, including in conjunction with Miller Lite’s Tap the Future contest and at an Entrepreneurs’ Organization global conference. “You will never create something new in this world again. You may have a new angle or a new delivery system, but it won’t be new, so you have to find out what other people did that made mistakes and what other people did that were successful.”
Giving a shoutout to his mother in the audience, he even had some advice for parents: “Follow @sharkmommajohn. She’ll give you information on how to raise a Shark.”
John said he will continue to work with the entrepreneurs he invests in through Shark Tank for years to come; Aventura-based AquaVault is one of his most recent Shark Tank investments. As to what’s next, he said, he’ll be involved in educating people about dyslexia, a condition he has, too. “Twenty percent of the world is dyslexic, four out of six of the Sharks are dyslexic, ... 85 percent of professional chefs and 40 percent of entrepreneurs are dyslexic,” he said. Testing and early diagnosis is key because there are no drugs you can take. “As a kid, the only thing to do is to learn more and read more and do more work.”
Finally, he said he also wants to work to take illegal guns off the street. “I am going after as many corporations as I can and all the rappers to get involved; I’d like to see five anti-gun drives happening every single weekend in our cities.”
The 50-minute-talk and audience Q&A, which ended with a group selfie, was just one part of Thursday’s Thrive Seminar, which was designed to expose participants to successful entrepreneurs and put on by The Nelson Foundation with support from community partners. The Nelson Foundation’s mission is to fuel the entrepreneurial spirit of underrepresented communities through investment, mentoring and education.
Leading up to the Thrive Seminar, The Nelson Foundation selected three entrepreneurs to pitch their emerging business concepts in front of a panel of judges — Brett David, owner of Lamborghini Miami; Bernard Stewart, music entrepreneur and vice president of ESPN; Nabyl Charania, CEO of Rokk3r Labs; Will Stute, lawyer and private euqity investor; and Dawn Dickson, CEO of Flat Out Heels — and the audience.
After the pitches, the judges chose Smpfly, pitched by Lester Mapp and Teon Prudent, a concept that will use proprietary algorithms to match the right social media influencers with branding campaigns. The judges independently decided to add to the pot: Rokk3r Labs, which helps build high-growth companies, will take Smpfly through its “Think Phase” program to develop a solid plan to take to market, and then Stute will allow Smpfly to pitch to his private equity firm for a serious investment. The other two finalists were Chris Filsaime of Rain Up, which will automatically roll up car windows and sunroofs as rainfall starts, and Michael Hall of Kurator, a concept aimed at making art as accessible as music.
Al Nelson, chairman of The Nelson Foundation, said he asked John to kick off the inaugural Thrive Seminar because John gave him his first big opportunity. Nelson pitched on Shark Tank three years ago, and John and Mark Cuban invested in his company, EzVip.com.
“From there, I knew that anything was possible and I was able to scale and create other companies, but it started with them believing in me,” Nelson said. “I always thought when I am in position to help someone else I would ... so we created The Nelson Foundation, and we want to grow with every entrepreneur.”
Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.