The Most Expensive Lesson I Ever Learned | FUBU stories from Daymond John

This is the most expensive lesson I ever learned…

You see, most "overnight successes" are not really "overnight successes." And even for successful businesses, there are lessons we’ve all learned along the way… usually the hard way. 

There’s a lot that goes on below the surface that many people don’t see. 

So whether you’re a die-hard FUBU fan or an entrepreneur wanting to learn from my mistakes, this story is for you...

Let me take you back to 2001...

When I think of FUBU, I think of hip hop and the artists... and the community surrounding it. 

I think of the nights I’d stay up to listen to new releases on my old radio; the music video sets that I snuck into to slip jerseys on rappers who didn’t know any better

... the light “stalking” that I did to convince LL Cool J to throw on a shirt for a picture 😂

So you can see why we might think that the natural progression of the FUBU brand was to jump into the music industry head on, right? 

Well, let me tell you how wrong that decision was.

Some more backstory for you: My partners and I were paying a lot for commercials that had a music video feel to them, and we figured, hey, we know the artists that we’d like to represent the brand, we have an ear for hip hop, and we think we’re pretty cool SO…

Let’s create a music label and essentially get paid for our commercials!

So, FUBU Records was born. Now we weren’t crazy enough to think that we knew how to write or produce songs… that wasn’t our superpower. 

We told everyone that we were starting FUBU Records to hire talented artists, both popular and undiscovered, who wanted to create original music.

It wasn’t long until this guy, Kenny Burns, approached us promising 3 tracks. And he came through with 3 songs produced by someone we’d never even heard before. 

His name? Lil Jon. 

And the artists kept coming. One of the members of En Vogue wanted to join.  Mr. Cheeks from Lost Boyz wanted to be a part of it. We were gaining traction like we couldn’t imagine (don’t worry, the most expensive mistake of my life is still coming…) The big hit, though, came from LL Cool J. 

At the time, Pharrell was still up and coming and he teamed up with LL to produce a song called Fatty Girl, getting Ludacris and Keith Murray on the track with him. 

By the way, the story of this music video shoot is CRAZY - we’ve never released the original footage - in fact, my team at FUBU told me I’d be better off burning the footage instead of sharing it - and you can find out why in my Audible Original Founding FUBU.

Now, it might sound like we had it all figured... but we had to shut down FUBU Records almost as quickly as we started it up because we just could not sell records the way experienced music labels could.

It got to the point where we even had to turn down artists because we didn’t want to negatively impact their career (you’re welcome, Eminem and Ashanti). We had thought that it was a no-brainer to take our love for hip-hop and use it to make even more hip-hop, but the reality was we knew how to market clothes, not music videos, and this cost us. 

You see, no matter what business you own…
No matter how big or small…
You’ve got to know what your capabilities are

Were we able to sell $80 million worth of Fatty Girl jeans after our licensee Jordache put out a line capitalizing on the song? Yes. Did we make money from FUBU Records directly? Not so much.

Hear the full story, the key lessons we learned from this that you can takeaway for your own business, and so much more (like epic, behind-the-scenes tales, featuring shocking stories of organized crime, wild nights with public figures, failures and more) in my new Audible Original project Founding FUBU, available now!


Get access --> here

About Founding FUBU:

Founding FUBU is my untold story of how I built FUBU from the ground scripts, no omissions, no filter. For the first time, I'm sharing epic, behind-the-scenes tales, featuring shocking stories of organized crime, wild nights with public figures, failures and more

Back to blog
1 of 3