Stand apart: FUBU founder Daymond John says how it’s done
by James Dowd
Reeling in a bit of the caustic commentary that he often provides on the hit ABC reality series “Shark Tank,” fashion mogul Daymond John offered more encouraging words for local entrepreneurs during a trip to Memphis this week.
John, founder of urban clothing line FUBU (For Us By Us), was keynote speaker before several hundred business and community leaders at the Lipscomb & Pitts Breakfast Club on Thursday. The night before he participate in a mini-shark tank presentation before a couple hundred guests at the Littler law firm.
During both events, the 43-year-old stressed the importance of delivery over design.
“The thing to remember is that just because you’ve got a good idea doesn’t mean that you’ll be successful. Probably a thousand other people have had the same idea, so you need to be able to put a new twist on it,” John said. “At FUBU, I didn’t make shirts with three sleeves or create clothing that would get up and serve you breakfast in the morning. I sold a lifestyle, and that’s what set me apart. Find what it is about your company that sets you apart.”
That’s what John said he tries to get across to “Shark Tank” contestants, albeit usually in a more blunt fashion.
Eric Mathews, interim executive director of business accelerator EmergeMemphis, appreciated the message.
“His commitment to helping other entrepreneurs is obvious,” Mathews said. “He’s working to empower them by helping refine their business models and understand what it takes to be successful.”
For those looking for advice — and willing to take it — John offered five “SHARK” points:
Homework (know your company and your competition backward and forward)
Amore (do what you love)
Remember you are the brand
Keep moving, always working to get better.
And he praised organizations such as EmergeMemphis, LaunchYourCity, Memphis Bioworks Foundation and the Mid-South Minority Business Council Continuum for supporting the local entrepreneurial ecosystem.
“Memphis has a great culture, and you even have the world championship barbecue contest based here,” John said. “Memphis is not that small. You’re in a better position than you may understand.”
But with that position comes responsibility, John emphasized. Established business leaders should support upcoming generations of entrepreneurs by mentoring them and offering avenues for them to pursue their visions.
For John, that meant capitalizing on relationships he had formed with neighborhood hip-hop artists, persuading them to wear his clothing.
And it worked.