'Shark Tank' investor Daymond John explains how the movement to 'buy Black' presents a huge opportunity for entrepreneurs of color to land funding, find mentors, and scale their businesses

  • A personal hardship drove Shark Tank investor Daymond John to co-found his clothing line For Us, By Us — also known as FUBU — in 1992. “That’s what fueled my passion to say, ‘I’m not going to allow this anymore,’” John said.
  • On October 6, John announced the creation of Black Entrepreneurs Day, a free live-streamed event geared toward celebrating and supporting Black business owners. Six rising founders will receive grants totaling $175,000 and John will host one-on-one conversations with business leaders like Magic Johnson and Shaquille O’Neal.
  • John explained why now is the time for Black business owners to step up and how any entrepreneur can thrive during the pandemic.
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A personal hardship drove 'Shark Tank' investor Daymond John to co-found his clothing line For Us, By Us — also known as FUBU. 

In the early 1990s, John noticed designers popular in the hip-hop scene took no issue selling to Black customers but also said "we don't like you," and "we don't want you to be part of our community," he told Business Insider. The racism he experienced drove him to start a clothing line that welcomed anyone with a love of hip-hop. 

"That's what fueled my passion to say, 'I'm not going to allow this anymore,'" John said. "Entrepreneurs generally have grown their business from some sort of tragedy," he added, noting that his impetus was inclusivity while other founders are launching and scaling companies amid the pandemic and the killings of Black people at the hands of police, like Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. 

On October 6, John announced the creation of Black Entrepreneurs Day, a free live-streamed event geared toward celebrating and supporting Black business owners. On October 24 at 7 p.m. John will host one-on-one conversations with business leaders and cultural figures such as Magic Johnson, Shaquille O'Neal, Chance the Rapper, and Questlove on his Facebook page. Six rising founders will receive grants totaling $175,000.

John explained why now is the time for Black business owners to step up and how any entrepreneur can thrive during the pandemic. 

Stepping up 

When John launched FUBU in 1992, he felt a "responsibility to not let anybody down who was supporting me," he said. That meant making sure everyone looked good in his clothes, not just Black customers. 

He believes Black entrepreneurs have a similar responsibility today as consumers use their dollars to support the Black Lives Matter movement and campaigns such as the 15 Percent Pledge and Buy Black, which aim to better promote Black-owned businesses.  

"Right now, the world is looking at Black entrepreneurs," John said. "You step up as much as you can and there are a lot of people rooting for people of color to have a decent shot at becoming successful." 

Educating yourself is key 

John has been on Shark Tank since 2009 doling out advice to entrepreneurs, including what he believes are the fundamentals so success: educating yourself and finding mentors.

"There's always going to be something that's happening that you can't control," John said. "But you can control the direction you take and how you react to it." 

John recommends that founders look into the courses they can take or books they can read. Right now, he's completing a course on digital marketing and plans to follow it up with classes on Facebook's and Amazon's digital marketing. John believes education and implementing those lessons make an entrepreneur stronger. 

Finding strong mentors 

The second prong in John's fundamentals is finding mentors. To start building this network, entrepreneurs should look to diversify the group of people through experience, expertise, age, race, gender, and sexual preference. 

They can also seek out mentors anywhere, including books and social media. John identified American author and business consultant Napoleon Hill as his first mentor, even though he died shortly after John was born. John's a fan of his book Think and Grow Rich. 

However, entrepreneurs must demonstrate how they can also help the mentor. As an avid animal-lover, John would take kindly to entrepreneurs offering to volunteer one hour a week at a local shelter in return for a 30-minute conversation once a month, he said. Lastly, business owners shouldn't always aim for the Shark Tank investors but individuals with more time to give. 

 

 

 

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