Daymond John is proof that with Capitalism, it’s not where you start, but where you end up that matters. John, the founder of iconic Hip Hop brand FUBU(For Us By Us), Shark Tank investor, author, and public speaker has amassed an estimated net worth of $300 million.
John seems to have everything going for him. He has built a company that has done $6billion in sales, become an iconic investor, public speaker and mentor (Click HERE for our tutorial on finding a great mentor). John was also tapped by President Barack Obama as one of nine Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship. A group that put him with Reid Hoffman (founder of LinkedIn), Tory Burch (Founder of Tory Burch apparel) and Steve Case (Chairman of AOL for those who remember…).
While his continued success remains interesting, his origin story is even more so. John, like many great entrepreneurs, was born from struggle, forged in affliction and refined by it all into the wealthy icon he is today.
Here’s a quick look at what makes this man so interesting and wealthy, as well as struggles he's persevered through:
- Built a fortune of nearly $300 million from multiple sources
- Founded FUBU, a global hip hop fashion brand that has done more than $6 billion in sales
- No TV policy, not even Game of Thrones
- His mother once put a giant can opener on the wall with a sign that read THINK BIG
- Author of 4 books
- Shark Tank Investor
- Despite being dyslexic, he is an avid reader
- Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich was instrumental in his success (though he had to read it 4 times for it to stick)
- Struggled with Dyslexia his entire life
- Raised by a single mom working 2 jobs and weekends to support him
- Hollis Queens was wrought with crime and drugs during his upbringing
- Survived stage II thyroid cancer
Origins: Early Life, Struggles and Street Smarts
If timing is everything, the timing of John’s upbringing was horrendous. John was born in 1969 in the now Iconic hip hop neighborhood of Hollis in Queens New York. Before Hollis was known for rearing Hip Hop legends like Run DMC, Russell Simmons (Founder of Def Jam Records) and LL Cool J, it struggled as a notorious neighborhood known more for gun violence and crack cocaine than beats and rhymes.
A college education was not in John’s future, but hard work, grit and success were. In fact, he wrote a book about these virtues leading to success in Rise and Grind: Outperform, Outwork, and Outhustle Your Way to a More Successful and Rewarding Life.
Dyslexia: A Blessing?
John suffers from dyslexia but views the condition as a blessing. He notes that it allows him to see the world in a different way which was vital for his success. The condition puts him in good company. Richard Branson (Virgin Brand), Ingvar Kamprad (Ikea), Richard Elman (Noble Group) and Charles Schwab (Charles Schwab) are not only successful entrepreneurs worth hundreds of millions if not billions, but they are also all dyslexic. And John, like this illustrious group, they all have become fabulously wealthy despite their disability.
Recently, studies are beginning to show dyslexia and entrepreneurs have a high correlation. Some argue that the condition offers a competitive advantage in business. Whatever your view on the condition, entrepreneurs face all kinds of barriers to success. The grit to persevere separates the best. Despite his condition, John has written 4 books, amassed a fortune of nearly $300mln and been appointed by a US president as an ambassador of entrepreneurship.
John has stated in past interviews that many of his friends looked up to the neighborhood drug dealers. Then, at the age of 15, he started losing a friend every three months to gun violence. This is where timing finally proved advantageous as music became an alternative to street corner hustling. Emerging in his neighborhood, was hip hop music and with it, a vibrant culture that demanded its own uniform.
Will Smith and LL Cool J during 1997 Kid's Choice Awards in Los Angeles.
Foundings of FUBU
John started FUBU with $40 worth of fabric and grew it into a company that has done more than $6billion in global sales and made him a fortune of nearly $300 million. The struggle was real. John was working at Red Lobster to pay the bills and moonlighted sewing hats and printing shirts for his newfound brand. Sleeping only a few hours a night and delivering his clothes by hand the business was taxing him to the brink. The business model as it currently stood was proving tough to scale. The neighborhood had what the business needed: celebrities.
The first break came from approaching LL Cool J when he was in the neighborhood visiting his mother. John staked out LL’s mother’s house and convinced him to wear a shirt for a photo they would use as marketing. This would start a long relationship between FUBU, LL and a number of hip hop artists. LL became so loyal to FUBU that even when he was doing a multimillion-dollar ad for the Gap, he wore a FUBU cap and wrote in the words “For Us, By Us”.
Creating the Movement
The rising star power of hip hop artists lifted the tides of FUBU as well. FUBU outfitted rappers for music videos and photo shoots increasing awareness for the brand. FUBU became a wink and a nod among rappers and enthusiast alike. There was an understanding of two strangers who see each other wearing the brand.
The brand would eventually grow so fast that John did not have the capital to produce the orders. While growth is a high-class problem, an order is not a sale until a product is delivered and John had no way to deliver. John’s mother, an immense and immovable influence in his life, took an equity loan on the home she worked 2 jobs to maintain. Her house became a factory and the funds she willingly committed dwindled. Then a partner from Samsung emerged and agreed to be a partner if John could sale $5million worth of clothes in 3 years. FUBU sold $30 million in 3 months and the brand gained global status.
Pictured: Daymond John and Capitalism.com founder Ryan Moran at the 2017 Capitalism Conference.
The Peoples Shark
John joined the wildly popular show Shark Tank in 2009 after Mark Burnett (executive producer of hit shows like Survivor, The Voice and Shark Tank) was impressed with John’s presence at a speaking event.
John’s been dubbed the people’s shark, a title very fitting for a man whose brand was geared toward regular people from his humble neighborhood. His approach is unique among his Shark colleagues. John is more concerned about the people running the business than the business itself.
He is not out to make a cut-throat deal but to boost the efforts of entrepreneurs doing everything right.
John reported that he has invested close to $12 million dollars so far in Shark Tank with some notable success.
Perhaps the greatest compliment of all came from the world’s most powerful man at the time of the compliment: President Barack Obama. At a fundraiser, John was approached by the President who called John one of the greatest entrepreneurs of our generation. Shortly after he was appointed an entrepreneur ambassador.
In Capitalism, it’s not where you start, what you look like or who your parents are that matter. What matters is where you end up. Hustle, grit and determination are the keys that took a short, dyslexic, non-educated kid from Hollis to the pinnacle of fashion, tv and wealth.