Daymond John, CEO and founder of FUBU and one of the entrepreneurs on ABC’s Shark Tank, began his empire by selling hats that cost $1 each to make.
He sold them for $20 apiece.
“I made a couple of hats and went out and sold them on the street corner the Friday before Easter Sunday 1992 in front of the Jamaica Coliseum,” he says. “I am a street hustler.
“I must have been 20, 21,” he continues. “I made $800. I was driving back and counting the money. I must have counted it 20 times, and I ran into somebody. Guess how much it cost me. $800. I kept going back and selling more and more hats.”
Around then, John was annoyed when some major apparel companies denigrated young African-Americans, grouping everyone together, some going as far as to say that they don’t sell to drug dealers. John was already a hard worker; his friends were fighting in Desert Storm.
“When is anybody going to respect the community?” John says. “That’s when I came up with the FUBU concept. I felt the hip-hop community was being ignored.”
John filled the niche and has continued to design and market so well his company is consistently cited as an example of how to succeed. In the ABC show, which has aspiring entrepreneurs asking successful ones for seed money, John always stands out because he looks so dapper.
He describes his look as “clean, with an understated flair.” Like so many people in fashion, he is open to shopping everywhere and can, unlike most, shop anywhere.
John oversees designs at his companies and knows how to sew, a skill his mom taught him.
“We didn’t have a lot of money when we were young, but she was always fashionable,” he says of his mom. “I would see her cutting around the pattern, and I would be careful to tiptoe around it and then always fall onto it.”
John says anyone can dress like a millionaire “as long as they pay attention to detail. If you don’t have a lot of suits, it doesn’t cost a lot to make sure your nails are clipped properly and you have a pocket square. You can wear the same suit every day with a different shirt, a different pocket square, and that makes all the difference.”