Daymond John has always been a hustler. The fashion mogul kickstarted the renowned urban apparel brand, FUBU, with little in his pockets and a lot of ambition to make up for his lack of funds. So much so that when the brand started becoming a household name, he mortgaged his mother’s house in Queens for $100,000 in efforts to produce more merchandise.
By 1998, nearly every celeb rocked John’s FUBU threads from *NSYNC to LL Cool J. The exposure catapulted the brand’s profit to a hot $350 million. Nearly a decade later, John landed a coveted spot as an investor on ABC’s Shark Tank in 2009 and has penned two books, Display of Power: How FUBU Changed A World Of Fashion, Branding And Lifestyle, and The Brand Within: How We Brand Ourselves, From Birth To The Boardroom.
Now, the business mastermind has partnered up with Gillette’s Shave Club in a new business venture designed to mail your shaving tools directly to your crib without breaking the bank. The perks include free shipping and exclusive access to sporting, entertainment and lifestyle giveaways.
For Daymond, a good business deal is an innovative one. Everything stays the same—it’s how you package it that makes it unique and profitable. “You will never create anything new in this world; you will only create a new form of delivery,” he tells VIBE. “Twitter was only a note on a pigeon’s leg a million years ago.”
Here, John dishes on how to save a buck on upcoming trends, why he joined the Gillette team and offered some tips for aspiring entrepreneurs.
VIBE: Why did you partner up with the Gillette Shave Club?
Daymond John: Well, I was already a customer of the brand and the products. Whenever I’m out in public or even in private, I value the brand that I physically put forward cause I’m always pitching and we are pitching ourselves first, so first and foremost, I already loved the brand. Then I realized they were launching a shave club, which is going to make my life easier or way more efficient.
I travel most of the year and I don’t have time to overlook or go searching for some of the small things in life like a razor, which is actually a big necessity because that’s how I prepare myself every single day. Now, they have a shave club that I could get delivered directly to my door and that gives me more time to do other things that I find important. But when I really looked and analyzed the cost of it over the year, comparing it to other products out in the market, it actually was a value for savings. So now I’m saving time and money and that is a Shark’s dream.
Switching gears to Shark Tank, what have you learned from being on the show?
I learned that Kevin O’Leary is really not a smart guy. (Laughs) I learned the most important thing is that people are always pitching themselves, and we do not invest in companies—we invest in people and that’s more important than anything else.
People have to be able to break down a pitch and be able to pitch themselves within a minute’s worth of time. With this world changing to being only about 140 characters, you have very limited time to pitch yourself. That goes right back to why I’m here because your personal appearance is how you’re going to pitch yourself now, unlike back in the days when people had to meet you in person. Now, everybody is looking at you through these digital devices so you better make sure your image is as sharp as it can be at all times.
What makes a good pitch?
A good pitch is something that resonates with the person you’re pitching it to. And that does not take a lot of time, which people understand. Now, if it’s in regards to money, the pitch is also going to be about how you can scale personally and scale the business. And if it’s in regards to pitching yourself, it’s how you can add value to the person’s life that you are pitching.
You’ve mentioned before that what makes a good businessman is always thinking that you’re broke, and having creative innovative ideas.
It is thinking like you’re broke but it’s the power of broke that means you do not believe money is going to solve your problem. And there are two types of broke: there is first, poverty of the mind, which means that’s a permanent situation, or to be broke, or poor, which means it’s a temporary situation.
When you activate the power of broke, you basically start to use all the resources at your disposal and you think outside the box. Most of the wealth in this country and in the world has started from self-made men and women. 75 percent of the people on the [Fortune] 1,000 [companies list] are self-made individuals. So the theory of ‘you have to have money to make money and OPM’ is all crap. [Ed. Note: OPM means operating profit margin] It’s all about being resourceful, going out there and applying yourself, setting goals and enforcing them.
What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs?
Do your homework and analyze what market you’re trying to go into, because as I said, you’re never going to create anything new in this world. Understand that there is a lot of people who have been in this world, so you have to try to make sure you understand and have a new form of delivery.
You have to understand your customer better than anybody else. You have to know what your customer eats, drinks, listens to and then go out there and have some level of proof of concept. Sell something to people that you don’t know—not your family or friends—and they are digging in their pockets to buy this thing for you because it adds value to their life. Don’t go out there and assume. I always say you can make up your own opinions, but you cannot make up your own facts.
And then most importantly, find a mentor or people around you that have the same goals in mind because if you don’t set your own goals with the people around you, you’re going to allow negative people to set goals for you. Like you can’t get the guy, you can’t get the girl, you can’t get the education, you can’t get the job. So if you don’t set your own goals and enforce them, you’re going to allow other people to set goals for you.
What is your advice to save money on clothes for the summer?
You’re going to need some core pieces in your wardrobe—a couple of sports blazers—and this goes right back to the whole discussion of the Gillette Shave Club. A lot of times people say, ‘Oh, I can go get a pair of jeans for twenty dollars,’ but you know, fashion and quality is an investment no matter how you put it. I have jeans, blazers and products that may have seemed like they cost more when I purchased them, but they have stood the test of time. And that is the truth, whether it’s a suit or a great belt or denim that does not wear out and the ink doesn’t get on the seat of your car. Or a great blade that lasts way longer than anywhere else and gives you a great shave.
Do you think urban brands like FUBU, Enyce and Roca-A-Wear can make a comeback?
FUBU is coming back in a vintage way, but I wouldn’t say that it’s going to come back in the level that it used to be. All brands have the potential to come back to a certain extent if there is a new generation that finds the product and loves it. Typical example: I purchased Coogi out of bankruptcy in 2001 and now we are in Neiman Marcus and things of that nature. I purchased the brand Etonic that was established in 1915 and now we are re-launching that. But I think all the brands have the potential to come back. We may see Benetton be the hottest thing out there next week.