The multi-million dollar entrepreneur, Shark Tank shark, media personality, and creator Daymond John celebrates his 49th birthday today. He is a man driven to succeed, despite whatever obstacles he might face. He’s lived with dyslexia and recently beat cancer, but he’s taken his challenges in stride. What’s more, he’s never taken his eyes off his goals.
In 1989, he created the apparel brand, FUBU. What started as a hobby eventually became a $350 million business. He was partying with the stars and living the big life, but John’s real impact was in his community.
FUBU was an alternative to brands like Tommy Hilfiger and Polo, which were rumored as brands that admonished Hip-Hop privately. FUBU soon became a beacon for entrepreneurs of color; a clarion call to those left out of the mainstream. “I picked up this hobby called FUBU,” John told Business Insider, “where I wanted to just dress people on the side, because of this love of rap music and the culture and fashion.”
In 2003, FUBU all but left the U.S market, but has continued to thrive. By 2009, they’d racked up $200 million in revenue overseas. In 2018, they’ve returned in a partnership with Puma.
Soon after winding down his role in the day-to-day operations at FUBU, Shark Tank came calling. Now in it’s 10th season, the show has become a cultural phenomenon. John is the only African-American shark on the show, and has been since the beginning. He’s always taken entrepreneurial risks, but now he’s sharing his wisdom with his community. In 2015, John became the Global Ambassador of Entrepreneurship under the Obama administration’s Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship. He’s also begun to work with Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper, which mentors young, underserved entrepreneurs.
It wasn’t easy. There were challenges at every step of the way, but John chose to learn from them instead of letting them destroy him. At 16 he read Napoleon Hill’s classic Think And Grow Rich. He still reads the book every other year, and, more importantly, it taught him to set goals. “I do goal-setting,” John told CNBC. “Six of them expire in five months. One expires in fives years, one expires in 10 years and one expires in 20 years.” He writes down his goals and reads them before bed so they’re the last thing he sees when he goes to sleep.
Even after John’s ex-wife left him for focusing too much on work and partying, he began to focus his life on mentoring and speaking. After his cancer scare, his spiritual mission of sharing knowledge with communities of future entrepreneurs became all the more relevant. “You know, I think that it reinvigorated my purpose to do things, because, you know, people always say, ‘What’s your drive?’ You find your drive, and I find my drive every day, like my daughters and my staff and the people that I get to invest in,” John told Business Insider. “Now I get to tell people about early detection, and now I’m saving lives because people coming back to me, telling me that they either went out and got early detection or they told their parents, and now that’s driving me more. That’s defining my life even more.”
John is a classic example of what it means to stay positive—never letting anything get in the way of your success. What’s more, he teaches us not to be afraid to knock on doors; to fight for our ideas, and to do whatever it takes to become successful.
Happy Birthday, Mr. John!
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