Five teams of entrepreneurs pitched for their lives at the Miller Lite Tap the Future Live Pitch last week. I had the chance to chat with Fubu founder and ABC’s “Shark Tank” judge Daymond John about starting a movement through fashion and Obama stealing his line.
What was your first job?
My first business, I was self employed, I was 6 years old, and I used to get pencils and scrape the ink off of them and I would paint the prettiest girls and I would sell that to the prettiest girls in the school for a nickel or a dime.
I was making money. It was a double bottom line, you know, I was engaging a really great customer. That business closed down about a month later when the principal found out I was stealing the pencils from the boys that I didn’t like in school. He wasn’t a visionary.
What came after that?
I did everything, I shoveled, raked leaves, then I was an apprentice electrician for a little while. My first job working for someone else was when I worked at a popcorn stand and a big place where they used to sell socks. I used to have to tell them if anyone was stealing the socks. I was a snitch, until I learned that the people who would steal the socks would give me more … than the people that were paying me! I always liked to leverage and have two different forms of income. Sometimes it’s called illegal and you can end up in jail if you’re an adult if you do that, but when you’re a child it’s fine.
So with all that, did you have an allowance back then?
I did have an allowance, since I was an only child. I would mow the lawn, and that’s what gave me the understanding of how to shovel the snow and get out there to bust my butt. My mother gave me an allowance every week, I think it was 50 cents or a dollar or something.
That’s actually why I asked, I wondered if that would make you more of a spender of a saver…
It absolutely does. I think rewarding children with not only cash, but, sometimes I would be able to trade the money in for being able to stay up late. It gave me an understanding of working harder.
When you launched Fubu, where you responding to a need, or making an existing product better?
It was actually more of a frustration. I kept hearing these stories that all these designers did not respect the African-American market and the rappers and inner city kids. I would say knowing those designers now, they would have never said that, it was an urban legend.
I created this hat that was really easy to make, it was like a ski cap almost and I sold it. I remember it was Good Friday 1989 … I sold $800 worth of hats that day. That was defining moment that opened up my eyes to seeing this as a business.
Is there one day that stands out in your career?
So many, maybe meeting Mandela. Or when Obama uses words like “This country is for us by us” throughout his whole campaign, which were the words that I came up with in my basement.
Amazing, what about your Happy Hour with Mindie interview, also a career high?