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From hip-hop hats to startup traps
July 12, 2016

Daymond John

Daymond John wears many hats: He’s an entrepreneur, an investor and a television personality. Also an author, a mentor and a public speaker.

John co-founded FUBU (an acronym for “For Us, By Us”), a sportswear company, which grew from selling hats in the streets of New York to a global giant with $6 billion in sales.

John’s made a point of sharing his business experience with younger entrepreneurs, particularly those from disadvantaged urban neighborhoods. He mentors them in person or through his Launch Academy, which helps aspiring business owners learn skills and techniques they’ll need to succeed.

John tells young people that earning money isn’t the only reason to go into business. In this video, he offers tips on what to avoid when starting a company.

One entrepreneur’s story

In the early 1990s, captivated by hip-hop culture, John, his mother and his next-door neighbor started sewing and selling hip-hop-themed wool hats.

In 1992, together with three friends, he launched FUBU to market hats and other hip-hop wear. John’s mother mortgaged her home to finance the operation, and John turned the house into a makeshift factory.

At first, traditional designers and sportswear companies shied away from selling FUBU’s goods. They associated hip-hop with troubled inner-city youth and gangs. But John persisted, and events turned his way:

  • LL Cool J, a popular hip-hop artist, started wearing FUBU hats in TV ads.
  • South Korean company Samsung invested in the company.
  • John was cast in Shark Tank, a TV reality show.

In 2015, President Obama named John his “ambassador of global entrepreneurship.”

But John doesn’t equate success with money or fame.

“Success is doing the thing that you want to do every single day and being around the people that you want to be around,” he told CNNMoney.