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Shark Tank’s Daymond John to Entrepreneurs: Don’t Be Afraid to Fail

Daymond John, co-host of ABC’s hit show “Shark Tank” knows “The Power of Broke” and says entrepreneurs cannot be afraid to fail.

“Entrepreneurs fail 99 percent of the time, but the one time that we succeed, we drive it all the way home,” John said.

John led Conference attendees through a humorous and often poignant trip down memory lane juxtaposed with tips for entrepreneurs and lessons he learned along the way.

“There’s an old saying that it takes a village to raise a man. I say it takes a village to raise an entrepreneur,” John said about his journey from rags in Queens, New York to riches as the founder of the multi-million dollar clothing company FUBU (“For Us By Us”).

Praising the Mackinac Policy Conference for highlighting the importance of growing the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Michigan, John said it’s encouraging to see veteran business leaders taking an active interest in cultivating startups moving into Detroit and the state.

“What I do notice about Michigan is that no one in the ‘D’ says ‘I’m out.’ You have a lot of people here who dedicate themselves to supporting the community,” he said.

From his early days pedaling pencils to classmates in his first-grade class to working as a waiter at Red Lobster, John said entrepreneurialism has always been in his blood. However, it wasn’t until he recognized a niche in the hip-hop clothing line did things start to turn around.

With the sewing skills he had learned from his mother, John started making the hats for himself and his friends. John recruited some of his neighborhood friends and FUBU was born. They created a distinctive logo and began sewing the FUBU logo on apparel, including hockey jerseys, sweatshirts and T-shirts.

The brand hit a tipping point when John convinced his friend and hip-hop superstar, LL Cool J, to wear FUBU for a promotional campaign. That massive success eventually led to a co-starring role on the entrepreneurial show “Shark Tank,” where John and four other prominent executives listen to business pitches from everyday people hoping to launch their company or product.

Along the way, John said he learned five powerful tips, called “Shark Tips” that the millionaire prides himself in sharing with other entrepreneurs:

  • Set a goal and stick with it
  • Do your homework
  • Love what you do
  • Remember your brand and be able to describe yourself in five words
  • Keep swimming

“In today’s world of smartphones and social media, if you can’t describe yourself in five words, someone else is going to do it for you,” John said. “You are always pitching—whether it’s to your children, or your boss—life is a series of pitches. You have to master the pitch.”