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'Shark' shares pointers on entrepreneurship

January 22, 2014
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'Shark' shares pointers on entrepreneurship
A capacity crowd listens to Daymond John at the JW Marriott during the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting. Photo by Mike Nichols

Daymond John might be on TV, but according to him, he doesn’t do anything different from most of the entrepreneurs in West Michigan.

“I just happen to have a camera on me,” John said.

John, known as an investor on ABC’s “Shark Tank” and also president of the urban and lifestyle fashion company FUBU or For Us By Us, served as keynote speaker at the 126th annual meeting of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce at the JW Marriott yesterday.

“It’s very simple, and it’s obvious,” John said. “There is one reason and one reason only that I am on ‘Shark Tank’: because they needed a token smart guy.”

John threw out a number of playful jabs at the show’s fellow sharks: Kevin O’Leary, Barbara Corcoran, Mark Cuban, Robert Herjavec and Lori Greiner.

“You really want to know how to get to Kevin O’Leary? Kevin O’Leary will only ever do a deal with you if he knows you are truly evil to the core,” John told a laughing crowd.

John took the audience through a timeline of his life, a presentation arranged with photos, videos and music to help tell the story of how he built his FUBU empire, while riding the rising hip-hop wave in New York during the 1990s.

His career has taught him five lessons, which he shared with the audience.

S.H.A.R.K. points

1. Set your goal.

2. Homework. Do it.

3. Always do what you love.

4. Remember that you are the brand.

5. Keep on swimming.

John ended his presentation by advising his audience to “keep swimming,” a piece of advice his daughter reiterated to him after watching “Finding Nemo.”

It’s a reminder to him to never give up, an attitude every entrepreneur needs, John said.

“As sharks, you know if we stop swimming, we die,” John said. “My daughter always reminds me, ‘Daddy, you must keep swimming.’ That’s the only thing that separates us, especially in these hard times, because we were the ones that kept swimming.” 

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