‘Shark Tank’ Investor Daymond John Is Creating Better Opportunities For Others With Black Entrepreneurs Day (2024)

Many may know him best as one of the savvy “Sharks” with more of a friendly bite on the hit reality series Shark Tank, but business mogul and longtime entrepreneur Daymond John is not only continuing to consider product pitches placed in front of him today, but he is also diving in deep to provide better opportunities for black entrepreneurs.

On October 27, Daymond will once again lead what is now the third annual “Black Entrepreneurs Day” presented by Chase, which will be filmed for live streaming from Harlem’s Apollo Theater. Being someone born in Brooklyn and raised in Queens, I decided to start my conversation with Daymond by asking him what it means to be putting on an event like this in the New York area where he first strived to make a name for himself in business years ago.

Daymond responds, “I would say it’s arguably one of the most famous theaters in the world and I tell the story of in the early 90s, I sold hats in front of it and then I made enough money to be able to attend events at it in 2000, and now I’m able to book it out and giveaway hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants to black companies to stay open and/or expand their businesses and get to interview some of the world’s most famous people to talk about not only their successes, but exactly how they got to that point in all their failures so that other people that look like them can say Wait a minute, I can do it too! So, I think it’s a full circle. I think it’s a win/win. I think it’s the American Dream, not a black person’s dream - it’s the American Dream to get to do this. I’m supported by a lot of large, great corporations who believe in what we’re doing and people like you who are going to put a bullhorn on this.”

Started in 2020, Daymond initially created “Black Entrepreneurs Day” in the wake of the events that followed the death of George Floyd and him wanting to help his community by bringing this global streaming show to light.

“During George Floyd, all of us were frustrated and upset and then we were seeing things happen that we just didn’t know what was going on,” Daymond continues. “We thought it was going to turn another way, where leadership would address some of these matters in a more empowering way but it wasn’t happening. I said to myself, like many of us, Who’s going to help? Many of us helped in the ways that we could, whatever it was, joining hands of all colors to walk together, supporting different businesses or letting our leaders know what was wrong. I did what was at my disposal, which is call up an amazing amount of people that are looked at everyday and to understand from them what they went through and how can these people who are suffering and need information, how can we help them? Then, call up a bunch of organizations and brands who wanted to be on the right side of the fight and wanted to empower people and it just started to grow & blossom and I think that’s the beauty of it.”

Some of those well-known black entrepreneurs joining Daymond ahead for this year’s “Black Entrepreneurs Day” include Spike Lee, Tracee Ellis Ross, Venus Williams, Killer Mike, Tiki Barber and Shaquille O’Neal. With such a prominent list of leaders from a wide variety of industries today joining Daymond’s ongoing mission, I wondered what it means to Daymond to have these notable individuals joining and supporting his cause.

“You can’t replace your time and the people that I’ve been fortunate to work with signed on to want to be a little vulnerable and tell their stories because they know that it’s critical. I’m sure that most of all their stories came from looking at somebody who’s ahead of them who shared their story, so people like Spike Lee who changed the narrative of a lot of our conversations around the dinner table starting 30 years ago with his cinematography and his ability to tell stories. Venus Williams, she has been in the public light and she has had everything from health challenges to all other challenges we may have, but still is somebody who broke so many boundaries. Listen, I can go on and on. When you come up from the hood and now they’ve transformed into great business people, we can learn from every single one.”

With this year marking the 30th Anniversary of Daymond founding the successful FUBU clothing company, plus his dedication as the founder of The Shark Group agency, I wondered how he would describe his own professional journey, from his early entrepreneurial days to the sacrifices he had to make in order to be in the leadership positions he finds himself in today.

“Every entrepreneur sacrifices it all,” says Daymond. “They feel that they’re solving a problem that they thought somebody else was going to address and they are servants of their consumers and they constantly want to do best by them. I think the best part of my journey is a lot of people don’t know, a black entrepreneur, any entrepreneur, it’s a team sport and I was and I am supported by people of all colors. The best thing that I love about this country is that we have more in common than we have apart. When you’re an entrepreneur, it’s a team sport and you realize that it doesn’t come with a color or a gender or a creed or a sexual preference - it comes with people who want to do the right thing and empower people. That’s why we’re here and that’s why ‘Black Entrepreneurs Day’ is so amazing.”

With Daymond continuing on as one of the “Shark” investors on Shark Tank these 14 seasons in, where he often considers pitches from entrepreneurs of all walks of life and decides whether he wants to invest in their up-and-coming product or not, I wondered how Daymond might say his interest in these pitched products and the human stories behind them is evolving for him, since he first started out on the show in its first season back in 2009.

Daymond reveals, “Oh man, I learned the most from Shark Tank, whether my fellow ‘Sharks’ or the people standing on that carpet. There’s some real commonalities that they use what I call ‘the power of broke.’ They started with zero and they use ‘OPM’ - other people’s mind power, man power, manufacturing, mentors. They learn, they repeat. They take small steps forward, they then learn from it and they repeat again more wisely. They always are after mentors and they’re always educating themselves. The business world has changed. Think about it - 14 years ago, Instagram didn’t exist. Shopify didn’t exist, right? So, I couldn’t have as much social media conversion. I couldn’t have a great platform with strong bandwidth that two million people can hit at the same time and I’m still in business, so we’re constantly learning as entrepreneurs and I’m learning with them.”

After telling Daymond how much my entire family has not only enjoyed Shark Tank over the years but we have also taken constructive knowledge away from the many business conversations had on the show, Daymond added, “I think that’s why you and your family watch it. You look at people that are everyday people, just like everyone of us, and they just decided Today, I’m going to be a little bit different. I’m going to take one step forward. Then you also look at some people who don’t get the point. They’ve seen it all those years and they ask for one million dollars for 5% [stake in the company] and their numbers aren’t right and we unfortunately have to hammer them, but I think that’s the beauty of Shark Tank - you see it all.”

After choosing to work with so many diverse entrepreneurs over the years, I asked Daymond what he would say is the greatest benefit of being an entrepreneur today and what is the greatest challenges that entrepreneurs face in our modern business world.

“The greatest benefit about being an entrepreneur today in this world, unlike in the past, is you can immediately see who you’re positively affecting. When I started out, the internet didn’t exist. That is the best part of today and that’s why, going back to ‘Black Entrepreneurs [Day]’, you can see the effect immediately when you’re seeing these people get these grants, putting this money to work or learning from so many people on-stage. The thing that’s great is you can open up a business right here (gestures to his phone). The challenging thing is everybody can do it! Now that everybody can do it, the fundamentals of business, you still have to get up before everybody and go to bed after everybody. You thank everybody for your success and you blame only one person for your failure and there’s too much information out in the world.”

As I began to conclude my conversation with Daymond, I left him with one final question: What is the one thing you would say to all entrepreneurs today that would hopefully stay with them?

“Learn finance and how finance works because there’s a great saying that Money is a great slave but a horrible master and we generally get into or fail in our businesses when we are purely looking at the numbers and we don’t think that we are either solving or bringing joy to people. The biggest mistakes I made in business is when I was actually well-equipped with money. I made bigger mistakes for no reason because I thought money was going to cure the problem, when often, money highlights your weakness. Money is a great slave but a horrible master.

‘Shark Tank’ Investor Daymond John Is Creating Better Opportunities For Others With Black Entrepreneurs Day (2024)
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