“Shark Tank” star and FUBU apparel founder Daymond John visited Detroit this week to offer words of wisdom during a conference organized to connect small business owners and shoppers across the country.
Serial entrepreneurs, investors and authors discussed their journeys to entrepreneurship Wednesday during a conference called Passport to Procurement. The conference was hosted by BuyDetroit, a small business initiative that is part of the Detroit Economic Development Corp., and was held at the Hollywood Casino in Greektown.
John told the participants about the positives he experienced running the apparel company he founded in 1992 (FUBU stands for “For Us By Us”), and he talked about the time he got a call to be a cast member on “Shark Tank,” the popular ABC-TV show where he also known as the “People’s Shark.” And he talked about all the times he had successful investments.
But he also talked about times when things weren’t positive – like managing time with family and experiencing failure. He encouraged the audience to readjust their work life balance every three to six months, and focus on building relationships and being transparent with the people around them.
“Don’t think of money as your path to doing something or your path to growth,” John said later in an interview with the Free Press. “It’s about developing the community as much as you can develop that community, that’s the most important thing. So, don’t take a big gamble.”
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John said he saw the company creating a mandate to help small businesses. He said that small business owners should be more disciplined now, have a social media presence and continue to learn.
Here are five pieces of advice that John shared on navigating the entrepreneurial journey:
“If you’re vulnerable, people will come after you,” John said. He asks how other entrepreneurs learn from their mistakes and says that eight out of 10 people are likely to help.
“This whole theory – ‘I’m hardcore. I don’t need anybody. I’m not vulnerable. I’m a man or a woman.’ It didn’t work,” said John.
John pays a lot of attention to his sales when it comes to the day of the week, quantity, size, color, and even adding or removing products.
“I realized that I had to be the best in the eight stores in New York,” says John. “So if I’m selling something, and I know I only need 20 shirts a week, I need to get 20 shirts to 30. Once I have 20 shirts to 30, I then put the cap on – and that’s scalability.”
“I did very little business at the beginning, but it was a proof of concept,” he said. It’s more important to do well in 10 to 15 stores than just trying to scale the number of stores, says John.
Make the pitch relatable
For entrepreneurs who didn’t get an investment deal on “Shark Tank,” John said: “They can’t send a message in a short time, and they can’t relate to the Sharks and make us believe or like them, and want to be a part of what which they do.
It doesn’t matter if the entrepreneur is starting a business or the business is already operating, John says to ask yourself three questions.
“Is this? Why now? And why me?” he said. “If you can’t answer that question – why this, why now, why me, whatever – there is a bigger problem. This is not me. Because there is nothing new in this world. There is only a new form of delivery.”
Asked what works for him when he’s running his own business, John says he focuses on “asking more questions, and listening more than I talk, because people will generally tell you what they’re looking for or what they’re not looking for. for, but if you keep running your mouth – they don’t want to hear it.
How to interact with customers
John said there are three ways that businesses interact with customers.
“There’s something new, buy something now and or buy it more often,” says John. “Acquiring new customers is 20 times more difficult than upselling the current one or making one buy more often”.
Did the business fail?
“The biggest reason why small businesses generally fail, besides lack of education, is actually overfunding,” said John. “It’s actually taking too much (money) too early.”
“They get a $100,000 loan — with a $100,000 loan, you’re making the same mistakes, just on a bigger scale,” he said. “Instead of having a $20,000 website, you should have a $1,000 Facebook page. Instead of a seven-year lease on a store, you should have a kiosk for a week during the holidays.