‘Keep swimming,’ Daymond John of ‘Shark Tank’ tells MJBizCon

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Daymond John gives the closing keynote at MJBizCon 2021.

Daymond John gives the closing keynote at MJBizCon 2021. (Photo by Andrew Long)

A co-star of ABC-TV’s hit show “Shark Tank,” Daymond John, delivered a rap-laced lyrical presentation Friday at MJBizCon, sharing his five primary pieces of advice for business success – all of which spelled out “Shark.”

“S, set your goal. You can’t hit a target you can’t see,” said John, founder of hip-hop apparel company Fubu and the trade show’s closing keynote speaker.

“H, you gotta do your homework. The only thing that costs more than an education is ignorance.

“A, amore. Love what you do, but love that damn family more than anything else. So many of us are on our second careers and second families because we made everything else a priority.

“R, remember you’re the brand. Put yourself in two to five words. You have employees? Ask them what their two to five words are. You might find that they’re passionate about something else you’re passionate about.

“K, keep swimming. Simple as that.”

Though John managed to get through a nearly 90-minute presentation without mentioning the words “marijuana” or “cannabis” once, his speech drew a standing ovation from the hundreds of MJ industry audience members who were eager for advice from a hugely successful entrepreneur.

“There’s something very important I’ve learned on ‘Shark Tank’: We do not invest in companies. We invest in people,” John told the crowd.

He illustrated each of his points with tales from his own rise to fame and fortune.

The New York-born John cast back to his beginnings with Fubu in the early 1990s, when he worked with his mother to fulfill $300,000 worth of clothing orders from their modest home in Queens.

“If you’re not in charge of the goals you set for yourself, you let other people set goals for you,” John said.

John’s first professional goal was when he decided to “make the uniform” for the emerging hip-hop industry after selling $800 worth of hand-stitched Fubu hats in an hour standing outside a mall.

John said he told his mother what his goal was, and she replied with a lesson for him.

“‘Son, your assets are what feed you. Your liabilities are what eats you. When I say take inventory, I mean take inventory of yourself,’” John recalled.

“Inventory can mean many things. Inventory can mean the fact you think you know things and there’s nothing else for you to learn,” John said.

“The fact that you don’t think social media is effective. The fact that you did not get up to have your ass here at 9 o’clock in the morning. That’s your inventory.”

The famed investor also reminded cannabis entrepreneurs they’re almost certainly not building or selling anything the world doesn’t already have.

Rather, most businesses are based on new marketing ideas or new twists on long-established services.

“You are never going to create anything new in this world again,” John said.

“You’ll create another form of delivery. You’ll make it faster, lighter, stronger. You may find a new audience. But it’s not new. Keep that in mind,” he said.

“If it’s not new, then there’s a basis for how to market it. Airbnb is still a time share. Uber, it’s a limousine service, there’s just geo-tracking on it. Facebook, it’s a nasty chain letter.”

Perhaps more than anything, one of the most pertinent messages John had for marijuana entrepreneurs was to never lose sight of true goals, particularly because starting any business is daunting.

“Everyone’s making (entrepreneurship) seem like it’s so damn glorious. No, it’s not. It’s very hard. But it’s worth it,” John said.

He shared with the audience that all he could think of before and after a four-hour cancer surgery was his daughter.

John said he realized he had become too focused on business and lost sight of what was truly important: his family.

“Business is going to get dark – 100%. But isn’t that why we’re doing it?”

John Schroyer can be reached at john.schroyer@mjbizdaily.com.