In 1992, Daymond John and his mother mortgaged their house to fund his start-up fashion brand, FUBU. Today, the 54-year-old’s company has grossed more than $6 billion worldwide, he has an estimated net worth of $350 million, and he’s added motivational speaker, TV personality, best-selling author and AARP ambassador to his résumé. To teach and inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs, John has written a new children’s book, Little Daymond Learns to Earn, and you can catch him wheeling and dealing on Season 14 of Shark Tank, airing on ABC.
1. What was your motivation to write Little Daymond Learns to Earn?
To connect with my daughter [Minka, age 7] on a level of teaching, but to also simultaneously learn how her mind is evolving. I tried to teach my oldest daughters from my first marriage financial intelligence and literacy, and as a dad, I didn’t know the methods to do so. For example, I told my daughter, ‘You want to get a car? You make the money and I’ll match it,’ [thinking] that’s a form of financial literacy or intelligence. But that’s not really what it is. You know what it is? That’s teaching her how to work. That’s a work ethic. Then I realized I’m reading my daughter [Minka] too many princesses and pony books. I don’t want her to keep thinking a prince is going to come save her. That’s just not reality for women — or men.
2. Do your daughters have your entrepreneurial spirit?
One of my daughters is a social media manager, and she’s really great at this business. She decides what clients she takes on or not. My other daughter is going to get her master’s in architectural design. I said, “Well, why are you going to get a master’s?” [She said] “Well, Daddy, I don’t want anyone to have to sign off on my work.” Nobody wants to work for anyone. They want to make their own decisions. They’re empowered.
3. Was there a book that inspired you?
The first book I ever loved was Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, which I’ve read now 27 times. And that’s why [Little Daymond Learns to Earn] is critical, because we are stuck. … When I’m telling people about this book — this is going to be my lifelong calling, not this book, this area — when you get a book like this, you don’t read it [to your kids] once. Remember, you got to think like a kid. You read it every [day, week] month. The same way you read Little Red Riding Hood, The Cat in the Hat. You read it until they’re tired of it, then you give it to someone else. This book is not about making money. I don’t need any more fame. I’m on CNBC 60 times a week. I’m the Kardashians of CNBC. I want this book to be something that is going to be — in two, five years — mandatory.
4. What do you think is the biggest barrier for the next generation’s financial success?
The challenge right now is that our children are not taught financial intelligence in schools. But yet, at 17, 18 years old, they can acquire $700,000 worth of student debt. And then, they’re not even sure they want [what they studied as a] career, and then they won’t pay it off by the age of 50 years old. We are setting them up for failure.
5. Is student debt not worth it then?
The data shows that 50 percent of kids graduating college will retire with a job title that doesn’t exist today. I am a firm believer in higher education. Please, do me a favor and go to college. And go to school if you’re going to start cutting people open and removing hearts. But, at the end of the day, if you told somebody 20 years ago you were going to be a drone operator, an AI manager, a social media manager, a pay-per-click person, they’d be like, What are you talking about? If you want to go to school and have four years there and not be able to pay your loan … you don’t even physically need to go to school anymore, because you can do it virtually. The world has changed.
6. Your FUBU brand is featured at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. Have you visited? If so, how did it feel to see it there?
I have, and it is an absolute honor that something I created out of my basement with my love and passion for hip-hop will remain capsulized in history.
7. How was your experience as a contestant last year on The Masked Singer?
Well, first of all, I was clearly robbed. … Stepping outside my comfort zone was an absolutely amazing experience. I have a lot of respect for those [people] behind the singers — the choreographers and all the singer coaches I had to work with.
8. What might we be surprised to know about Shark Tank?
The show is more real in what you don’t see. The pitches are an hour long. We have 16 cameras in that pitch, so that’s six hours of footage, and you see eight minutes.
9. Is there one Shark Tank deal that you still regret not making?
There’s only one I regret not making. Everything else, I don’t look in the rearview mirror. There’s only one — damn Scrub Daddy. I bidded on that company. I wanted that company. Lori [co-shark Lori Greiner] won. I thought that I was being slick because I made her pay extra for it with the negotiation. It became the second-best product in Shark Tank history, and Lori is laughing all the way to the bank.
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