The Root Recognizes: Shark Tank’s Daymond John

Meet the guy who once got The Gap to market his FUBU clothing line for free.

Robert Herjavec, Lori Greiner and Daymond John of Shark Tank Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

The Power of Black

John wants black Americans to feel empowered about the market share they hold in marketing and social media. According to Pew Research, 40 percent of black Americans ages 18-29 who use the Internet use Twitter. John calls this a “strong focus group” that black entrepreneurs can leverage for promotion and to see how customers might react to their product.

And while it may be difficult to hear—and some black people may cringe at this advice, especially coming from rich black folks—John cautions against black entrepreneurs walking into pitch meetings with the “I’m an African American” chip on their shoulder, thinking that race somehow puts them at a disadvantage.

“You’re a person first,” he said. He describes how every single person has his or her own issue, so it’s best to think of yourself as a great person first, with a magnificently profitable idea, who happens to be a person of color.

Take Affordable Next Steps

There always comes a time when an entrepreneur must decide whether to stay at a 9-to-5 job or devote him- or herself 100 percent to the business. John describes how the best entrepreneurs, at every level of the game, take “affordable next steps.”

“Take Facebook, for example,” John explained. Mark Zuckerberg created the social media network for his friends and peers at Harvard. Then he extended the site to other Ivy League schools, then to more colleges, and so on and so forth—and, finally, the world.

“Don’t just drop everything,” John advised. “The great entrepreneurs sell a couple of cupcakes or a couple of hats and then keep it moving.” Learning about the business while operating at a smaller scale and having revenue come in from a secondary source is optimal because the stakes are low and the entrepreneur’s learning potential is high.

Follow Daymond John on Twitter and learn more about his Daymond John Academy for entrepreneurs here.

Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele is a staff writer at The Root and the founder and executive producer of Lectures to Beats, a Web series that parses those compelling topics in your favorite TV shows, songs and movies. Follow her on Twitter.