- Daymond John
- “Shark Tank” investor Daymond John cites his mom as his greatest inspiration.
- For FUBU, she taught him how to sew, took out a mortgage on her house for seed money, and let him use her house as a makeshift factory.
- Just three years after moving FUBU out of John’s mom’s house, it brought in $350 million in revenue.
“Shark Tank” investor Daymond John said that he wouldn’t admit it until he was in his 30s, but he’s always been a “mama’s boy.”
But jokes aside, John is serious when he says that his mother was his main inspiration for working hard and starting the business that became FUBU and made him wealthy.
“I look back and I say, ‘You know? I didn’t really listen to my mother when I was growing up, but I ended up doing everything she did,'” he told us for a recent episode of Business Insider’s podcast “Success! How I Did It.”
You can listen to the podcast episode below:
John explained that his father left when he was 10, and that his mother worked multiple jobs to provide for them. She became a role model for him, “Always working and always trying to find like-minded people around her. Always educating herself, at that time she was going to the library. Reading The Wall Street Journal. Looking in encyclopedias. And she was traveling as much as she could. She actually got a job, part-time, working for American Airlines so she could see the world, so she could broaden her view of life.”
His mom kept a giant can opener in their kitchen that wasn’t practical, but said “Think Big” and served as a sign of inspiration. (“I was wondering, ‘When the hell are we going to open anything with this can opener?'” John said.)
John explained that he had decided as a young teenager to be a successful executive of some kind, but by age 20, he felt lost. He had foregone college to make some money, but found himself working dead-end jobs and side projects.
As he remembered it and said in a previous interview with Business Insider, his mother told him at this point, “Listen, you’re going to have to figure out what you’re doing the rest of your life, one way or another.”
In 1989, he decided that when he wasn’t at his Red Lobster job, he would work on an apparel company called FUBU, that would allow him to both create something and participate in the growing hip hop scene he loved.
Ms. John, as his mom likes to be known publicly, taught him how to sew, and he started making and selling hats. After seeing how passionate her son was about the project, she mortgaged her home in Hollis, Queens to raise $100,000 in funding and turned half of her house into a makeshift factory, working alongside John when she could. She then moved to Manhattan and left the house to John and his friends, who had moved in to help him build the business.
In 1995, FUBU had gained enough buzz in the rap community that John and his cofounders were able to sign a distribution deal with Samsung’s textile division. With the combination of John’s influencer network and Samsung’s resources, FUBU brought in $350 million in sales in 1998.
“I believed in you because I saw how excited you were about being an entrepreneur, about making your own money, about making your own product,” Ms. John told her son.
She was confident by the time she moved out of their house in Queens that Daymond had finally found what he wanted to do with his life.
“Any parent would have been so happy just to see their child so excited,” Ms. John said.
This is an updated version of an article that originally ran on March 10, 2015.