MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — A packed house listened Friday (Oct. 27) as “Shark Tank” star Daymond John and online magician Vinh Giang encouraged them to pursue their dreams as entrepreneurs and business leaders during the Start It Up Conference at Embassy Suites.
Hosted by MTSU’s Jennings A. Jones College of Business, the sold-out conference targeted business leaders and entrepreneurs throughout the Midstate looking for personal and professional development and a more passionate approach to their careers.
John, the self-made multimillionaire CEO of the FUBU fashion brand and now a regular on ABC’s “Shark Tank,” bragged about his failures, his community and lessons learned along the way.
Before his presentation, he acknowledged Saturday's White Lives Matter rally set for downtown Murfreesboro, sharing this advice to him as a youth from his mother: "Always be pro-black but not anti-anything else. It doesn't matter what color you are, we all have the same damn problems."
In a presentation peppered with photos from the origins of FUBU and a hip hop and R&B soundtrack, John shared “shark points” on what he learned on his rise as an entrepreneur.
FUBU sprang from John's love of hip hop and his devotion to the emerging genre as he grew up in Queens. As he saw it grow from city to city, everyone "had on the uniform of hip hop."
“And I said to myself,” he said, “who sent out the memo?”
At that point, he said he set what would later become his first Shark Point: Set a goal. He decided to make his living in hip hop, but not as an artist.
“I couldn't sing dance or produce, but I knew what I was going to do,” he said.
Preceding John’s keynote presentation was Giang, co-creator of the online platform Encyclopedia of Magic. Giang spoke about perspective, thinking differently and goal setting, among others.
“Failure is a part of the journey in entrepreneurship,” said Giang, recalling how he turned his passion for magic into his profitable online enterprise, also known as 52kards.
Magic, he said, is a perfect metaphor for talking about the challenges facing entrepreneurs. “Magic is just a problem you cannot solve,” he said. “What is entrepreneurship but continuous problem solving?”
He also stressed the importance of creating a successful mindset through the choices you make in life.
“You are a direct reflection of the top five people you spend time with,” he said. “You can choose who will become in the future by who you spend time with in the present.”
Without a mentor, John said he wasn't prepared to navigate the process of getting investment capital. Twenty-seven banks turned him down for a loan.
But his mother believed in him. Sensing potential, John said his mother mortgaged their house for $100,000 — and “it was only worth $75,000,” he said. The money and the house became the launch pad for FUBU.
“You become what you think about most of the time,” he said. “If you aren't in charge of the goals you set, you let other people set them for you.”
In recalling the beginnings of his business, Giang talked about the need to be aware of "change blindness," or failing to recognize opportunities before you.
"It took the perspective of an online business person that showed me the opportunity of a lifetime within my grasp," he said of the creation of his magic site. Innovation is at the heart of entrepreneurship, he said, adding that requires putting together two perspectives “that have never been together before.”
Far too often in our lives, he said, “if you look ahead to the challenges before you, you make the assumption that the challenges are impossible.”