Detroit – Fashion mogul Daymond John knows what it’s like to grow a business from scratch, starting one in his mother’s basement 30 years ago and growing it into a global fashion brand with over $6 billion in sales.
John, the founder of the FUBU clothing line and co-star of ABC’s “Shark Tank,” shared some insights and the lessons he learned along the way on Wednesday at BuyDetroit’s Passport to Procurement conference in Hollywood Hotel and Casino in Greektown.
“The number one reason small businesses typically fail, besides lack of education, is overfunding,” John told an audience of entrepreneurs during a fireside chat with the arena host. of the Detroit Pistons game, Kevin Irwin. “They take out too much too soon.”
Building a successful business is all about being open, not overextending, and being transparent with employees and customers, John told the audience.
About 300 business owners attended the one-day conference Wednesday, hosted by BuyDetroit, a small business initiative of the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation. The conference is designed to connect small businesses in Detroit with high profile buyers. The day included training and resource workshops, buyer-supplier meetings and a pitch competition.
“If you want to scale your business, be too obsessed with your customer,” he said. “Don’t think you have to have that 20-year vision. … Your customers will dictate your business.
John urged business owners to be vulnerable but confident. This honesty could help an entrepreneur establish a necessary business relationship.
“This whole ‘I’m hardcore’ theory. I don’t need anybody. I’m not vulnerable. I’m the man. I’m the woman. It’s not working,” he said. Your next partner is in this room. And they’re sitting next to you. … The two people out of the 10 who (would be) on top of you — you don’t need them in your life. But have that level of confidence in this what you know or what you are trying to solve The best cases ever in “Shark Tank” are: “This train is leaving the station somehow”. I really hope you are on this train with me. It is what it is. Not – “The train won’t move until you’re here.” I have my own problems.
The program’s goal is to help business owners scale, said Keyra Cokley, associate director and creator of BuyDetroit.
“For these companies to really have access to real sourcing opportunities, you can’t just look here in the city of Detroit,” she said. “Typically here in the city of Detroit, large buyers usually buy services, meaning construction services. There are a lot of opportunities in this space. We have a technology shortage. So it’s about finding those voices that are in that technology and being able to raise them outside of the city. Then you have individuals who are in the beauty space who are oversaturated. … It’s about scaling them up to be national.
In addition to his ventures and involvement with “Shark Tank,” John launched a Black Entrepreneur Day event in New York City in 2020. Since its launch, $750,000 in grants have been awarded to businesses.
Among the Detroit-based companies that attended an event in New York were Alecia Gabriel and Deirdre Roberson, owners of The Lab Drawer, a STEM kit company for students aged 10 to 15. They followed up with a visit to the Passport to Procurement event on Wednesday.
“We got to talk with other entrepreneurs and learn about their ups and downs,” Roberson said. “To come here today is to come full circle seeing all the resources. Hearing the conversation with Daymond was really insightful. … He also gave us tools that we can apply to our own businesses.
Since 2020, Gabriel and Roberson have shipped 20,000 kits worldwide. They operate out of a 2,000 square foot space in the Durfee Innovation Society on the west side of Detroit.
“We were able to fill a need and stick to our case on why it matters, why and how we can impact young people to pursue careers in STEM,” Gabriel said.
Milton Putnam, owner of Complete Image Manufacturing, said he found participating in BuyDetroit programs helpful. Her clothing retail and manufacturing store is located on Livernois near Seven Mile in Fashion Avenue. Among its objectives are the certification of minorities and the obtaining of government contracts.
“It’s a great resource for scaling the business,” he said. “Entrepreneurship will never be easy, but they help you along the way.”