Daymond John Shares His Entrepreneurial Journey During the Celebration of Success Keynote

Daniela Ibarra-Hernandez shares her experience attending the CU Denver Business School’s Celebration of Success and hearing Daymond John share his five “SHARK” strategies to achieving success.

By Daniela Ibarra-Hernandez, student marketing assistant at the Jake Jabs Center for Entrepreneurship

On Thursday, April 6th, I got the privilege of attending the 2023 Celebration of Success, a fundraising gala that benefits student scholarships at the CU Denver Business School. In past years, the Celebration has brought in world-renowned speakers for the keynote address to share their stories and inspire students, donors, and Business School staff and faculty. This year, we had the pleasure of having Daymond John—entrepreneur, Shark Tank investor, and television personality—to shed some light on what it was like to be a young entrepreneur making his way in the highly competitive world known as business. He spoke about the importance of education and the value of investing in our future, particularly in our students, such as the ones in the room that night and his own three daughters.

“I want to tell my little girls to make your own glass slipper and hire prince charming to work for them,” he told the audience.

Daymond spoke in detail about his journey from growing up in Queens to taking on the fashion world through his hip-hop apparel company FUBU. His mother let him use her house as headquarters for the brand as it launched and started to grow, but it took a lot of sleepless nights sewing and hard work to start selling his shirts. Of course, Daymond wouldn’t have been on the stage that night if his drive and hustle hadn’t paid off. Today, Daymond is still the founder, president, and CEO of FUBU, a company that has earned more than $6 billion in global sales.

Throughout his keynote, Daymond wove in references to and samples from artists and rappers like LL Cool J, Will Smith, 50 Cent, Puff Daddy, and Mariah Carey, inspirations who helped him create FUBU, shape the brand, and promote it to his target market. He made special note of the importance of networking, receiving advice, and using the help and support of others to connect to something bigger. For him, his love of rap music inspired him to want to be a part of something larger than himself. For many students like me, attending events like the Celebration of Success—and being surrounded by high-achieving, like-minded people—felt like being a part of something larger, too.

“My mom taught me that my day job would never make me rich, it would be my homework.” Daymond said, sharing his experience working long shifts at Red Lobster while trying to learn more about hip-hop fashion and get FUBU off the ground. It was a struggle that required perseverance and passion to overcome. “I was willing to get up before everyone else and go to bed after everyone else.”

He shared how even now, before he goes to bed every night, he thinks about 10 goals: six expiring in six months and the other four expiring in one year, five years, ten years, and twenty years from now. This is because he wants them to be the last thing he thinks about and the first thing he acts on in the morning.

“There are only two things you will ever control in life: the lens you look something through and the actions that you take,” Daymond said. “Are the people around you mentors or a cage?

He continued to inspire the room as he spoke about the many ups and downs he experienced throughout his journey: getting married and divorced, having kids, spiraling out of control during the height of FUBU’s success, regaining focus and joining Shark Tank, surviving thyroid cancer, and now becoming a best-selling author, public speaker, and CEO and founder of The Shark Group, a brand management and consulting firm.

Not only did Daymond share how he got where he is today, but he also described what his success means to him now. While indulging many of the audience’s Shark Tank questions and teasing his fellow sharks along the way, he connected the narrative arc of his entrepreneurial journey through a SHARK acronym that lists his five strategies to achieving success:

Set a Goal
Do Your Homework
Amor, Love What You Do
Remember, You Are the Brand
Keep Swimming

Daymond thanked the 500 donors, students, and Business School affiliates in attendance for helping to make it a heartening evening. All in all, this year’s Celebration of Success raised more than $250,000 to support student scholarships, including a brand-new fund for books and materials. As a current student attendee, it was a wonderful experience, but in being part of something larger, we were able to raise critical support for opening doors and lowering barriers to success for future CU Denver Business School students.

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