FUBU Apparel Founder and Advertising “Shark Tank” Entrepreneur Visits Rensselaer
A highly regarded marketing expert and author, Daymond John is the founder of the iconic fashion FUBU (“For Us By Us”), which effectively created the then-untapped urban apparel market. He also entertains his audiences every week as the go-to branding guru on the ABC hit entrepreneurial business show Shark Tank. John came to Rensselaer on Feb. 28 to share his story of success as part of the Rensselaer Union Speakers Forum program.
Speaking to packed room of nearly 500 members of the campus and local community in the Darrin Communication Center, John shared firsthand accounts and experiences about his personal life and his path as a self-made entrepreneur.
Throughout the highly entertaining and music-filled program, John shared snapshots of his quintessential rags-to-riches success story of sacrifice, hard work, and perseverance. He also noted that first foray into the apparel market came when he wanted a tie-top hat he had seen in a popular music video but could not find one for a good price. With the sewing skills he had learned from his mother, he started making the hats for himself and his friends. Realizing he was on to something, John made a sizeable order of the tie-top hats, sold them on the streets of Queens one day, and made $800 in just a few hours.
Based on that early success, he told the audience, John ecruited some of his neighborhood friends and FUBU was born. They created a distinctive logo and began sewing the logo on all sorts of apparel, including hockey jerseys, sweatshirts, and T-shirts. The brand hit a tipping point when John convinced Hollis native and hip hop superstar LL Cool J to wear FUBU for a promotional campaign. This was the catalyst behind the hip hop community supporting the new brand and instantly giving it credibility. Fast-forward, with the brand transcending into the mainstream markets, FUBU recorded annual sales of $350 million, placing it in the same stratosphere as designer sportswear labels such as Donna Karan New York and Tommy Hilfiger. Today the company has amassed more than $6 billion in global sales.
Following the Speaker’s Forum program, the undergraduate and graduate first-place winners from the Rensselaer Business Plan Competition (hosted by the Paul J. ’69 and Kathleen M. Severino Center for Technological Entrepreneurship), had the opportunity to deliver their presentations to a panel of evaluators featuring members of the Rensselaer campus community, along with John.
“The students have worked very, very hard, and we’re all so proud,” said Gina O’Connor, professor and director of the Severino Center. “The whole week was a real highlight. Twenty excellent teams participated in the Business Plan competition, and the help we received from alumni and faculty in coaching and judging them was absolutely outstanding. Daymond John didn’t know what he was in for!”