As hip-hop hits of yesteryear provided him pizzazz and his informal persona kept the college crowd engaged, Daymond John told Penn State students they can be more than shark bait with a little love.
The entrepreneur of FUBU and “Shark Tank” fame spoke last night to a packed Schwab Auditorium, explaining how he rose from selling pretty girls pencils with their names on them at age 6 to playing air guitar next to Prince during a 1999 concert.
“I’m here to give you a mindset on how to be a shark,” John said. “I was born and raised thinking like a shark. It’s a mindset.”
Throughout the $250 million man’s lecture, he elucidated five “oh so complicated but oh so simple” Shark Points: Set goals, (do) Homework, Amore, Remember you are a brand and Keep swimming. Each point has meant something to him throughout his career — he said he knew his goal of branding a culture after attending hip-hop concerts, and he should have done his homework before diving headfirst into Las Vegas to sell clothes without understanding finance. He does not invest in “Shark Tank” contestants if they can’t sell their personal brand in 2 to 5 words, and it’s from his daughter’s love for “Finding Nemo” that the final point gets its name.
But during the question-and-answer following his presentation, he said the third point of loving what you do always trumps the rest. He knew he could make it from seeing Russell Simmons’ success in marketing hip-hop, back when rappers didn’t “hold up signs calling themselves Jesus.”
“[Simmons] had a goal and he wanted to sell this music, and I said, ‘Wait a minute,’” John said. “’You can actually make a living doing something you loved? I was told I had to grow up and get an education and marry someone and have two-and-a-half kids and get a picket fence and retire and work in a factory.”
His lecture’s message was sprinkled into a mostly lighthearted routine – he began with an anecdote about his being confused by a woman for Ashy Larry of Chappelle’s Show.
John even had a quip about each of the sharks; he used them to explain that every pitch is different. Robert Herjavec wants to know if a pitch can “make him look cool;” Barbara Corcoran “is a little off;” Mark Cuban is “so busy…he’s a one-shake guy;” Lori Greiner only wants to know if she can “put it QVC” and Kevin O’Leary wants to know if you are “evil…and will help him do drive-bys and burn down bingo halls.”
John himself was not free from his friendly fire.
“There is only one reason, and one reason only, that I am on ‘Shark Tank.’ I don’t have thick skin; let’s call it what it is,” John joked. “They desperately needed a token…smart guy on ‘Shark Tank.’ And I’m him.”