Daymond John shares success story

BY BEN MARKS | APRIL 24, 2015 5:00 AM

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To the sounds of Run-DMC, Prince, and the Beastie Boys, famous entrepreneur — and “shark” on the reality television series “Shark Tank” — Daymond John spoke to a sold-out crowd about his life growing up in Queens and the role hip-hop played in launching his multimillion-dollar fashion empire.

The University of Iowa Lecture Committee on Thursday night hosted the talk, the final event scheduled as part of the Hawkeye Innovation Summit.

Growing up in a poor house with a single mother, John described his first job at the age of 10, handing out fliers for a soon-to-be-opened mall for $2.25 an hour.

As hip-hop became more popular as a music genre, John said, he began to notice similar fashion trends among the youth in hip-hop culture.

Capitalizing on the popularity of hip-hop’s distinctive style, he and his mother mortgaged their house for $100,000 and turned it into a makeshift clothing factory, the beginning of a company, which today has earned more than $6 billion in sales.

During the talk, John presented “S.H.A.R.K Points,” five business tips he calls the keys to personal success.

“I came to see if he could share some knowledge and also some humor, and I think he did a good job of that,” said UI alumnus John Slump, a cofounder of Corvida Medica and Iowa Approach. “He evokes that ambition and borderline craziness you have to have as an entrepreneur.”

Sophomore Connor Watters, a UI marketing and management major, said he enjoyed the talk and appreciated John’s style.

“Hopefully, one day, I want to open my own business, and I love ‘Shark Tank,’ and I know he’s a successful guy, so I just came to learn,” Watters said. “When you look at businesses, numbers and such, it can be so methodical, straight and strict, but sometimes when you listen to a lot of these guys they bring a lot more ‘human’ to it.”

Morgan Holtz, the owner of Redhead Hair salon in Cedar Rapids, said she is a fan of “Shark Tank” as well, and she came to learn how to grow her business.

“I was taking notes while he was going over his four main keys,” she said. “I’ve only been in my business for a year, so I just wanted to come down and get his advice.”

After John’s talk, he opened it up for a Q&A session in which people asked him questions about their business and entrepreneurship.

At one point during the Q&A, instead of asking a question, a man told a personal story about his father and then asked John for a photo on stage. Despite the awkwardness and some discontent from the crowd, John agreed and took a photo with the man.

UI senior Kyra Seay, an entrepreneurship and social innovation major who was directly behind the photo man in the Q&A line, became worried there wouldn’t be enough time to ask her question. Seay was eventually able to talk with John.

During her question, she noted that she will graduate in May, and John told her to get him her information, something Seay said she was on her way to do.

“I come to events like this to learn,” she said. “I think the entrepreneurial community is one you can never get sick of because it’s constantly changing.”

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