'Shark Tank' Star Daymond John to His Younger Self: 'Get the Hell Out of Here!'
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
As we've been reporting, the pandemic has wreaked havoc on black- and minority-owned businesses. But it didn't take long for Black and brown entrepreneurs to mobilize and address those discrepancies head-on. There was the U.S. Black Chambers' byblack networking platform that launched on Juneteenth; IFundWomen of Color creator Olivia Owens' efforts to help raise funds for female-run companies impacted by Covid-19; and Diddy's Our Fair Share initiative aimed at helping minority-owned small business and institutions navigate the Paycheck Protection Program, to name a few.
And enter Daymond John, the FUBU founder and CEO and Shark Tank star, who's put together a livestream event dubbed "Black Entrepreneurs Day presented by Chase for Business" that can be accessed on John's Facebook Watch page October 24 at 7 p.m. (LiveXLive across will also simulcast it across its own platform, plus, Twitch, TikTok, Twitter, etc.)
The fundraiser will feature musical performances from Questlove and Chance the Rapper, as well as John conducting virtual on-on-one interviews about the state of Black business with the likes of Gabrielle Union, Jamie Foxx and Shaquille O'Neal, among others.
In addition, and perhaps most notably, John will award more than $175,000 in grant money to select Black entrepreneurs and small-business owners as part of the NAACP's Powershift Entrepreneur Grant, built on contributions from Black Entrepreneurs Day partners Chase for Business, The General® Insurance, Pepsi, Cisco Webex, Quickbooks, Yappa and Robinhood. Anyone can apply to be a grant recipient between now and October 12 by visiting the event's newly launched website.
With the event itself — which aims to raise money and awareness but ultimately entertain — still a few weeks away, John connected with us via video chat from his home in New York (flanked by four neatly arranged Emmys for his work on Shark Tank) to talk about rallying a diverse group of allies, the moving parts of booking myriad guests and whether any surprises will be in store.
Is this event more about you as a Black business owner bringing in corporate allies or those corporate partners making a statement about their own inclusiveness?
I think that's right down the middle. With my team, I come up with a concept of how can we make meaningful progress and educate people, and then I dig into my Rolodex for notable friends and good corporate citizens that can say, "I'm not going to tell you that we don't have any resources right now due to Covid. I want to empower people right now." It's bringing in good people to have a common goal.
Does it feel as if it's incumbent on Black and minority business owners to advocate for their own community?
It's not something that none of us have been trying to do in the past. It's just that this is a time when there's a lot of people that have a lot of emotions going on and they say, "I want to help. I want to create change, or I was not aware. And now it just really opened my eyes to some things that need to be corrected and or done."
How does an event like Black Entrepreneurs Day strike the right balance between philanthropy and entertainment?
Well, I've been on a show for 12 years that does it every single Friday night. It's all sprinkled in one way or another end of the day. [Black Entrepreneurs Day] is not just listening to music, it's being entertained and educated at the same time.
Have you participated in something that didn't live up to its intentions?
I have not been part of something if I can recall that I thought it was good and then turned bad. Maybe [something] wasn't marketed the right way and maybe did not have the impact that I would have liked or the audience that I would have liked. Maybe somebody showed up and did something out of line with what we were doing and that became the spotlight, like the presidential debate, you know what I mean?
Did the first round of CARES Act stimulus did its part supporting black- and minority-owned businesses?
The first one did very little to nothing because if you look at where we're at in the country, isn't that the whole challenge that we're having with African-American communities? You don't get the proper funding. If they get a loan, the loan is at higher costs. And they have three times more likeliness to fail. There's nothing surprising here to us.
Is there any optimism that a potential second-round might have a better chance of reaching those businesses?
It'll always be helpful in different ways because whether it's a minority-owned business or whether you're employed someplace and your boss can keep you on for three more months or six more months, it's better than nothing, right?
Related: Daymond John Will Not Stop (Podcast)
Black Entrepreneurs Day does point a way forward with its subsidized grants. What kind of applicants should think about vying for one?
I would suggest two that are going flourish: the ones that have said, "I've come up with something due to Covid, and I'm just starting, and it's taken off and I need a little more fuel in the tank." Or people saying, "I think it's going to save my business." I think those people will beat out somebody who's like, "Let me write this on a napkin. I don't have any time." But then again Daymond John in 1989 would have said, "I stood on the corner and I just sold a bunch of hats last week, and I hope to create a company named FUBU that will be a global-leader brand." And I would have said, "Get the hell out of here, Daymond John."