Daymond John speaks from the stage at the T3 Sixty Summit in Naples, Florida.

Shark Tank star’s advice for 'fellow sharks' in real estate 

Daymond John knocked on the right door to grow the FUBU brand and his own career, with a lot of hustle and a little help from LL Cool J.

May 2, 2023
3 minutes

Key points:

  • Set goals. You’ll never hit a target that you can’t see.
  • You need “people in your system who look like the ones you serve” or risk mistakes like the Gap’s accidental promotion of FUBU.
  • John, a cancer survivor, said the best way to take care of others is to take care of yourself.

It was an epic '90s door-knocking moment that opened the door to Daymond John's success as a "Shark Tank" star and founder of the FUBU brand — a fitting story to tell a room full of real estate leaders.

The door in question belonged to LL Cool J, then a platinum rapper on the verge of his own success in Hollywood.

John stood outside that door with just a few T-shirts, the dream of a clothing line that gives its customers the respect they deserve, and the patience to wait hours for his moment.

When that moment came, LL said "I hate your clothes." Cue record-scratch. 

Then cue the hip-hop soundtrack as John challenged an invitation-only audience of his "fellow sharks" at the T3 Leadership Summit in Naples, Florida, to fuel their entrepreneurial fire.

He also winkingly talked a little trash about his fellow TV sharks, especially "a-hole" Kevin O'Leary and "nasty" Mark Cuban. Barbara Corcoran, meanwhile, a legend for turning $1,000 into one of New York's top real estate companies, "is one of the smartest people I ever met when it comes to marketing, and she will walk over red hot coals for another woman … and that is why I love that crazy lady," John said.

But back to LL Cool J.

John found a shirt the rapper liked enough to allow one picture. "I got one shot at this. LL Cool J is moving to California. Digital cameras are not out yet. Obviously cell phones are not out yet. I can't see the picture I'm taking … but I take the shot and BAM! I nail the perfect shot of LL." It was enough to get FUBU more orders than they can handle.

LL gave John's company another boost in 1997, legendarily turning an ad for Gap into an ad for FUBU, working a little "for us, by us" into his rap and even wearing a FUBU hat. Gap didn't realize what LL had done until weeks later when people started coming to Gap stores looking for FUBU products.

"Sometimes you need to have people in your system that look like the ones you serve," John said. Or else you might spend $30 million promoting someone else's brand.

That's the "H for homework" part of the "SHARK tips" that John shared. The S stands for "set goals" because you can't hit a target you can't see.

A is for "amour," aka the people you love and need to keep at the center of your universe.

"R" is "remember," specifically to remember that while you may represent a corporate brand, you are personally your own brand.

"Can you describe yourself in two to five words?" John challenged the crowd. "Have you asked your employees what their two to five words are?" You may be surprised at what you learn.

Finally, "K" is a reminder to "keep swimming." John, a cancer survivor, pushed the audience to know themselves — and to take care of themselves.

"I know this is a dark point … but data shows that 65% of the time if you can catch something in time you can beat it," he said. "I'm going to serve myself because then I can serve everybody else because I'm here and I'm cancer free."

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