Daymond John knows a thing or two about running a successful business.
Before he became known as the “People’s Shark” on ABC’s hit reality series, “Shark Tank,” John turned a bag of hats and an idea into the multi-million dollar apparel company FUBU. And since then, he’s mentored many an entrepreneur seeking to do the same thing.
One particular soft spot for the shark? Former service members, he told Military Times.
“I’m constantly working with veterans as much as I can,” he said.
Currently, John is in his third year working with Bob Evans Farms to promote veteran entrepreneurship through the company’s Heroes to CEOs program.
Now through March 20, veterans can enter the group’s latest contest for the chance to pitch their ideas to investors and win a $30,000 grant for their business. The finalists will receive a free trip to New York City for a personalized, 45-minute session with John to help them perfect their pitch.
We asked John for some of the tips he gives to finalists and other entrepreneurs he’s worked with, including on the show. Here’s what he said.
1. Do everything with the “power of broke.”
“Act like you have no money when you start the business,” John said.
Go out there and get mentors, marketers and a team — or an “Army,” if you will — of people who are going to be your ambassadors and help you grow, he said.
This mindset is highlighted in John’s book, “The Power of Broke: How Empty Pockets, a Tight Budget and a Hunger for Success Can Become Your Greatest Competitive Advantage.”
He writes in the book, “Take it from me, the power of broke is all about substance over flash. It’s about creativity over certainty. It’s about taking a shot over playing safe.”
The good news for vets? Many already have this type of built-in, “get-it-done mentality” from their time in the military, John said.
2. Know your numbers.
At some point, your efforts do have to turn into dollar signs in order for your business to be successful.
As a business owner, know your sales, your targets, etc. and be prepared to talk numbers — especially before you head into the Shark Tank, lest you become prey.
3. Do something you’re super passionate about.
John said a lot of the veterans he meets have turned to entrepreneurship because they see a need in the market that they want to fill.
“They’re already starting a business because they want to solve and help,” he said.
And while that’s a noble pursuit, you’re not guaranteed to be successful.
“If you’re going to take this journey, I can’t say that you’re going to win,” John said. “I can’t say that you’re going to make a gazillion dollars.”
So choose a path you’re not going to regret, even if it doesn’t end up working out.
4. Get ready to get knocked down.
You will get knocked down as an entrepreneurs — not just once, but a million times, John said.
But if you take his previous advice to heart by knowing your numbers and loving what you do, it won’t be as bad, he said.
“It’s the ones who just keep getting back up who end up thriving in business,” he said.
5. Enlist the help of other vets.
Good things happen when veterans band together and start helping each other — so tap into that. Plenty of veterans would be willing and able to help you succeed over the challenge at hand, John said.
Military Times contributor and former reporter Natalie Gross hosts the Spouse Angle podcast. She grew up in a military family and has a master's degree in journalism from Georgetown University.