Daymond John has lived by the mantra for us, by us his entire life—now he’s celebrating others who have done just that.
The FUBU brand founder and Shark Tank star returned for the third annual celebration of Black Entrepreneurs Day (Nov. 1), a national awareness of Black ingenuity. It kicked off with a star-studded event at Apollo Theater in October that included insightful conversations between John and business leaders including Shaquille O’Neal, Whoopi Goldberg and Cedric The Entertainer among others. It also featured a special performance by Rick Ross ot commemorate the 50th anniversary of Hip-Hop. The full event is now available for streaming at BlackEntrepreneursDay.com.
The event also included the giving of the “NAACP Powershift Entrepreneur Grant,” that offers $200,000 in grants to Black business owners.
In just three short years, it has turned into a nationally recognized initiative, but John says it’s really about the people doing important work everyday to uplift the community.
“I do not like throwing events,” John tells ESSENCE candidly. “I’ve done them all my life with FUBU and at the end of the day, most of the time, when you throw an event, you stress so much because wanting it to go well. And that’s when it usually goes phenomenally. That’s how this went.”
Although it was a huge production, John says the founding and celebration of Black Entrepreneurs Day was a labor of love he gladly took on.
“It’s the same way that a mother with five kids decide to serve at the church,” he tells ESSENCE. “I don’t have the luxury of saying that I have gotten to a place in my life where I shouldn’t be taking on more responsibility because I’ve been blessed to get to this stage in my life. Tthere are people that will never be recognized as a Daymond John who are doing ten times more than me. So my question to myself is, why the hell aren’t you doing more, homie? I have to be of service no matter what.”
John said he not only wanted the event to inform, but also inspire Black founders on their journeys through candid conversations with those that have traveled the same paths they’re on now.
“We always have to look for a really great balance of athlete, actors, and business leaders,” John tells ESSENCE. “But we also wanted to pull in people that are relatable and have gotten a good amount of lumps in their life. Dealing with young people, they want authenticity. And knowing that they’re the ones who are going to change the world, we want to give them the inspiration they need to propel them forward.”
He adds: “I talked about my mistakes when I blew money. Shaq talked about blowing money in the beginning of his career. So basically, financial literacy is the most important concept I hope everyone, including our people take away from all of this.”
The celebration was launched in 2020, and in just three short years has immensely evolved as the future of work and business continues to quickly shape shift. John shares that this celebration is more crucial than ever.
“The fundamentals are the same, but some things that are going to change now is that last year we weren’t really talking about AI,” John says. As technology continues to develop, it democratizes business. You don’t have to have a face–all you need is a device. Shopify, one of our sponsors, is empowering retailers in a brand new way. Before them, you may not have gotten a lease in a store just because of the color of your skin, or because of your credit, but now you can open up a story anytime you want and have AI to help operationalize it.”
He also mentioned that some of the event’s educational touchpoints have evolved as well.
“Interest rates went up since last year, so you may need to talk to JP Morgan Chase about more how you’re able to swing these things. Maybe you need to get more information on how to become a minority vendor because more large corporations are internally exploring the prospect of diversifying their supplier chains. We helped facilitate those conversations.”
Overall, the annual celebration is laying ground to help empower Black people to own their economic power and propel them to financial freedom. John says he’s proud to be at the helm.
“When you’re moving artists and icons around, it can be a lot,” he says honestly. “But at the end of the day, the purpose was served. People got free money, heard really powerful conversations, and hopefully, left feeling bit more, empowered and inspired.”
This interview was edited for brevity and clarity.