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Friday, November 08, 2019 1:00 am

'Shark Tank' celeb shares his secrets

Tells Omnibus crowd he started at 6

JAMIE DUFFY | The Journal Gazette

When Daymond John was 6 years old, he was already showing his entrepreneurial skills as he developed a scheme to sell refurbished pencils. 

By the time he was 10 and his folks were getting divorced, he got a job handing out flyers announcing the opening of the Colosseum Mall in Hollis, Queens, in New York City. He was paid $2.25 an hour as he stood “in the middle of winter.” 

From there, his life intersected with the rap music developing all around him and working to make money to help his single mother. He went on to found his clothing business that has had $6 billion in sales.

John, one of the founding members of the popular ABC television show “Shark Tank,” talked about his roots and the secrets of business success Thursday at Purdue Fort Wayne.

He was the opening speaker for The Omnibus Speaker Series. 

His talk, more of an audience participation session with music and overhead slides, was biographical while riffing on financial education. 

His business, FUBU, an iconic urban fashion brand, first started as BUFU, only it didn't sound right, he said.

His marketing sense led John and his partner to knock on the door of internationally known rapper and neighbor, LL Cool J, who agreed to pose for one photo wearing a FUBU T-shirt just before he hopped a flight to L.A. 

The photo was as successful as the gritty painted murals on local businesses announcing the locations as “FUBU authorized dealers.” 

John's moxie and humor entertained the sold-out and diverse audience at Rhinehart Music Center's Auer Performance Hall. 

John, also known as “the people's shark,” spent the afternoon talking with staff, faculty and students, the future sharks, as he put it.

Dylan Kauffman and Bri Seibel attended the talk, saying they found him “amazing.” 

“I watch the show every night,” Kauffman said. His television is set to the right channel so it comes on when he goes to sleep. 

Denise Porter of Fort Wayne said John was representative of the black entrepreneurial spirit that already exists in the community. 

“As an African American and an entrepreneur, it makes me proud,” Porter said, “but I don't think it makes him unique. He was an entrepreneur years before the show.”

jduffy@jg.net