Daymond John Shares How Being Broke Can Be an Entrepreneur’s Greatest Asset

Daymond John's latest book discusses why starting a business while still broke is more advantageous than one might think

Daymond John
(Image: File)

Daymond John helped revolutionize the streetwear industry and urban fashion in the 1990s as the founder and CEO of FUBU (“For Us, By Us”). He guided FUBU to $350 million in revenue in 1998, placing it at the same table with such designer sportswear labels as Donna Karan New York and Tommy Hilfiger. He grew the FUBU brand to over $6 billion in product sales globally to date. John also is best known these days as one of the star investors on ABC’s entrepreneurial hit series Shark Tank, which draws seven million viewers weekly.

John has evolved into more than a fashion mogul. In 2007, the street-smart businessman penned his first book, Display of Power: How FUBU Changed a World of Fashion, Branding and LifestyleThis was followed by his next book, The Brand Within: Branding Yourself from Birth to the Boardroom. His latest book is The Power of Broke: How Empty Pockets, a Tight Budget, and a Hunger for Success Can Become Your Greatest Competitive Advantage.

The Power of Being Broke


“When your back is up against the wall, your bank account is empty, and creativity and passion are the only resources you can afford, success is your only option,” surmises John.

The Power of Broke was written to teach aspiring entrepreneurs how to take their biggest weaknesses and turn them into their greatest strengths. John believes that starting a business from broke forces entrepreneurs to think more creatively, use resources more efficiently, connect with customers more authentically, and market ideas more imaginatively. “It forces you to be true to yourself, stay laser-focused on your goals, and come up with those innovative solutions required to make a meaningful mark,” he writes.

Since his days growing up in Queens, New York, John has been practicing the “power of broke.” It started when he began making home-sewn wool caps and later t-shirts out of his mother’s basement, which he sold on the streets. With a $40 budget, he had to come up with out-of-the box ways to promote FUBU. “Luckily, desperation breeds innovation,” so he hatched an idea for a creative branding campaign. This included product placement with the then up and coming, local rapper, LL Cool J.

In his new book, John draws on his experiences as an entrepreneur and branding consultant, offers peeks behind-the-scenes from the set of Shark Tank, and shares stories of dozens of other entrepreneurs “who have hustled their way to wealth.”

Global Ambassador of Entrepreneurship


Last year, the White House appointed John, Global Ambassador of Entrepreneurship, as part of the PAGE Program. His initiative works with underserved entrepreneurs and emerging digital influencers, to help them build customer bases and brands. John also was tapped to work with President Obama on the My Brother’s Keeper program, which was designed to help create access and opportunities for underserved young men of color through mentorship and education.

  • While his using LL Cool J for product placement may be considered innovative or creative, it seems more realistic that it was lucky or other ways not mentioned that played a bigger role. The fact that LL is labeled, “up and coming and local when his first album dropped in 1984 is an understatement. LL was a star and not many entrepreneurs have access to one to get their products too (for free) when you have even B level celebrities on Instagram these days charging hundreds to just wear or promote your stuff one time. While being broke is always motivation to NOT BE, and there is a Business Coach on every corner selling you 6-figure and millionaire mindsets it doesn’t always work out and entrepreneurs have to know that realistically the BROKE might not be the motivation they need.

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  • Sandra Wanjiku

    Hi, I would like to introduce myself. My name is Sandra Wanjiku and I am the sole proprietor of Wham’s Cafe launched on December 15, 2013 at 737 Lakeview Ave in Lowell, MA. I am seeking an investor to inject some much needed finances, to enable the Cafe to breakthrough the market and grow. Over 2 and a half years ago, in order to have the flexibility to attend to my 5 year old special needs daughter, my family and secure a future for them. I invested all my savings and 401K into Wham’s Cafe and l am seeking help to inject some much needed finances, to enable the Cafe to breakthrough the market and grow. I use the Cafe as a platform to help other special needs children in Kenya by providing donated school supplies to sped schools and orphanages as well as spread awareness on the power of inclusion for children such as my Stella. October is Down Syndrome Awareness month so please help us continue to reach as many people about our kids that are so deserving of better lives. I can share more about our Stella and you will see – we have a Facebook – “Stella’s Wish Bus” and Kick Starter ”

    Wham’s Cafe specializes in spiced Tea, Coffee, Tropical Fruit Smoothies, Frappes and snacks from East Africa. These authentic breakfast snacks like Samosa, Mandazi, Chapati, Bhajia, spicy Sausages and Crepes are a staple along with scrumptious homestyle lunches consisting of Spicy or Curry Chicken, Lentils, Beef Stews served on a bed of Coconut Rice or Ugali(polenta) also served are Coconut Tilapia, 3 Greens (collard, kale and spinach) or succotash w/ cabbage, carrots, potatoes), wholesome meals made fresh daily. Lowell is home to a significantly large immigrant community longing for a taste of home, as well as many visitors and students at UMass, Lowell. Wham’s Cafe is unique as it is the only spot in town offering this cuisine, in a vibrant atmosphere. In the 2+ years, we have garnered a customer base coming from as far as Worcester, Quincy, Boston even Hartford, CT. As we expand our client base, we would like to fulfill orders in a timely manner and speed up the check out process. This will ensure that our customers can come more often, and their orders are received and enjoyed faster, a quick yet wonderful dining experience.
    I would like to craft/customize a Menu App, then introduce 8 secure mobile menu devices at each of the 8 tables, an order display in the kitchen and a master terminal at the check-out counter. The colorful menu with full descriptions of nutritional and caloric values would make it easy for our clients to pick items, place orders, receive approximate wait times and cash themselves out using the App’s Cash-Out component. Once processed and confirmed, orders would be picked up at the check-out counter or the pick-up Window. This would leave the focus for staff to fulfil the company mission of providing “Delicious Food” fast and efficiently. Cash Apps are very popular in automating business receipts processing, and Wham’s Cafe would benefit greatly from this especially in our event catering department, where we can receive, schedule and fulfil orders in a more efficient manner.
    We would also use this App to request Customer feedback as well constant contact options if clients opt in. A link to the App on our website would enable our clients to browse the menu and pre- order or check status of order. Our other growth goals include: Official Website, Ordering App, DoorDash Delivery Service, accepting UMASS Lowell UCARD, Pick-Up Window, Wham’s Cafe After Hours, Wham’s Cafe At-Home. Please support our project –

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