In his first visit to North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, millionaire entrepreneur and television personality Daymond John stirred the crowd with his dynamic personal story of perseverance and saw some of the best student entrepreneurs Aggieland has to offer.
"I am not here to talk about macro- and microfinancing," John said to a capacity crowd in Harrison Auditorium. "I am here to brag about my failures and all the things that were detrimental."
John is the co-star of ABC TV's Emmy-winning series, "Shark Tank," where he and his co-stars listen to business pitches from aspiring entrepreneurs. "The People's Shark," as he is known, founded the now-iconic clothing company, FUBU (For Us, By Us), in his mother's basement and transformed it into a global empire with more than $6 billion in sales to date.
He was appointed as an ambassador of global entrepreneurship by President Obama, and is the author of several books, including the current New York Times best-seller, "The Power of Broke."
While John's brands have amassed billions of dollars in sales, he said that alone is not what has made him successful.
"Success is not money. Success is being dedicated ... Money just drives you up to your problems in a Bugatti," he said.
The way John says he found success is working for entrepreneurs and emulating the real heroes of his neighborhood in the Queens borough of New York City, Hollis.
"Entrepreneurs were the first people to show up, the last ones to leave. They thanked people for their success and blamed only one for their failure," he said.
"(Heroes) were getting up at 5 in the morning, getting their kids ready for school then going off to their places of business or learning. Then they were getting home at 8 at night, making dinner, doing homework, putting kids to bed and getting up to do it all over again - five days a week," he said.
In addition to that, John lives by and encouraged the audience to embrace what he calls S.H.A.R.K. points. They include: Set a goal; Homework, as in do it; Amor -- love what you do; Remember that you are the brand; and Keep swimming, just like a shark (learning and testing yourself).
As part of his visit, John along with Chancellor Harold L. Martin Sr. and N.C. A&T Board of Trustees member and businesswoman Janice Bryant Howroyd, heard pitches from four student entrepreneurs - Emani Harris, Robert Mwaniki, Jordan Thomas and Darius Wright. The four students were chosen out of a pool of 44 students who submitted ideas.
Mwaniki presented his idea for an app, Helping Hand, which allows people to get help they need with everyday tasks or chores and maintain their independence.
"On the night of the presentation, I was drowning in a sea of nervousness," he said. "The sincere positivity received from the production crew, faculty and staff, genuinely put us at ease. This event was truly a blessing, so I had to remind myself that members of the schools' committee believed in us, and we needed to believe in ourselves."
Thomas, the creator of a small furniture solution for individuals living in small spaces called the Floating Nightstand, who was also nervous, echoed Mwaniki's sentiment. He said he found the panel's feedback useful.
"The night was unforgettable and may just be the kick start I needed to start my business," he said.
After their presentations, the finalists were informed that Howroyd would personally invest $1,000 each into their business ventures. The money will help the students with prototypes, trademarks and other assets that will help them bring their products to the marketplace. They will receive their respective checks before spring commencement.