TV’s Daymond John shares advice at dinner

 Wilmington News Journal, March 19,2013

By Wade Malcolm

Daymond John (left) of the ABC show ‘Shark Tank’ listens as Marc Nagaswami (right) explains the business model for his company Penguin Ads at the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce dinner Monday in Newark. KYLE GRANTHAM/THE NEWS JOURNAL

NEWARK — Entrepreneur and fashion mogul Daymond John had some honest advice for people looking to run their own business.

“Being a boss is this,” John said. “Your employees don’t like you. Your family doesn’t think you’re doing enough at home. You share the success with everyone, and the failure is yours alone.”

 That might sound like John, the featured speaker at the annual dinner of the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce, has a grim assessment of entrepreneurship. But that would be far from the truth. John could think of no better way to make a living than working for yourself, as long as you pour your energy into something you love.

“It takes courage to be an entrepreneur and start your own business, but does it take more courage to be in the hands of someone else and they might cut you after 20 years?” John said in an interview before the event. “So which one would you like? To be in charge of your own destiny or someone else?”

 John’s words rang particularly true on a day when the state learned one of its largest employers, drug maker AstraZeneca, would eliminate 1,200 positions.

 The theme of this year’s event, the 21st annual for the chamber, was innovation of entrepreneurship.

 Since it formed its Emerging Enterprise Center five years ago, the chamber’s leadership has focused in-creasing efforts on making the county a nurturing place for entrepreneurs.

The sobering news about AstraZeneca served as a reminder why Delaware can’t rely too heavily on big employers and needs to help homegrown businesses flourish, said Bob Chadwick, executive vice president of the chamber.

 “Everybody is always asking, ‘What’s the next big thing in Delaware?‘ We think it’s going to be a lot of little things,“ Chadwick said.

 “We’ve been blessed for a lot of years with really big employers, but some of those companies have started to contract a little. We think it’s a perfect time to focus on entrepreneurship.”

 The chamber picked a guest speaker to fit that focus. In addition to creating a whole new segment of the fashion industry – urban apparel – John made a small business he started in his mother’s basement into a multimillion-dollar powerhouse, FUBU. He’s since gone on to be an author, venture capitalist and co-star of the ABC reality show “Shark Tank.”

In a question-and-answer session, which gave audience members the chance to submit their own questions, John stressed that entrepreneurs have to pursue their dreams for the right reasons. They should have a love for the business, not a desire to be wealthy or famous. “Success only allows you to drive to your problems in a limo,” John said. With the member of the “Shark Tank” cast on hand, the chamber decided to host a video pitch competition as part of the event. The chamber received entries from 21 local entrepreneurs, which were narrowed down to three finalists. The winning pitch was awarded a $2,500 prize. More than 700 attended the dinner and listened to John’s speech at the University of Delaware’s Bob Carpenter Center. The annual dinner is the chamber’s largest event, and organizers decided to give it a more dynamic, revamped format. Different portions of the program – cocktails, dinner, speakers, dessert – were spread throughout the facility, encouraging people to get out of their chairs and meet one another.

 “It accentuating the whole networking aspect, rather than having people stuck in their chairs the whole time,” Chadwick said. “We want people walking around, meeting new people, and finding people they can partner with.”

 Contact Wade Malcolm at 324-2386, on Twitter @WadeMalcolm or [email protected].


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