First Published on October 22, 2020
CEO of FUBU and The Shark Group, TV Personality on ABC Shark Tank, Public Speaker
If you’ve followed me for some time, you know I talk a lot about the importance of mentorship, especially in business. I am a firm believer that with each connection you make, lessons and knowledge are always learned.
I’ve been an entrepreneur since the day I was born. The entrepreneurial spirit is ingrained in me, but the truth is that it was the mentors throughout my life and career that led me to where I am today. Those mentors have included people close to me, like my own mother, a local store owner from my neighborhood of Hollis, Queens, and my three FUBU partners who helped make my dreams a reality.
But I also had aspirational mentors in my life like designer Karl Kani and BET Founder Robert Johnson, who proved that young Black boys like me could create our own destiny and build our own brands.
What I’ve learned is that entrepreneurship is a team sport. Behind every great entrepreneur is an even greater team.
So, here are 4 tips to help you build that team for yourself:
Mentors do not always need to be millionaires, athletes, or even celebrities. There are many preconceived notions that in order to be a mentor, the individual needs to be the most successful in their field. The truth is, they can be a neighbor, a small business owner in your community, or a teacher. One mentor of mine was a small business owner out in Hollis, Queens who introduced me to the fundamentals of business, whether that be inventory or how to deal with customers. That’s not to say that aspirational mentors aren’t important, though. Personally, I’ll never forget the day I saw a Karl Kani hang tag on a t-shirt in a major retail store. It was at that moment that I realized my dreams were within reach!
Take the initiative to find your mentors. Finding a mentor can be daunting and intimidating, but you have to put that fear aside if you want to succeed. In the business world, remember not to wait for a potential mentor to approach you, instead you need to find opportunities to connect and build relationships with individuals who are successful in any area of business. Get out of your comfort zone, network with people, and take the risk!
Being ‘self made’ doesn’t mean you didn’t have help along the way. I was raised by a hard-working single mother. I did not come from generational wealth, nor did I have easy resources that allowed me to become the businessman that I am today. I often think of myself as ‘self-made’ but that does not mean that there weren’t people that helped me along the way. Don’t let your ego get in the way or think that you need to have all the answers. As long as the relationship is mutually beneficial, only good things can come from reaching out to others for help and guidance.
- The true beauty behind mentorship is that you will grow as an individual, and as a business person. While building a relationship with your mentor, he or she will share their failures and/or lessons learned with you. They will help you “think big”, expand your worldview, and see all of the opportunities that are out there. Throughout the process, you will gain the skills and perspective needed to navigate both your life and your business that will soon allow you to return the favor one day.
So, where has mentorship has taken me?
Because of the impact that my mentors have had on my life, it’s important for me to be a mentor to others. As a young Black boy from Hollis, Queens who paved his way through years of adversity and opposition, I believe that it’s crucial for those in my position to motivate and inspire the next generation of Black entrepreneurs.
It’s my turn to pull them up the ladder, just like so many others did for me.
So, I put together Black Entrepreneurs Day, an event dedicated to celebrating Black business! Throughout the show, the audience will get advice and mentorship directly from some of the world’s most successful Black entrepreneurs including Robert Johnson, Gabrielle Union, Shaq, and Arlan Hamilton. Plus, I’ll be bringing you some amazing musical performances from Chance The Rapper and QuestLove!