Daymond John first became an entrepreneur as a six-year-old in Hollis, Queens. He started selling pencils in school and graduated to shoveling snow and raking leaves. He made his name in fashion in the early 1990s with apparel maker FUBU, which has grown into a $6 billion company, according to his blog. Since then, he's become involved in a diverse group of businesses, most famously through his investments on Shark Tank.
Whether it's bow ties, barbecue or belts, John, who will be speaking at the iCONIC conference in New York City on June 7, has profited handsomely from partnerships he formed during his eight seasons on the popular reality series. Here's a roundup of the deals that yielded the biggest returns.
In Shark Tank's fifth season, John struck a $300,000 deal to acquire 15 percent of the Bubba's-Q barbecue business from entrepreneur Al "Bubba" Baker. Around that time, Baker was doing about $154,000 in annual sales; recently he told CNBC that number has jumped to $16 million. The growth stems in part from a new deal with CKE Restaurants — the parent company of the Hardee's and Carl's Jr. fast-food chains — to use Bubba's-Q boneless baby back ribs in a new burger. CKE placed an order for nearly 1 million pounds of ribs and is offering the sandwich across more than 3,000 of its franchise locations.
John's deal with Mission Belt is showing returns in more ways than one. The company, which makes ratchet belts — belts without holes that instead adjusts with a release lever — puts $1 of every belt sold into a fund that provides loans to small-business owners in more than 80 developing countries. In Season 4 of Shark Tank, John offered Mission Belt co-founder Nate Holzapfel $50,000 for 37.5 percent of the company. Both the philanthropic and retail arm of the business have been hugely successful: Mission Belt lent more than $1.5 million to borrowers and generated $8.2 million in revenue last year, says Holzapfel's co-founder and brother Zac.
When Brad Baker went on Season 7 of Shark Tank, he was hawking the most expensive retail product ever to appear on the show. Baker's company VPcabs makes virtual pinball machines that cost as much as $9,000 apiece. John offered Baker $200,000 for 25 percent equity in the company, which at the time had done just under $400,000 in lifetime sales. Since VPcabs inked the deal with John, who has worked to land the business branding and licensing deals, sales have jumped to more than $1 million, Baker says.
Sunglasses with attached decorations — like a mustache that hangs over the wearer's upper lip — were just crazy enough to work for the entrepreneurs behind Sun-Staches. In Season 6 of the show, John offered to give David Levich, Eric Liberman and Dan Gershon $300,000 for 20 percent equity in their novelty eyewear company (while donning a pair decorated like a captain's hat). In the four months after their episode aired, the co-founders brought in more than $4.1 million in sales, a hefty increase from the $2.8 million in sales they had previously made. What's more, they landed a licensing deal with Marvel to make character-themed sunglasses, according to a Shark Tank update.
John's deal with 15-year-old entrepreneur Moziah "Mo" Bridges in Shark Tank's fifth season is paying off in a different way. Bridges went on the show asking for $50,000 in exchange for 20 percent equity in Mo's Bows, but John advised the young fashion designer not to take any money and offered to mentor him for free instead. John drew from his own experience when in 1989 he declined an offer of $10,000 for 40 percent of his hat company, which he later turned into FUBU. Bridges agreed and has since worked with John to get his bow ties into Neiman Marcus stores. He also recently scored a licensing deal to use NBA logos in his designs, according to Business Insider and Forbes.
— By Emily Canal, special to CNBC.com