Now in its 7th season, ABC’s Shark Tank has empowered entrepreneurs to strike deals worth over $70 million.
Since the beginning, black entrepreneurs have shined. Mr. Tod’s Pie Factory struck a deal with Barbara Corcoran and Daymond John on episode 1 with a near $1M valuation.
In Season 7, entrepreneurs like Sarah Ribner of Piper Wai, and Ben Young and Gregory Coleman of Nexercise, continue to inspire on Friday nights. Nexercise’s $18.7M valuation is the largest to date on Shark Tank.
Joshua DuBois and Brandon Andrews of Values Partnerships are working to ensure the voices pitching on ABC’s Shark Tank reflect the diversity of audiences watching. With the support of producer Mark Burnett, Values Partnerships – a Washington, D.C., based firm engaging faith-based and diverse communities worldwide – leads a nationwide casting tour focused on bringing more diverse ideas and voices to the show, and supporting entrepreneurship nationwide.
“ABC’s Shark Tank and its producer Mark Burnett are committed to supporting entrepreneurs from every community in the nation. The power of seeing someone who looks like you successfully pitch a business on the show cannot be understated,” says DuBois.
In 2015, Values Partnerships held 11 casting events in 6 cities. Several entrepreneurs, including Sprëtz and Piper Wai pitched at Values Partnerships events and were selected for Season 7 of Shark Tank. The 2016 tour kicks off this week in Miami (March 4).
Events are planned in other cities, including Austin, Texas; NYC; Washington, D.C; Detroit, Michigan; New Orleans, Louisiana; Cincinnati, Ohio; and San Francisco/Oakland.
After flipping through the September fall fashion issues of my favorite magazines with black “It Girls” such as Beyoncé, Kerry Washington, Serenaand Misty Copeland on their covers, I’m unusually interested in clothes. All that paging through magazines got me wondering: Where are all the black-owned fashion brands? Yes, of course well-known black brands still exist. Tracy Reese and Byron Lars are two of my favorites.
Digging into the rabbit hole of black designers led me to Fresh Dressed, a fascinating documentary from 2014 directed by Sacha Jenkins about the foundations of urban fashion that features some of the biggest names in fashion (Dapper Dan, Andre Leon Talley) and hip-hop (Kanye West, Nas). And it conveniently airs on Vimeo on Demand. One late-night click on my PayPal account and I was immersed in the world of pre-gentrified New York and hip-hop’s early years, which started the urban fashion apparel market. Sweet! Check out the trailer below:
Ready to take a walk down memory lane or learn the secret to how the brands so many of us wore in the ‘90s became hot (then not)? Check out Fresh Dressed. Here are 10 reasons the doc is worthwhile:
1. Unique fashion inspirations.
Customized leather jackets underneath denim vests—a fashion staple that was worn by street gang members who wanted to identify their affiliation—were inspired by 1969’s Easy Rider, a film about two bikers.
2. Jamel Shabazz photographs.
Brooklyn-born Shabazz spent the ‘80s taking iconic pictures of black street style and capturing the culture. His driving force? “[Black style] is interpreted around the world as just being fly,” Shabazz says in the documentary. “What I see is pride and dignity. I wanted the world to see [us] as something unlike they had seen before. That despite people’s condition, they were able to maintain a great deal of integrity and it is shown in the way people dress and the pride they take in having clean sneakers on.”
3. Random hip-hop fun facts.
Before Play of the rap duo Kid ‘n Play was a rapper, he was a graffiti artist who used denim jackets as his canvas. “People would pay me to paint their names on their jeans,” says Christopher “Play” Reid.
4. Dapper Dan was more popular than Louis Vuitton (among black people).
The (in)famous Harlem designer and boutique owner was best known for merging hip-hop fashion sensibilities with the logos of European fashion houses, such as Louis Vuitton and Gucci. Think tricking out the upholstery of Big Daddy Kane’s car with a red and black Gucci monogram print or maybe a red leather Gucci sweatsuit for Bobby Brown. “I blacken-ized [luxury] fashion” Dan boasts in Fresh Dressed. “I made it so it would look good on us.”
Nas, a producer of the documentary, takes the boasting a step further:
“Dapper Dan was Tom Ford before Tom Ford,” says the rapper. “He had the foresight to do what they [luxury brands] started doing five years, 10 years after him.”
5. The genesis of fat laces in sneakers.
Before wide laces were sold ready-made in stores, sneaker aficionados had to create their own by taking the laces out of the shoe, stretching them, starching them and then ironing them.
6. Mayor’s closet.
I’m not so into sneakers, but even I gasped looking at the walk-in closet of sneaker aficionado Mayor, who boasts of going 7.5 years without wearing the same pair of shoes twice. (That’s 2,737 pairs). He keeps his collection, which includes a significant number of Jordans, in a row of plastic containers that are as tall he is and estimates his collection is worth more than half a million dollars.
7. Rediscovering the Lo-Lifes.
This was a well-known “gang” in Brooklyn, N.Y., that didn’t identify itself by colors but by fashion logos, one in particular: Polo. Its criminal activity was mainly shoplifting Ralph Lauren clothing from department stores, and status in the group was determined by who wore the most exclusive wares best. For some, such as Lo-Life leader Thirstin Howl the 3rd (yes, like the millionaire from Gilligan’s Island), fashion is really that serious.
8. Learning how Tommy Hilfiger became so popular among black people.
Instead of offering endorsement deals to famous rappers, Hilfiger offered free clothes to the MCs—and in the neighborhoods where they came from. “Tommy Hilfiger would show up in the ‘hood and open up a trunk with clothes,” recalls Ralph McDaniels, who hosted the popular hip-hop TV show Video Music Box. “It was the drug dealer giving you a free hit. It was smart. He knew exactly what he was doing.”
9. That time GAP unwittingly spent $30 million on a FUBU commercial.
LL Cool J signed on to do a GAP commercial, but didn’t really believe the brand respected hip-hop culture, according to FUBU executive Daymond John. The rapper insisted on wearing a FUBU baseball cap in the commercial and even dropped a line that included FUBUs tagline, “For Us By Us.” “It basically became a FUBU commercial,” adds John. FUBU eventually became a $350 million business.
10. Learning that Tupac didn’t charge black people.
At the height of his fame, Tupac took a meeting with Karl Kani in which Kani pitched him to star in an upcoming ad campaign. “I ain’t gonna charge you; you black,” Pac told Kani. “I don’t charge my people for nothing.” Two weeks later, they did a photoshoot … free. Kani credits Pac with introducing him to a global market.
This season on the ABC show “Shark Tank”, Drexel student Christopher Gray, Co-Founder of Scholly, an app to help college students find scholarships, walked away with $40,000 and two “Shark Tank personalities–FUBU founder Daymond John and Lori Greiner of QVC, as investors with a 15% stake in his company.
Gray’s aha moment occurred after he was awarded 34 scholarships for a total of $1.3 million. He then used his knowledge about the scholarship process to create Scholly. The Scholly app, available for 99-cents, sold 92,000 downloads before the showed aired. Anyone who is a fan of the show knows it doesn’t take long for the Sharks to dive into a unique concept and present an offer. But on this episode after hearing very little about the back end of his website and business model, Lori and Daymond offered him a deal he couldn’t refuse. With Scholly rated at No. 1 in the app store, Black Enterprise caught up with Gray to learn more about his entrepreneurial journey.
Since launching your Scholly, what has your journey been like leading to this point?
The journey has been surreal. I am only a senior in college and have had tremendous success. Being featured in national outlets and other accolades has been amazing. My top three highlights:
Shark Tank Appearance
Scholly Being Chosen as one of Inc. Magazine’s Top College Start Up
I was selected as one of BET’s 30 Under 30
Have you always wanted to venture into entrepreneurship? If so, who has inspired you the most?
Yes, I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur since I was little. I have a lot of mentors who I look to for various things. Have a problem with choosing one!
If you’re a fan of the show Shark Tank, then you know convincing the “sharks” to invest in your business is not an easy challenge.
One little girl, however, managed to impress the sharks with her southern sweetened lemonade. 10-year-old Austin, Texas native Mikaila Ulmer is the founder of BeeSweet Lemonade. When she was only four years old, Ulmer was brainstorming what she would contribute to the Action Children’s Business Fair and Austin Lemonade Day.
After two bee stings, her parents encouraged her to research why honeybees were critical to our ecosystem. The young mind grew fascinated. Not long after, Great Granny Helen mailed Mikaila a 1940s cookbook containing Granny’s flaxseed lemonade recipe. The light bulb went off and little Miss Ulmer was inspired to make something that would help honeybees and use Great Granny Helen’s delicous recipe. BeeSweet Lemonade was born.
Mikaila’s recipe is unique from other lemonade recipes because instead of using lots of sugars, she sweetens each batch with honey from local bees. Today, she travels selling BeeSweet Lemonade at youth entrepreneurial events, and a portion of the profits is donated to organizations fighting to preserve honeybees.
Shark Tank investor and FUBU CEO Daymond John was sold on the BeeSweet story, and the mogul invested $60,000 for a 25% stake in the beverage company. John is working closely with Ulmer as her mentor and helping to push her brand through his professional network. “Partnering with Mikaila made perfect sense,” he said in a statement. “She’s a great kid with a head for business and branding. She’s got a great idea and I’m happy to help take BeeSweet to the next level.”
The investment will allow the company to make larger batches of the lemonade and meet customer demands. “I’m so excited to have someone with as much experience as Daymond on my team,” the young business girl said. “This is a great opportunity to have more people try my lemonade and save even more bees.”
Order Mikaila’s BeeSweet Lemonade and try all of the flavors here. BeeSweet Lemonade is also available at multiple Whole Foods and other grocers.
Daymond John helped revolutionize urban fashion in the 1990s as founder, president, and CEO of FUBU (“For Us, By Us”). He guided the iconic brand into a multimillion-dollar business, placing it at the same table with such designer sportswear labels as Donna Karan New York and Tommy Hilfiger.
These days, John is known for being a “shark” on the hit reality series “Shark Tank”. Every Friday night, some seven million viewers tune in to the ABC show that features a panel of investors, or “sharks,” that consider offers from aspiring entrepreneurs seeking capital. John, a member of the cast since the show’s premiere in 2009, along with four other prominent chief executives listens to business pitches (a contestant’s one-hour pitch is edited down to a 10-minute segment) from everyday people hoping to take their company or product to new heights. Using their own money, the sharks have invested more than $20 million, having completed more than 30 deals with an average valuation of $250,000. John is the show’s second leading investor.
Studies show that African American-owned firms are less likely to receive angel investment. In the first half of 2013, only 8.5% of startups pitching to angels were minority-owned; 16% were women-led, according to a report by the Center for Venture Research at the University of New Hampshire. Only 15% of those minority-owned businesses successfully got funded, while 24% of the female entrepreneurs received angel investments. Moreover, ethnic minorities account for less than 5% of the angel population.
Thousands of minority- and women-owned entrepreneurs will have the chance to audition to appear on ABC’s reality show Shark Tank, providing them an opportunity to gain much needed capital for growing their businesses. Casting directors will hold an open call on Friday, August 23, in Washington, DC during the Kingonomics Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Investment Conference. The event’s organizer, Rodney Sampson, recently signed on with Shark Tank Executive Producer Mark Burnett as executive in charge of diversity and outreach at One Three Media, a joint media and production venture between Burnett and the Hearst Corporation.
Kingonomics is the title of Sampson’s book, which is an interpretation of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s economic vision for jobs and financial freedom for all Americans; through his lens as a serial entrepreneur and accredited investor primarily in technology and new media. The Kingonomics Conference, done in collaboration with the SCLC Poverty Institute, will bring together experts in capital raising strategies including crowdfunding, angel investment, and venture capital. The daylong forum and Shark Tank casting call also coincides with activities on Capitol Hill surrounding the 50th Anniversary celebration of the historic March On Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
Now in its fifth season, Shark Tank is a competition reality-based television series that features a panel of self-made multimillionaire and billionaire entrepreneurs/judges who consider offers from aspiring entrepreneurs seeking investment capital for their businesses or products. The Emmy Award-nominated series features investor billionaire Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks; business mogul and brand expert Daymond John, founder of FUBU clothing line; inventor and “Queen of QVC” Lori Griener; real estate mogul Barbara Corcocran; technology innovator Robert Herjavec; and, venture capitalist Kevin O’Leary.
Sampson was tapped personally by Burnett (Survivor, Celebrity Apprentice, The Voice) to spearhead his television production company’s diversity efforts. The two had worked together on the hit television miniseries The Bible; the 10-hour drama that ran on the History Channel in March 2013. Burnett and his wife Roma Downey scripted and produced the show. Sampson served on the show’s advisory board in a diversity and inclusion role to insure conversations around people of color were authentic.
Burnett sought Sampson’s assistance when he learned the ratings for the Shark Tank revealed a larger African American and female audience on Friday night at 8 pm ET.
“The challenge he said is that most of the companies that pitch are white males,” recalls Sampson. “He decided that he wanted diversity and inclusion to be intentional not just on Shark Tank or one show but all of his properties. That is what led to me becoming the first head of diversity and inclusion inside of the organization.”
Sampson is charged with identifying and attracting a more diverse pool of inventors and entrepreneurs. “Our goal is for at least 20% of the companies that pitch on the show to be minorities.”
The Shark Tank open casting call is a great forum he says especially given that access to capital remains the most important factor limiting the launch, expansion or growth of minority-owned businesses. Moreover, less than 3% of venture capital is invested in women owned and operated enterprises; less than 1% goes to African-American run businesses.