Not Your Typical Co-Working Space: This Shark Has His Eyes On Later-Stage Entrepreneurs

Written by Dana Sanchez

Daymond John is best known as one of the angel investors on ABC TV’s reality show, “Shark Tank,” where he and other sharks invest their own money in mostly unknown startups while millions of viewers watch. It’s a line of work that requires snap judgement a stomach for failure.

John got his entrepreneurial start at age 20 selling handmade hats on a street corner in Queens, New York. His urban clothing company FUBU — For Us, By Us —  grew out of that endeavor. Started in 1992, FUBU is now valued at $6 billion.

John’s latest business is a 25,000-square-foot co-working space in Midtown Manhattan called Blueprint + Co. There, high-profile executives and entrepreneurs — seasoned professionals rather than startups — can rent space on three floors of a building and meet for networking, mentoring, venture capital funding, and general support, John said in an interview with Inc:

John wants to create a space where entrepreneurs are able to discuss what keeps them up at night, from finding a market niche to developing a minimum viable product to apprehension over the Trump administration’s various proposals. John specifically described his concern over Trump’s calls to bring manufacturing back to the states–and what he sees as an inevitable price increase for American consumers.

John says he’s nervous about passing on a higher cost to his customers, “in the event that we all have to start manufacturing in America.” He warns that “we think that making (products) in America is going to be great, when I may end up having to hurt a lot of people by charging them 40 percent more.”

FUBU started with a hat — a tie-top John had seen in rap video, reported. Using $40 worth of fabric, John sewed around 90 knock-off hats with his next-door neighbor, and began selling them on the street for $10 each. He recalls making $800 in a single day.

Hats progressed to jerseys, sweatshirts, jeans, shoes and T-shirts and he and his friends began sewing the FUBU logo onto everything. They got a break when rapper LL Cool J, who had grown up on John’s street in Queens, posed for a photo wearing a FUBU shirt. By 1998, John was worth $250 million.

John often talks openly about his failures, personally and professionally — something that he believes is essential to long-term success.

“If you’re not making enough mistakes, you’re not making enough moves,” he said. “So it’s the process. For most entrepreneurs, the key to what they do is they act, they learn and they repeat.”
So, what’s the secret to success that he tells all budding entrepreneurs who seek out his advice?
“Firstly, do something that you are absolutely obsessed with and would do for free.
“Secondly, you have to do your homework and you have to research it because there’s nothing you can create that’s new in this world, it’s just going to be a new form of delivery.
“Every big thing has started off with a movement. Mark Zuckerburg started off with one friend, now he has 1.5 billion of them. I started off with one hat.”

Blueprint + Co. is not your typical co-working space. Companies that want in have to have raised or invested at least $250,000 for their ventures, John told CNBC. Companies must apply and be accepted, and he said he’s turned away about 500 businesses that were “too small” for the space.

The idea is to encourage collaboration among companies as they continue to grow, and allow them access to his vast network.

“This is a co-working, shared space, part of the shared economy,” he said. “It’s the ‘For Us, By Us’ of entrepreneurship.”

Blueprint + Co. members pay $275 per month for drop-in access up to $1,000 per month for a desk.

At least 50 desk spots have already been sold — around 75 percent of capacity — John told Inc. in February. He said he hopes to expand the business to fill the entire building, not just three floors.

Members include executives who plan to work from the space when they’re in New York, including the Honest Company (consumer goods company co-founded by actress Jessica Alba that advocates for ethical consumerism); Shopify (Canadian e-commerce company that develops computer software for online stores and retail point-of-sale systems), and JetSmarter (mobile marketplace for private jet charters that operates globally and is based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida).

The co-working space will have classes, access to a trademark attorney, film editors, and a high-end fashion photographer. Social media guru Gary Vaynerchuk is scheduled to teach a seminar to members.

John says he’ll be there working every day, CNBC reported:

“They know the fundamentals of business,” John said, referring to Blueprint’s members. “But now a lot of us need to change, due to technology and the world getting smaller. We need to take those fundamentals and add them to the way of the new world.”