Daymond John, the Fubu founder and “Shark Tank” investor, says military veterans make “excellent” CEOs.
That’s why the startup investor has teamed up with refrigerated foods manufacturer Bob Evans Farms, through its veterans program Our Farms Salutes, for a contest, announced last month, that will award three $25,000 grants to vets who are also small-business owners. The three winners will each also get a one-on-one mentoring session with John.
“Hopefully I can help them increase sales or reduce costs, or something of that nature,” he tells Yahoo Finance. As one of nine presidential ambassadors for global entrepreneurship under President Obama, John traveled the country and met many members of the armed services. “I think that these are selfless people that go out and protect us… They know how to accomplish a task, and they are somebody who wants to give, so I think that they are excellent CEOs.”
Veterans must enter the contest (by submitting their business plan online at Our Farms Salutes) by Aug. 8 and winners will be announced on Sept. 12. The judging panel that will select the winners includes Bob Evans CEO Mike Townsley and Emily and Becky Nunez, cofounders of Sword & Plough, which sells backpacks and other apparel out of repurposed military gear, and works only with manufacturers that employ veterans.
Not enough large American companies, John adds, have programs to aid entrepreneurship. “If you support entrepreneurs, not only will you help their company, but you can also get entrepreneurs working within your system—that’s an intrapreneur,” he says. “And that will increase your bottom line because people will see that you care. So I think Bob Evans is setting a great example.”
Daymond John is certainly no stranger to consulting with entrepreneurs. Asked to name the most common problem he sees in their business plans, he says too many of them take on too much capital.
“They think that more money is going to be the only thing that’s going to answer the challenges they may be having in scaling the business,” he says. “And a lot of times it’s, How do you upsell and over-provide for the current customers you have? And not think about trying to get more, but taking care of the ones you have. Where do you go and outsource the proper things you need instead of bringing on a bunch of people? And, where do you roll up your sleeves and learn it yourself and stop thinking that somebody else is going to give you the magic answer to everything?”
Then again, John acknowledges that the environment right now for startups foments over-capitalization. Especially in tech, venture-backed companies keep seeking more and more funding, and he can’t blame them for it.
“A good buddy of mine, Gary Vee [social media marketing guru Gary Vaynerchuk], always says, ‘Listen, you have to take advantage of it. Today, you are stupid if you can’t find money today, because people are just throwing away money like it’s free.’ So, more power to them if they’re going to go out there and raise that kind of capital,” John says. “But me, it’s very hard for me to take another person’s dollar and then take another dollar and another dollar. I can’t sleep at night if I take one person’s dollar and can’t give it back to them.”
For more insight from Daymond John, watch his full interview from Yahoo Finance’s All Markets Summit earlier this year.
Daniel Roberts covers sports and tech at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite.