Which entrepreneur do you admire the most and why?
We could talk about Ben Francis, who started Gymshark. We could talk about Daymond John, who started FUBU, and I could go even as big as Kevin Plank, who started Under Armour. He was somebody that I studied a lot because when you think about the Nikes of the world, in my lifetime, they were already giants by the time I was born. So it’s hard to really envision the beginnings of Nike. I got to see Under Armour be built in my lifetime.
But then Phil Knight released his memoir “Shoe Dog,” which covers the beginnings of Nike. ... I’ve read that book probably five times, and I’m obsessed with it because the thing that I identify with are these dreamers who have dreams and visions that maybe everybody else can’t see in the beginning, but they’re so focused on it. They believe in it so much that they’re willing to do whatever to make it happen, and then they end up turning into these world-changing things. So I study all of them. Steve Jobs, same thing. People thought he was crazy, but he had these visions he knew he wanted to offer to the world.
So I really can’t choose one, to be honest with you, because there are so many different elements of these different entrepreneurs that I love and study that inspire me.
One of my lead investors, Richelieu Dennis, founded Shea Moisture, and he’s one of the few Black billionaires now. He was in Harlem with his mother selling Shea Moisture out of these bottles on the corner. That’s how he started. So there’s no shortage of inspiration for me when it comes to entrepreneurs.
What is the best career advice you’ve gotten?
I wouldn’t call it career advice, more so life advice, and it was given to me more by example than by words. My mother is a country girl from a small town in Louisiana. She was part of a generation that integrated schools and dealt with a lot of the things that came with that. She became one of the top computer programmers in the state of Texas. You’re talking about a Black woman in the early ’80s, being a computer programmer in Texas, in the South, and becoming one of the best computer programmers, one of the top computer programmers, in the entire state. Just that alone is something that inspired me to follow my dreams, man. My mom really instilled this power of dreams inside of me, so that none of my dreams ever felt like they were far-fetched.
Name one brand, other than the one you work for, that you admire.
Nike. They’re the best for a reason from a brand standpoint and from a product standpoint. The way that they tell stories, the way that they market their brand and their product, they’re the best. To this day, I still wear Jordans. There’s an emotional connection to Jordans that I have. I think the most powerful brands are the ones that have that emotional connection with their audience, with their customers, for whatever reason. And Nike does a masterful job of that. And so when I was first starting out, I was telling people I’m trying to build the Black Nike. That was the way that I would try to illustrate to people what I was trying to build.
What is your secret weapon for business success?
The best way to set yourself up for success is to do something that has some meaning and message to it. I think we’re in a time now, with millennials, Gen Z and the next generation, where we see beyond just somebody trying to push a product on us. What does the brand stand for? What does it mean? Who’s behind it? Who are they? These are the questions that our generations are asking. Now it’s all about how do you build an audience and how do you serve that audience with your product or service?
Also, being authentic. One of the reasons we’ve been able to grow so quickly, and our audience and our tribe is so engaged, is they feel like they’re being represented and they’re being spoken to.