Daymond John on Trump: ‘Brilliant businessperson … I hope for the best’

“Shark Tank” investor Daymond John is known for his hustle and ambition, having launched his streetwear start-up Fubu with $40 worth of fabric and turning it into a $6 billion brand.

He’s never been one to shy away from giving his opinion.

With fellow reality TV star and businessman Donald Trump now occupying the highest office in the country, John is weighing in.

“I’m an American, and my fellow Americans elected Mr. Trump. I think he’s a brilliant businessperson, no matter what you may think about him,” John tells CNBC. “His name is [known] around the globe, and that means he obviously knows how to work with people.

“I hope for the best. That’s my president now, and I am going to do whatever is needed to do the best job.”

As one of a handful of high-profile entrepreneurs appointed as a presidential ambassador for global entrepreneurship under the Obama administration, John joined AOL co-founder Steve Case, Kind Snacks founder and CEO Daniel Lubetzky, Spanx founder Sara Blakely and others in traveling the world to help develop the next generation of entrepreneurs.

“Our job was to get people excited about entrepreneurship and educate them about it,” John says. “Show them how they have access to capital and talk to them about scaling. If somebody only needs $20 a week to feed their family in Nigeria, and we can show them how to make that $20, they don’t become a liability — they become a taxpayer, father, mentor — morale goes up.

“If we can do that, we can help change the world.”

While John has yet to hear if this outreach will continue under the Trump administration, he says he’s more than willing to stay on. In the meantime, the entrepreneur says he admires the new president’s style of negotiating directly with big companies from Ford to United Technologies to keep jobs from going overseas.

“I absolutely love that,” John says. “I will be here every day and not give [my work] to an assistant. And he’s like, ‘Hey Tom, hey Dick, hey Harry, hey Sarah, what are we doing? I heard from you directly that you’re not going to do it, or I told you directly this is what I need.’

“No more hiding behind anything, and that’s what business people do.”

Daymond John, founder and CEO of FUBU and entrepreneur.

Adam Jeffery | CNBC
Daymond John, founder and CEO of FUBU and entrepreneur.

The Shark is also launching a new venture, Blueprint + Co., an executive open work space in New York City. It’s not your typical co-working space: Companies that want in have to have either invested or raised at least $250,000 for their ventures, John tells CNBC. Companies need to apply and be accepted, and he’s turned away some 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.

“I speak to about 70 companies a year, and the thing that keeps them up at night is that they don’t have innovation in their company and they can’t source good talent,” John says. “This is a co-working, shared space, part of the shared economy. It’s the ‘For Us, By Us’ of entrepreneurship.”

Daymond John, of "Shark Tank" with Peter Kim, the Founder/CEO of Hudson Jeans.

Liza Hughes | CNBC
Daymond John, of “Shark Tank” with Peter Kim, the Founder/CEO of Hudson Jeans.

Blueprint + Co. will operate on a membership model, with rates ranging from $275 per month for drop-in access to $1,000 per month with a dedicated desk. The space in midtown Manhattan is three floors with an open concept.

Members will have access to a network “across multiple disciplines” to help their businesses grow, including funding, marketing, legal, production, scaling and more. While he didn’t disclose his own investment in the venture, John promises he’ll be there working every day that he can and hopes to expand in the years to come.

“Five years down the line, Blueprint + Co. will be the mecca of entrepreneurship globally. That innovation will be happening from large companies all the way to small,” he says. “The brightest talent will be here and, I would hope, 50 locations around the world.”

As for those launching ventures that might not yet be big enough for Blueprint + Co., John says not to underestimate the power of being careful, even conservative, when you’re just starting out.

“I think the biggest challenge right now is sourcing good talent, and being able to build a community without spending a lot of money,” he says. “One of the top reasons small businesses fail is over-funding. They take out too much, and spending too much on learning what to do, instead of just creating it small.”

Disclosure: CNBC owns the exclusive off-network cable rights to “Shark Tank.”

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