Creating opportunity
Shark Tank’s Daymond John: How Coworking Spaces Can Supercharge Your Startup
Kim Lachance Shandrow | March 1, 2017

FUBU founder and Shark Tank investor Daymond John knows how challenging it can be to shape an entrepreneurial dream into a successful, scalable company. Long before he made his first millions, he hustled FUBU hats — that he hand-stitched together — on the streets of Hollis, Queens between shifts waiting tables at Red Lobster.

Startup success didn’t come easily or quickly for John. This self-made celebrity entrepreneur-turned-investor failed to get his hip-hop fashion brand off the ground on three separate attempts – but he was relentless. Along the way, he learned some very hard but helpful life-lessons about what he calls “The Power of Broke.”

Today, the 48-year-old author, dyslexia awareness advocate, serial entrepreneur and renowned investor has his hands in dozens of profitable business ventures, including several of his own companies and about 60 more that he has invested in through Shark Tank and other avenues.

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His latest entrepreneurial pursuit, launched just days ago, is a New York City-based upstart by the name of Blueprint + Co. Billed as a “creative executive open coworking space,” the company’s aim is to educate and empower mid-stage startup founders by fostering a community of “like-minded entrepreneurs” that can benefit from John’s resources, business-building know-how, and extensive network connections.

Some of the first companies moving into Blueprint + Co’s Manhattan high-rise digs include e-commerce platform Shopify, plus-size fashion retailer Ashley Stewart and Sir Richard Branson-mentored luxury bedding startup Leesa Mattress.

“The idea for Blueprint + Co came out of people from my Shark Tank and other investments kind of camping out in my offices,” John told Free Enterprise. “They were synergistically tapping into my staff and resources, and I wanted give them a larger, more collaborative place for them to work with me and amongst each other.”

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The emphasis being on “each other,” John says, as successful entrepreneurs are rarely islands unto themselves. In other words, they generally do better when they work together. In fact, startup founders and employees who work in collaborative coworking spaces are four times more likely to succeed than those who don’t, a recent Deskmag.com coworking study that surveyed 661 coworking space users in 24 countries reports.

“Bold-thinking entrepreneurs lean on other bold-thinking entrepreneurs, swapping knowledge and opening up their Rolodexes, especially early on in the startup game,” John said. “Coworking spaces like these are a great all-in-one way for them to tap into support in a single place. That way, they can take their business to the next level faster than they could on their own.”

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Here are four ways John says tapping into coworking spaces can help supercharge your startup:

1. They foster collaboration and idea-sharing.
“Connecting in coworking spaces opens up your exposure to like-minded entrepreneurs. So, let’s say you’re a social entrepreneur like the founders behind Leesa Mattress. Working in close proximity to game-changers like them — people who donate one mattress to the homeless for every ten they sell, and plant one tree for every mattress sold — could inspire you to give back through your business as well.

There are even several niche coworking spaces specifically dedicated to and tailored around certain giving back through community mentorship and social causes, like 1871 in Chicago and women empowerment- and minority education-focused shared workspaces. More and more are popping up all over the country every day. They serve as reminders that, as your startup grows up to be who and what you want it to be, and as you start to expand and do well, you have a responsibility to help bring other, newer startup founders up the ladder and give them access to information and education.”

2. They save your company capital on supplies and rent.
“When you work from a coworking space from day one, you don’t need to build a fancy facade showroom and conference room. You don’t need to run data lines and have a receptionist because shared workspaces are usually already equipped with all that important stuff, often for more affordable prices than going it on your own with your own stand-alone office.

Take the money you would have spent on office supplies and Wi-Fi, save as much as you can and spend it on educating yourself on customer acquisition instead. You’ll also save by renting from a coworking space as you go, for one or a few months, and you’ll save yourself from having to take on a big two-, four-, five- or 10-year lease. Then, once your startup grows up — or you fail fast — you can move your business to your own private office, or to a more executive-focused shared space like Blueprint + Co.”

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3. They help you scale faster and with more support.
“Some of the better coworking spaces have experienced, really dialed-in trademark attorneys, creative directors and incubator and accelerator leaders on site. These tend to be the types of influencers who have thousands of social followers and travel the country and world for business. They need a collaborative home base to work from when they’re not on the road. It’s those types of established, work-together thinkers and doers who can plug startup founders a few desks or couches down into their global network. They can help you supercharge that scaling process, domestically and internationally when you’re ready. So often, taking that next big step starts with striking up that first conversation with a big player. Be bold and go for it.”

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4. They inspire you to innovate.
“Almost every time I speak at a Chamber of Commerce, or to a private company or a public company, big or small, the biggest question I get is how people can push entrepreneurial innovation within their company. They want to know how to have their intrapreneurs think like entrepreneurs, and oftentimes you can’t do that if you work in a stand-alone office vacuum. And you can’t do that if you have been doing things in the same old ways with the same old guard in the same old office confines.

If you’re not coaching your older talent, and even your younger talent, to start learning the new, more collaborative and coworking-based ways of doing business together, then your company’s going to die off. When you fail to co-work with others, you stagnate and fall by the wayside. Collaboration is the future of innovation.”

For more business advice and insights from Daymond John, catch him on ABC’s Shark Tank.