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Keynote Session features Daymond John and passing of the gavel

By Stephen Elliott

February 14, 2023

On Monday, Feb. 13, attendees of The ARA Show™ 2023 had the opportunity to attend a high-energy Keynote Session featuring leaders in the equipment and event rental industry and a star of ABC’s “Shark Tank.”

Doron Broadfoot — the newest inductee into the Rental Hall of Fame from The Rent-It Store, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada — also was in attendance. He was unable to attend Sunday’s Hall of Fame induction due to flight issues. Instead, he was honored during the Keynote Session.

“It may have my name on it, but certainly, it’s not all about me. It’s about a great rental community that comes together, you know when something needs to get done, it gets done. I’ve enjoyed 50 years of having fun in this business and everybody else seems to get hard at work and get things done, and I seem to get the accolades. Seems like a pretty good deal to me,” Broadfoot says.

“I must thank so many people from that great rental guy at the big rental counter up above, to my wife and family, my father who introduced me to this industry so many years ago, the great business partners that I have, one of which is my son, Mike, and two other partners who are here today, to the many mentors who helped guide me along the way from Carl Newman to Linda Jones, Dave Wilcox, Nancy Marshall, Frank Murray and so many others, and the great BAG group I’ve been fortunate to be involved with all these years,” he adds.

Tony Conant, American Rental Association (ARA) CEO, then addressed the crowd and shared the accomplishments ARA has achieved to help build a stronger equipment and event rental community. He thanked ARA members for their help and input, saying that without it, “none of these things are possible.”

Scott Irwin, Delux Rental, Ypsilanti, Mich., who becomes ARA chair at the conclusion of the show, reflected on his time as ARA president.

“I love the rental industry and the association is made up of people who really love what they do, care about people and care about each other. That’s the truth of it. The American Rental Association has a family approach to problem solving and has a family approach to business. It’s the love of the industry that got me started, but it’s the family approach that got me to stay,” Irwin says.

He then passed the gavel to ARA’s 61st president, Steve Mau, Brainerd General Rental, Brainerd, Minn.

Mau talked about the important of awareness of the rental industry and engagement from ARA members.

“When you ask someone about the rental industry, do they think of cars or houses, or do they think of their next big event or construction project? If the public knows who we are and the role that we play in our communities, customers and employees will follow. We need to tell our story,” he says.

“We are responsible for the success of the industry. No one else. Your engagement means utilizing the tools available through ARA to train your staff, implementing new technology to improve the way your business performs and connecting with ARAPAC [ARA’s political action committee] to advocate for issues that affect our industry. Showing up and being accountable for the success of our industry is an action item each of us can take on. This industry is the best in the world because of you,” Mau says.

Next, it was time for Daymond John, CEO and founder of FUBU, a global lifestyle brand, to take the stage. He spoke of persistence and working through adversity to achieve goals during his Keynote Session presentation.

John is a star of ABC’s “Shark Tank” and more. The show has won five Emmy® awards in the U.S. and has millions of weekly viewers worldwide. 

As the CEO and founder of FUBU, John has made more than $6 billion in product sales worldwide. He also is an award-winning entrepreneur who has received hundreds of awards including the Brand Week Marketer of the Year, Advertising Age Marketing 1000 Award for Outstanding Ad Campaign, Ernst & Young’s New York Entrepreneur of the Year Award and, most recently, was named #2 on LinkedIn’s Top 20 Voices, a list of the top influencers, who are using their voice to help us analyze today’s changing world of work, navigate our industries and find balance through an unprecedented year.  

John also is a highly successful author, but his phenomenal success did not come without its ups and downs and an inner drive to make for a better life. 

John spoke about growing up in Queens, N.Y., and finding his path despite obstacles. His parents divorced when he was young, and his mother worked three jobs to try and pay the bills. To help his mother, John took a job handing out flyers outside a local mall, a place that would play a major role in his later success. 

John saw first-hand the work of small-business owners. 

“Everything was on the line for them,” John says. “These are fascinating people.” 

Meanwhile, John was into the music scene of the mid- to late-80s, and he enjoyed hip-hop music. He watched upcoming artists perform at local venues, such as outdoor parks and eventually a local theatre in 1986. 

John used their music in his presentation and referred to some of the hip-hop artists. Attending music events back in the 80s, he noticed fans and audience members wearing particular clothing brands, many holding up those brands in the air as the artists performed. 

His entrepreneurial dreams started.  

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do in my life, but it was at that given moment that I stood there with that audience, my life turned from black and white into technicolor,” he says. “And, I understood one thing and one thing only. It’s my Shark point number one. I had to set a goal. Simple, isn’t it? I had to set a goal. You become what you think about most of the time, but if you’re not in charge of setting goals for yourself, you will let other people set goals for you.”

He came up with the name FUBU. He initially started selling hats in 1989 outside the mall where he once worked, using the created FUBU name on hats. He made $800 selling hats with the name on the cap.  

He grinded it out, calling up other music artists, asking them to pose for a picture or attempt to endorse his burgeoning brand on a cap or a sweatshirt. He went to dozens of banks seeking financing. 

He was turned down more often than he succeeded, but John would not be deterred. He saw a bigger picture.  

Hip hop was an emerging market and John strove to make his brand name identifiable with that music genre and beyond. Events continued to build. 

He and some of his collaborators attended a trade show in Las Vegas and took in hundreds of thousands of dollars in orders for clothing. But, the challenge now was to meet those orders. 

Soon, he was working out of his house back in New York, hiring seamstresses, buying sewing machines and materials. His mother took out a $100,000 loan on her house to help with financing. She put an ad in a local newspaper seeking investors. One of the investors, a major corporation, was interested. 

John agreed to sell $5 million in clothes with the FUBU brand in three years as part of his negotiation. Instead, he did $300 million in four months. Success after success followed.

Another of his Shark points was to know yourself. 

“Remember, you are the brand. You personally are the brand. If you don’t know what your own two to five words are, well then, you will leave it up to us to interpret,” John says.  

John also spoke of his other Shark Tank members and how the show has had an impact on both businesses and people. He spoke about family and staying connected, and not to lose sight of your loved ones. John finally confided of his personal battle in overcoming cancer in 2017, reminding audience members life is too short. He told them to take care of their health. 

“You’ve got to keep swimming,” John says. 

John’s experience with marketing strategies and building successful brands has made him a highly influential consultant and motivational speaker. Audience members appreciated his presentation.

Cleveland Gervais, CERP, Gervais Party & Tent Rental, Scarborough, Canada, says he admired John’s tenacity and never giving up. 

“Don’t quit. Keep grinding,” Gervais says. “He didn’t have what he has now. He did it out of his living room. That’s phenomenal.” 

 Bart Schott, Arentco Rental, Lewisville, Texas, said he thought John’s presentation went well. 

“He’s definitely motivated and an entrepreneur,” Schott says. “He started at a young age and he believed in himself.” 

The keynote session was sponsored by ARA Insurance. The trade show floor opened immediately after the session.