John Paul DeJoria... From Homeless To Billionaire
Jim Bates | On 06, Nov 2013
From Homeless to Billionaire Philanthropist… the John Paul DeJoria Story
There is no doubt that at some point in most of our lives we have used at least one Paul Mitchell hair care product. It is almost equally likely that a great many of us have had few shots of Patron over the years. With the massive success of both of these companies, it’s pretty easy to understand how John Paul DeJoria became one of the wealthiest businessmen on the planet. What may be harder for many to understand however is how John Paul accomplished these great successes coming from a position of being homeless, at least twice… the last being during the early stages of when he and his partner were launching Paul Mitchell Systems.
John Paul’s story –
DeJoria grew up in Central Los Angeles in an immigrant-rich area called Echo Park where he and his mother and brother lived in a small bungalow. At the age of 9 he was already showing signs of being an entrepreneur, selling Christmas cards door to door for pocket money. At the age of 10 he and his brother had moved up to paper routes selling the LA Examiner. Even at this early age he was disciplined enough to get up at 4:00 every morning in order to get the papers delivered in time to get ready to go to school. His parents were immigrants of Italian and Greek descent but had parted ways when John Paul was only two so most of the money he and his brother earned went to supporting their mother and themselves.
Through his teen years, John Paul would take on odd jobs and at one point he found himself selling Collier’s Encyclopedias door-to-door. According to DeJoria, it was one job that prepared him for the hard work that he would eventually find himself doing when he started Paul Mitchell Systems. “Tough job… you’re just cold calling. Doors slam literally in your face… maybe 30 – 40 doors before the first customer will actually talk to you and let you in” he recalls.
While in high school John Paul enrolled in the U.S. Naval Reserve Program and went on to enlist in the NAVY shortly after graduating at 17. His plan was to go to dental school after he got out of the NAVY. Perhaps all not that unfortunately, all things considered and hind-sight being 20/20, when that time came, he didn’t have the money to pursue that dream.
Homelessness & the tougher years –
It wasn’t very long afterward that John Paul would find himself homeless. He was 22 at the time and had a two year old son from what turned out to be a brief marriage. As he tells it, one day his wife decided she didn’t want to be a mother anymore and decided to leave him and their son. On her way out she took what little money they had at the time. Rent was due, bills were behind and within a matter of a couple of weeks he found himself on the streets. His spent his days hustling around, collecting Coke bottles and selling them for a nickel a piece and doing whatever he could to survive. Luckily within a couple of weeks a biker friend took him in and gave him a place to stay.
Over the next decade he found himself getting by any way he could… whether it was pumping gas, working as a janitor, selling life insurance or at one point taking a job as an entry-level marketing rep with TIME magazine, he kept plugging along.
Then, in the early 70s, he landed a job at Redken Laboratories which is where he got his first taste of the hair care products industry. At that time, Redken was the leading salon grade hair care products manufacturer in the United States. John Paul stayed at Redken long enough to realize how profitable the hair care products industry was and realized he could make a product using natural ingredients that would be just as good or better than what Redken was offering.
Meet Paul Mitchell –
Fast forward to 1980 and we find DeJoria in the middle of another bout of homelessness… luckily this would be his last. Around this time he formed a partnership with a friend and well-known hair designer, Paul Mitchell. With $700 they started Paul Mitchell Systems and spent the next year or so going door to door doing live product demonstrations in local salons.
As they would make money from their sales they would venture into more and more markets eventually taking their traveling road show all across the country visiting 1,000s of salons. As John Paul tells it, for the first two years there wasn’t a week that went by where they shouldn’t have folded shop and filed for bankruptcy… it was a very hard fought uphill battle. One little known fact about the coloring of their product logo is the reason it is in black and white was because they didn’t have the money for colored ink. They realized that the look, which initially in their minds seemed generic, turned out to be unique in the eyes of their clients and to this day remains the globally recognized calling card of the brand. Of course as the old saying goes, the rest is history. Paul Mitchell Systems now has over 90 products that are sold internationally in over 80 countries and boast annual sales in excess of one billion dollars.
Over the ensuing years John Paul has started over 17 successful businesses ranging from night clubs and bike manufacturing to solar and natural gas companies and perhaps near or at the top of the list and what many would consider to be his crown jewel, the Patron Tequila company.
DeJoria started Patron with a friend, Martin Crowley, in 1989. Not long before that, John Paul asked Crowley to bring back some bottles of the best tequila he could find when returning from one of his trips back from Mexico. At that time, Crowley was making periodic runs there to buy stone pavers & furniture which he would bring back to California and sell to builders and decorators.
Martin obviously outdid himself as he returned with the smoothest tequila either of them had ever tried and in hand-blown glass bottles to boot. To this day, Patron is sold in bottles that were modeled after the very ones Crowley brought back with him.
After refining the tequila further to achieve an even smoother taste, they launched the Patron brand. Today Patron is the #1 selling top-shelf tequila in the world and is second only to the Jose’ Cuervo line in total annual sales. Even Dan Akroyd decided to join the party… he is responsible for Patron’s penetration into the Canadian marketplace.
These days DeJoria spends a lot of his time with his family as well as organizing and participating in multiple philanthropic ventures and activities. He is married to Eloise – the spokesperson for Paul Mitchell Systems – and has six children and four grandchildren. He has homes all over the world and somewhere in the neighborhood of nine or ten here in the United States. Perhaps a bit excessive by almost any standard but considering what all he has given and continues to give to charitable and humanitarian causes, I’ll have to give him a pass on these seemingly extravagant indulgences!
Due to the amount of money he has donated towards cancer, autism, diabetes, leukemia and multiple sclerosis research – just to name a few – DeJoria has been invited to speak on multiple occasions at the White House Conference on Philanthropy. He is also involved in and sponsors many inner city crisis centers, homeless shelters and youth outreach programs as well as becoming an evangelist for the removal of land mines in war torn nations and many other humanitarian causes.
One of his most recent endeavors is the Grow Appalachia project. He has assembled a team of agriculturists who are helping rural families in four states to grow food for their small communities. By providing funding and technical assistance, hundreds of farm sized gardens have been created which have produced over 600,000 pounds of healthy and nutritious food that have fed thousands of families throughout this region.
John Paul Dejoria has come a very long way, both financial and personally. He has reached a stage in life where he measures himself not by the eminence of his companies but rather by the impact he is making on the lives he touches through his giving.
The way I see it, DeJoria is a true winner and someone I think a lot of us could take a few pointers from.
Thanks for reading and have an awesome day… if you get a chance to help make someone else’s day awesome don’t even think about it… JUST DO IT!
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