John Paul DeJoria: From homeless single father to billionaire


John Paul DeJoria is one of the best modern examples of the ‘rags to riches’ Horatio Algeresque story as he turned his unfavourable situations into positive situations that provide inspiration for those who are seeking it.

My first job, 9 years old, part-time, was selling Christmas cards door-to-door. Ten years old, my brother and I had paper routes. We delivered a morning paper called the ‘L.A. Examiner.’ Get up at 4 o’clock, fold your papers, deliver them and get ready for school.
– John Paul DeJoria

DeJoria is a billionaire and philanthropist who is best known for being the co-founder of John Paul Mitchell Systems (JPMS) hair products company and the Patrón Spirits Company. As a young man he served in the United States Navy, and then he would move into a number of jobs after he left including selling encyclopaedias and insurance.

One of the things that have shaped DeJoria’s success was that he experienced the tragic event of coming home to find that his wife had left him with a child and literally leaving him with no recourses to look after his young family. He also learnt valuable lessons about charity and giving as a young child growing up.

Becoming homeless

The first time DeJoria became homeless he was 22 years old, he met his wife at the moment that she was leaving him while he was coming home from his job. She said that she was ‘just, going to the store’, and when DeJoria went inside he found his son on the floor and a pile of clothes with a letter from his wife saying that she was leaving him. His wife also did not pay the rent for a few months and kept the money for herself as well as their savings from the bank, so eventually John Paul would be evicted from that house, so he had to borrow a friends old Cadillac car to sleep in until he could work out how to get back on his feet again.

The next time that DeJoria would become homeless would be when he started his hair care company JPMS in 1980 when he was 34, he estimated that would need $500k to launch the company. He had the financing in place to start the company and he would leave his new wife, money and the house behind to make a fresh start with the new JPMS venture.

The backer who would be financing the new company pulled out due to global economic difficulties and DeJoria would be left with no money to fund his new business and he was again left homeless. He lived in another car and showered in a park. He would eat at buffets where there was no restriction on the amount of food that you could eat.

During DeJoria’s homeless periods he would collect bottles and garbage in exchange for money so that they could be recycled.

The launch of John Paul Mitchell Systems

To launch JPMS DeJoria would take his small loan of $700 and maximise it in order to try to build the company. He would launch the company with only two products one to wash the hair and the other to condition the hair, he would use black and white colours to keep the costs of printing and manufacturing down, he would do anything to gain credit and favourable terms from suppliers, and he would go door-to-door every single day in order to be able to sell his products to establishments that could benefit from them, he would also provide discounts for quick payments in order to increase his cash-flow and profitability. Due to the rigorous manner in which DeJoria started the company, the business was always in a good position to grow without taking on excess debt. The business is now worth over $1 billion and is owned by DeJoria and Angus Mitchell, the son of Paul Mitchell who died in 1989.

The biggest hurdle is rejection. Any business you start, be ready for it. The difference between successful people and unsuccessful people is the successful people do all the things the unsuccessful people don’t want to do. When 10 doors are slammed in your face, go to door number 11 enthusiastically, with a smile on your face.
– John Paul DeJoria

The launch of the Patrón Spirits Company

DeJoria saw the opportunity to launch a tequila company with Martin Crowley in 1989. The original Patrón Tequila was produced by Casa 7 Leguas, one of the oldest Mexican distilleries.

DeJoria has reportedly sold 70% of the company to the Bacardi group who currently are the largest privately held family-owned spirits company in the world. The price of the sale is was over $5 billion and now that level of cash has enabled DeJoria to fulfil his desire for philanthropy and making a positive change in the world.

The John Paul DeJoria story


John Paul’s 3 rules for success

Rule No. 1: Always be prepared for rejection.

DeJoria went door-to-door in order to build his business. He was doing this while he was homeless and had to face rejection on a daily basis. He also had the experience of his first wife leaving him without warning.

The fear of rejection is arguably the most devastating of all fears because it is related to our psychological need for love and acceptance that we had as babies.

A person who can overcome this fear is in a wonderful position to achieve things that most others will only dream of.

Rule No. 2: Make sure your product or service is the best it can be.

When DeJoria launched JPMS he teamed up with one of the best hairstylists around Paul Mitchell in order to make sure that they would create the best possible products for their customers. Even though they only started with $700 they made sure that the product was the best that it could possibly be.

The same principle applied for the Patrón Spirits Company and this led to the company being acquired for over $5 billion.

The best product or service is no guarantee for success, however it is an important piece of the success puzzle.

Rule No. 3: Doing good is good for you — and your business.

When DeJoria was 6 years old he gave a guy some change due to the influence of his mother, and he learnt that day that there is always someone who is less fortunate than you are.

Some remain sceptical about philanthropy and see it ‘PR’ or ‘attention seeking’ and it is difficult to know if an entrepreneurs motives are genuine or not.

Whether this is true, the fact is that there are those who benefit who would not have access to those resources and opportunities otherwise.

Also the fact that DeJoria has experienced hardships means that he has empathy for other people that many others do not see.

“I’ll never retire. I like what I’m doing.”

– John Paul DeJoria

Entrepreneur: John Paul DeJoria

Follow John Paul on Twitter

John Paul DeJoria’s companies

Patron tequila
John Paul Mitchell Systems
Channel: CNBC
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