A journey from homelessness to Billions – The story of John Paul DeJoria

This article will be talking about Self-Made American Entrepreneur, Billionaire, Co-Founder of Paul Mitchell line of hair products, and Founder of The Patrón Spirits Company, John Paul DeJoria.

Some facts about John Paul DeJoria:

Stressful life experiences and difficult backgrounds have helped shape some of the most influential and successful people we know today. One of those people is John Paul DeJoria, who rose from homelessness to becoming a Billionaire.

His Story

Growing up, John Paul DeJoria had a lifestyle of “having nothing but appreciating everything.” which made him very innovative, right from the start. He was raised by his single mother in Los Angeles and was later shifted to Foster Care when she could no longer provide adequate care for him. At one point in his life, he was even living in his car while struggling to just survive each day. But even in the lowest of situations, DeJoria never gave up. 

In an interview with NBC News, he said, “The only way I could go was up.”

At just 9 years of age, John started selling Christmas Cards and newspapers with his older brother to support his family in some way.

As a directionless teen in High School, he even became a street gang member but decided to change his ways when one of his high school teachers told him that he would never succeed in life unless he gives up the dark life.

After High School, DeJoria spent two years serving on the USS Hornet in the United States Navy. When he tried to get into college but didn’t have any funds, he decided to make some money by selling encyclopedias, working as a janitor, and pumping gasoline at a local gas station.

3.5 years of Encyclopedias

John Paul DeJoria was a door-to-door encyclopedia salesman for 3.5 years. He was getting paid in commissions only and was given no leads to work with during this job, but he never gave up. It was during his time as a salesman that DeJoria was able to assess how people really think.

“After my first sale, I must have knocked on over 100 doors, and they were all closed to my face. Be prepared for a lot of rejection. Be just as enthusiastic on door no. 101 as you were on the first door. Don’t give up.”

– John Paul DeJoria, in an interview with Entrepreneur.

Kicked out of his home

DeJoria became homeless for the first time when he was in his early 20s. He had arrived at his apartment and found his 2.5-year-old sitting on the floor with a note. The note was from his wife, who has decided to leave him and said, “Can’t handle being a mom anymore. He’ll be better off with you. Goodbye.”

His wife also hadn’t paid any of the bills on the apartment for the past 3 months and had left with the small amount of money that they had saved up. He was then kicked out of the apartment with his son. Even then, DeJoria says, “When you’re this down south, there’s no way to go but up.” Through this resilience, grit, and stubbornness, he was able to climb his way out of poverty and towards the immense success that he has today.

Hundreds to Billions

DeJoria entered the world of Hair Care as an entry-level employee for Redken Laboratories. He was later fired from this position. He also worked as a door-to-door salesman for a while. 

DeJoria’s good friend Paul Mitchell was a top hairdresser at the time. While Mitchell’s hair care products were getting sold out reasonably nicely, he could not get any reorders. So, DeJoria approached him to combine his Business and Sales skills with Mitchell’s Knowledge of the Hair Care World and to start their own company. At the start, they had even managed to get an investor who wanted to give them $500,000 to start their business, but he never showed up.

Even then, DeJoria said, “That’s not gonna get me down.” He and Paul Mitchell combined whatever savings they had and came up with $700, and that is how John Paul Mitchell Systems was born with 3 hair care products, “Shampoo 1”, “Shampoo 2”, and “The Conditioner.”

Survival of the Fittest

DeJoria and Mitchell’s initial vision when they started John Paul Mitchell Systems was simple – Survival. They just wanted to survive and have enough money to have roofs over their heads and food to eat. But they knew what they had was good, so they never gave up. DeJoria and Mitchell went knocking on the doors of all the salons they could find demonstrating their products, and they didn’t stop until they could get somebody to buy their products. Back then, they were one of the first to offer a Money Back Guarantee on their products.

John Paul Mitchell Systems was also one of the first companies ever to publicly speak out against animal testing, which they are very proud of. All of their products were cruelty-free and still are.

We made it

After so many years, DeJoria can still pinpoint exactly when he and Mitchell knew that they had finally made it. It was when the company was two years old, and all of their bills were paid off on time, and they still had $2000 leftover in each of their bank accounts. They had no idea how big John Paul Mitchell Systems would grow.

On the rise

After JPMS became such a huge success, DeJoria co-founded The Patrón Spirits Company with Martin Crowley. Patrón tequila is made in Mexico in a sustainable distilling facility that uses recycled bottles and leftover distilled water to fertilize the land. More than 2 million cases of Patrón Tequila are sold each year. 

John Paul DeJoria is also the founder of a dozen other businesses.

DeJoria’s Accomplishments

DeJoria is a philanthropist. He has signed a ‘Giving Pledge’ along with 150 billionaires to donate 50% of his earnings to improve the world.

He supports over 160 charities worldwide.

Even though he is in his 70s, he still works hard and gives back as much as possible.

He is a founding partner of the House of Blues nightclub chain. 

DeJoria also has interests in companies like Madagascar Oil Ltd., Solar Utility, Sun King Solar, Ultimat Vodka, Pyrat Rum, Smokey Mountain Bison Farm LLC, Touchstone Natural Gas, and many other ventures. He is also active in the film industry as an executive producer.

You can also buy his book, From the Backseat to Billionaire here.

Lessons to learn from John Paul DeJoria

Get used to Rejection – 

Throughout your career, you will run across rejection countless times. You will knock on doors, and the majority of them will be closed on your face. There will be people who don’t like your product, your company — or you. But it’s important to realize that to be successful, you must remain as confident and enthusiastic on door No. 101 as you were on door No. 1. If you recognize this is going to happen, the rejection won’t hit you so hard. It will help you be resilient and stay motivated.

Always Strive to be the Best – 

DeJoria says: “Always remember you don’t want to be in the product business. You want to be in the reorder business.” So, work hard to develop a world-class product that consumers buy not just once but again and again. That kind of thinking and approach towards your business and products definitely gives you an extra edge and a better chance of success.

Always give back to the community – 

“If a business wants to stay in business, it cannot just think of today’s bottom line,” says DeJoria. A company must be committed to helping others immediately. “By helping others, you are creating future customers and inspiring employee loyalty,” he explains. “Customers like to be involved with people and businesses that donate their time to help others, save the planet, and make a difference.”

Don’t dwell on the past – 

Letting your past mistakes or background define what you are capable of can limit your prospects. DeJoria said he always focuses on his future. “When you’re down, most people think about the past and what got them there. That’s not going to get you anywhere. Think about what your next step is. Don’t dwell in the past—go forward,” he said.

“The second thing is that the big difference between successful people and unsuccessful people is that successful people do all the things unsuccessful people don’t want to do. Whatever business you’re in, make sure your product’s quality is so good that people will want to reorder or do business with you again. This way, you have sustainability, even though you may not have any money for advertising.”

– John Paul DeJoria

In the end, DeJoria’s journey from a being homeless and living out of his car to a business mogul and billionaire teaches us what’s possible when we have grit and stubbornness and that even the worst of hands can be turned into a Royal Flush if you just refuse to give up.

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