JOHN PAUL DeJORIA A True Global Citizen
by Kaya Morgan
The rags-to-riches story of John Paul DeJoria exemplifies the American Dream. Today, John Paul Mitchell Systems currently produces over 90 products sold through 90,000 hair salons across the United States and in 45 countries worldwide with annual retail sales topping $600 million.
This son of immigrant parents from Italy and Greece learned the value of hard work early in life. John Paul and his brother would get up at three in the morning to fold and deliver newspapers doing their part to help support the family while they were both still in grammar school. At a very young age, he spent time in the company of a street gang in East Los Angeles, then enrolled in the U.S. Naval Reserve while still in high school and after graduation, joined the Navy with aspirations of attending dental school. Although discharged with honors, that turned out to be not an alternative financially.
Soon thereafter, an early but brief marriage left DeJoria a single father with a young son to support. He took on an assortment of odd jobs to make ends meet everything from pumping gas, repairing bicycles and working as a janitor to honing his sales skills by selling encyclopedias, photocopying machines, dictating equipment and even life insurance.
This was a particularly trying time for DeJoria. While still in his early twenties and too proud to ask for help, he found himself homeless on more than one occasion. Those were the days of collecting Coke bottles and cans to cash them in for a few pennies at the corner drugstore to buy potatoes, rice, cereal, macaroni and cheese or canned soup. But, no matter how difficult the challenge, he managed to keep his head above water.
Eventually, his fate changed course when he was offered an entry-level marketing position with Time magazine. It didn't take long before he became the Los Angeles circulation manager. Then in 1971, he knew he'd met his calling when he accepted a position at Redken Laboratories, the leading professional hair salon product company in the U.S. at the time, on a starting salary of only $650 a month.
The real turning point came when DeJoria joined forces with his friend, Paul Mitchell, then one of American's most influential hair designers. Together they bankrolled the company on the borrowed sum of $700 to introduce their revolutionary sculpting lotions, hair setting and styling methods. Even today's well-known image of black and white packaging is the result of those early days of not being able to afford colored ink.
According to DeJoria, the company was extremely lucky to make it through that very tough first year. At one point, it consisted of no more than a post office box with an answering machine using the voice of a female friend with an English accent conveying the message that there was indeed an office out there, somewhere even if it was in the back seat of their roving road show.
DeJoria and Mitchell literally went door-to-door visiting hair salons across the country with a sales strategy that had never been used before to conduct free demonstrations that would literally guarantee to sell all of the products or they would take them back at no cost to the salons. "I have said many times that the difference between successful people and unsuccessful people is that successful people do a lot of the things that unsuccessful people don't want to do. Like when the door is slammed in your face ten times, you go on to door number eleven with just as much enthusiasm," smiles DeJoria.
The John Paul Mitchell Systems (JPMS) empire runs with the perfection of a Swiss clock. DeJoria's management philosophy is to do more with less. With no middle management, typically, an organization of their size would utilize three times the number of employees they have. However, John Paul's principal of paying more to get the top people does pay off. Of course, the extra benefits also encourage a deep loyalty among the JPMS team including providing daily lunch for all employees and reimbursement for those who carpool. Is it any wonder that during the last twenty years, only a handful of employees have ever left the company?
DeJoria feels blessed in his personal life as well. Married to the lovely and vivacious company spokesperson, Eloise, he is the father of six with four grandchildren. Their main residences are in Las Vegas, Nevada and Austin, Texas with additional homes in New York City, Rhode Island, Aspen, Colorado, two on the Big Island of Hawaii, Beverly Hills and a beach home in Malibu, California.
Enthusiastic about alternative energy sources, DeJoria is currently helping to fund the world's first environmentally-friendly oil refinery in Tunisia, transforming the demilitarized zone in Korea into an ecological preserve and has invested in solar powered automobiles. His entrepreneurial interest also continues to expand into other areas including the House of Blues nightclubs, Patron Tequila, Pyrat Rum, Solar Utility, Touchstone Natural Gas, Three Star Energy, Diamond Audio, and even a Harley Davidson dealership. On the 20-year anniversary of his homeless days, he bought a seat on the New York Stock Exchange.
Due to the millions of dollars DeJoria has donated to a variety of charitable causes, he has been a welcomed guest at the White House Conference on Philanthropy in Washington, D.C. His numerous awards for contributions made to such causes as Cancer, Autism, Diabetes, AIDS, Leukemia, Multiple Sclerosis plus a variety of inner city and children's foundations, animal rescue and ecological organizations are too numerous to mention. Recently, he saved a tribe of over 2,000 Native Americans living in the mountains near the Mexican border from certain extinction by providing food, blankets, plows and seeds.
Amazingly, DeJoria gives more than just monetary contributions, even putting himself in harms way by placing his body between the hunters and the baby harp seals on the icebergs in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, off Canada. And, he has picked up where Princess Diana left off, as a spokesperson of Mine Seekers, the organization devoted to removing land mines in war torn regions, along with Nelson Mandella, Richard Branson and Queen Noor.
To the surprise of real estate developers, DeJoria passed over many lucrative offers on the last remaining piece of prime property in Malibu that runs from the ocean to the Santa Monica Mountains bordering the national parklands, preferring instead to donate his 410 acres of Tuna Canyon as a wilderness refuge, "To all the children and adults of the world to enjoy forever."
Each year, during the Holiday Season, the U.S. Secretary of Defense visits members of the Armed Forces, accompanied by a small group of entertainers and Members of Congress. John Paul DeJoria was the first representative of the traveling party from the United States business community asked to speak to the multi-national troops, and was appointed as a Special Emissary to the United Nations Environmental Program. He has given presentations about management techniques, motivation and global thinking to a number of departments and agencies of the United States government including military and intelligence groups.
John Paul DeJoria is a caring humanitarian who believes that each of us has a responsibility every day to make the world a better place in which to live. The measure of DeJoria's success is not in the pre-eminence of his company or of the other enterprises he heads, but rather by the worldwide good he has accomplished through his continued investment of time, money and influence in human and global pursuits. Little did he know that one day he would become a billionaire of impeccable and renowned reputation.
Living by his philosophy of "Success unshared is failure," coupled with his larger-than-life charisma, it is easy to understand why success was bound to come his way. Fortune has given him the opportunity to share his rewards while continuing to challenge and inspire those around him, always keeping in mind that "Nothing in life is worth doing unless you're having fun doing it."
To find more about John Paul Mitchel Systems, go to www.jpms.com
More stories by journalist, Kaya Morgan, can be found by clicking the link. Contact us for reprint rights as most articles are available.
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