Being grateful for who you are and where you are in life, especially when you know that others might not be as fortunate as you, brings inner peace while you continue on the relentless journey to success. For this man, John Paul Dejoria, it was a lesson taught by his mother and an experience he first-hand lived. A circumstance individual to him and that may manifest differently for others. For us here on our Selfmade journey, overcoming the challenges that arise is what we enjoy most..
Many of you may not recognize John Paul Dejoria by name, but you’re sure to be familiar with his two multi-billion dollar brands, Paul Mitchell hair care and Patron tequila. Today, he is one of the richest men in the world. But you would never know that as a child, he was placed in foster care. And he was homeless not just once- but twice in his life before building multiple billion-dollar brands. John Paul Dejoria currently has a net worth of $2.7 billion.
The story of John Paul Dejoria’s life is one of perseverance and gratitude. Even in the worst circumstances, he always found something to be grateful for. Here at Selfmade, we are all about overcoming adversity. Dejoria is a fantastic example of how you can be at rock bottom and always find a way to bring yourself back up again. So long as you remember to have gratitude along every step of the journey, you’re guaranteed to succeed in the end.
Grateful For The Things Most People Take For Granted
John Paul DeJoria was born in 1944 and grew up in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. His parents had both immigrated to the United States from Greece and Italy. By the time he was two years old, his father had abandoned the family. His mother was left to raise them on her own. His mother struggled with money but always taught her boys to be generous with others. It was a lesson that there are always people worse off than you and that you should have gratitude for what you have. Eventually, his mother’s financial struggle was so bad, John and his brother were placed in a foster home. When he was nine years old, she was finally financially stable enough to get them back.
When he was young, the idea of having any job was exciting because he was eager to bring in money to help alleviate the financial burden from his mother. As a teenager, John began working part-time as a janitor. His boss noticed that he did a great job. Most of his co-workers were only cleaning when the boss was around, and they slacked off the rest of the time. Because of this, John got a raise of $1.50 per hour. This event had a significant impact on him. He realized that no matter what kind of job you may have, you need to go above and beyond if you want to succeed. After graduating from High School, John served two years in the navy. In his early 20’s, he found a job as a door-to-door salesman. Then, he got married to a beautiful woman named Bella, and they had a baby.
From the outside, they looked like any quintessential all-American family of the 1960s. However, being a door-to-door encyclopedia salesman was never easy. He worked purely on commission. This was incredibly difficult, but John says that this job taught him everything about being a successful businessman. It didn’t matter if he had doors slammed in his face. He had to keep going to put food on his table for his family. There was no such thing as giving up. Unfortunately, he lost that job. The only work he could find was on the weekends, as an announcer at a local race track.
Be prepared for a lot of rejection. Be just as enthusiastic on door 101 as you were on the first door. Don’t give up.”-John Paul DeJoria
One day, John came home from work. His wife ran down the stairs, asking to borrow the keys to the car. By the time he walked upstairs to the front door of his apartment, he had found his 2-year-old son sitting in a laundry basket full of clothes outside his front door. He was locked out of the apartment because they had been evicted. In the basket was a note from his wife that said, “I can’t handle being a mom anymore. He’ll be better off with you. Goodbye.”
John had trusted his wife to pay all of the bills and handle the bank account. This wasn’t uncommon for housewives to do back then. He had no idea that his wife wasn’t paying any of their bills for three months. To make matters worse, she also cleared out all of their savings in the bank account and disappeared. In an instant, John Paul Dejoria became a homeless single father who was strapped down with debt. Since his wife had taken the car, he and his son were homeless, without even a car to sleep in.
In an interview, John called this “the stupidest time in his life” because he should have told his mother what happened and gone back to live in his childhood bedroom. But he felt too proud to ask for help. Thankfully, he had a friend who was willing to take him in. This friend was a part of a biker gang. Even though most people are scared of bikers, John was embraced by them because they take care of one another like family.
The Haircut that Led to an Opportunity
He eventually found an entry-level job at Redken Laboratories. While he was there, he learned how the shampoo business worked. But after working there for five years, he was fired. It was 1980, and John was 36 years old. Since he had lost his job, he was struggling financially and became homeless again. Only this time, he was lucky enough to be living in his car and to have a friend who was willing to look after his son.
Back then, grocery stores gave a few cents per bottle that you brought back to recycle. So John was able to afford to feed himself by collecting glass bottles on the street. This made only $2 to $5 per day, but he found diners and bars that sold cheap meals during breakfast and happy hour. The local park had public showers, so he was able to keep himself clean while looking for jobs. During an interview, he said this second time he was homeless was “easy” compared to the first.
During this time, John was looking everywhere for an opportunity to make money. He got his hair cut by a hairdresser named Paul Mitchell. Paul created his own shampoo and conditioner formula and sold them in plain bottles in this salon. Every week, those products would sell out completely. When John found out about this, he immediately realized the potential. Since he worked at the Redken lab, he already had experience in the industry. Both of them were excited by the prospect of building a business together. However, Paul only had $350 in his bank account. John was still homeless and flat broke. This time he was smart enough to ask his mom for help. He asked to borrow $350 to match the investment and become 50/50 partners in Paul Mitchell hair care.
Don’t believe people when they tell you that you’re going to fail. Do it. Prove them wrong.”-John Paul Dejoria
After buying the supplies, Paul whipped together larger quantities of the hair products. Instead of paying for expensive logos and colors, they had to go with a very plain black type on the bottles because that’s all they could afford. Somehow, this made the product look very chic, rather than cheap. Once they had the product in hand, John went to work showing up at every salon in Los Angeles.
His entire life was leading up to this moment. The years he spent as a door-to-door salesman gave him the skills necessary to sell this product. Working at RedKen gave him the expertise on haircare. The time he spent working as a janitor taught him to do his best, no matter what the job entailed. After two years of just barely making ends meet, John felt like they finally “made it”. He wasn’t homeless anymore. Both he and Paul were finally able to pay their bills on time, and each had $2,000 in their savings account. To John, this sense of stability was his definition of success. He was overwhelmed with gratitude and already felt rich. But he had no idea how much more the company would grow from there.
The Billion-Dollar Sale
In 1989, Paul Mitchell haircare was in business for 9 years, and it was doing far better than John Paul Dejoria ever expected. So when his friend Martin Crowley went to Mexico and found some of the best-tasting tequila he ever had in his life, he decided to invest in co-founding a tequila brand called Patron. At the time, tequila bottles were only $5, with the most expensive being $15. But he wanted to demand a higher price since he was confident that it was the best tasting tequila on the market. They put a $39 price tag on each bottle. Distributors and people who worked with John said this was crazy. While everyone agreed that this was the best tequila they ever tasted, they thought no one would ever buy something so expensive.
Success unshared is failure.”-John Paul Dejoria
In 2018, Patron Spirits International was purchased by Bacardi for $5.1 billion. John is still one of Paul Mitchell’s co-owners, which is currently estimated to be worth $3 billion. For a man who once lived on just a few dollars a day, this amount of money must be unfathomable.
Now that he is successful, John Paul DeJoria has carried on the lesson his mother taught him as a child about giving back. He signed The Giving Pledge and Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, which promised to give away half of their wealth to better humanity. Now, he gives to 165 different charities, including the American food banks called Loaves & Fishes, Food4Africa, Grow Appalachia, and so many more.
Here at Selfmade, we chose to focus on gratitude. Instead of seeing obstacles in our way, we appreciate and welcome them as a part of the journey to success. Embracing a mindset of gratitude and abundance puts us in a place where our flourishing creativity can turn into amazing things.