Choose Beauty: An Interview with Paul Mitchell Co-Founder John Paul DeJoria
Currently reading: I picked up a book that my wife was reading called “Wishes Fulfilled: Mastering the Art of Manifesting” by Dr. Wayne Dyer. I read the first few pages and just kept reading. Before this, I read “The Patrón Way: From Fantasy to Fortune - Lessons on Taking Any Business from Idea to Iconic Brand” by Ilanna Edelstein. It’s the story behind the Patrón brand.
Industry icons: Well, of course, the one and only Paul Mitchell. And today, I would say our Global Artistic Director at Paul Mitchell, Robert Cromeans. He is a salon owner, an educator, an artist and I have learned so much from him.
Personal icon: Nelson Mandela. He was a great fellow and a good friend. We worked together on things that mattered to both of us---eliminating land mines, combatting pediatric HIV/AIDS and HIV/AIDS, in general.
Best business decision you ever made: To enter the professional beauty industry. When we were starting up, our backer pulled out but we made the decision to go ahead. We had no staff members but Jean Braa agreed to work with us. Sticking with it was my best decision.
Best personal advice you were ever given: This came from a fellow, Bill McKowen, in 1972 when I was working as a consultant, and he told me to try and eliminate these words from my vocabulary: I, me, mine.
Best thing about being in beauty: I really like the people in the professional beauty industry—the students, the hairstylists, the salon owners. They are some of the most exciting and creative people you will ever meet. I love what it’s all about, that every single person’s job is to make people look and feel better. That’s why, of my different businesses, I spend most of my time on the beauty side, especially in the schools, which I really love. We’re working on a program, right now, about how to incorporate healing touch and energy into the services.
And the second thing I love so much about the beauty business is that this was my first baby. Because of Paul Mitchell, I was able to start committing to causes and charities I cared about, and to start other businesses.
It’s nearly impossible to tell his story without using the phrase “self-made man.” John Paul DeJoria, the co-founder and chief executive of John Paul Mitchell Systems, saw opportunity in obstacles and never let them define him. Co-founder of Patrón Spirits International, and many other very successful ventures including recently launched ROK Mobile, DeJoria has been well-known and respected in the salon industry for years, and today, through his television appearances including CNBC’s, “Shark Tank,” a wider audience has come to know this business man, industry leader and committed philanthropist whose motto is “success unshared is failure.”
DeJoria was born in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, a low-income, hardscrabble area at the time, populated by new immigrants to the city and their families. As a young entrepreneur, he made decorative boxes in the wood shop of the neighborhood boy’s club at a cost of twenty-five cents and sold them for fifty cents. This early business savvy served him well; today, he is on the Forbes List of World Billionaires.
After a stint in the navy and a variety of jobs, when DeJoria entered the salon industry, he was sometimes asked to leave, despite his undeniable sales success. He was fired from Redken where he was the national manager of chain salons and the school division. “Even though both divisions grew under my leadership, every year, they said I wasn’t their type of manager, that I cared more about my staff than I did about the company welfare,” says DeJoria. “When my people would be on the road for a couple of weeks, I would bring them home but I was told not to, that it would save the company money if I left them out there. I said, no, they are missing their families, it’s not fair to them and, well, we split ways.” Five years after he started JPMS, leaders from Redken came to visit to find out how he was running the company with so few people and growing so quickly.
He was also fired from Fermodyl (“I trained their sales and education force and they went from eight to 12 million a year but they said I wasn’t one of them because I didn’t hang out with them on the weekends”) and from the Institute of Trichology, where he tripled their sales and, working on commission, was making more than the owners.
“I didn’t realize this until I started JPMS but if it wasn’t for those three firings, I wouldn’t have had the knowledge to start a company with only $700,” says DeJoria. “I knew I had done a good job for each of the places and that I got something from each of them—understanding of manufacturing, distribution, chain salons and schools and just generally how the industry worked. Fate made me move on. There’s a saying I like: ‘In the end, everything will be ok. And, if it’s not ok, it’s not the end.’”
In 1980, DeJoria and hairstylist Paul Mitchell combined their strengths to launch a brand that is the largest privately-held salon hair care line, found in over 100 countries. Their vision was to provide tools of success for hair care professionals, their salons and the entire beauty industry. DeJoria owns a majority of Paul Mitchell and he has made plans for its future. “Eleven years ago, I put the company in a 360 year trust. If anything ever happens to me, no one can take Paul Mitchell liquid hair care products out of the professional beauty industry. If you buy John Paul Mitchell at any place other than the professional beauty industry, we didn’t put it there.”