It's not often that a homeless person living out of his car can dramatically alter his circumstances and become a billionaire. But John Paul DeJoria — co-founder of hair-care company John Paul Mitchell Systems and high-end Patrón Spirits — did just that. The 73-year-old now has a net worth of $3.1 billion, according to Forbes. His climb out of poverty reads like a tale from a Charles Dickens' novel.
The onetime door-to-door shampoo and encyclopedia salesman partnered with Paul Mitchell in 1980, and the two turned $700 into one of the most profitable hair-care companies in the world. Not too long after their company took off, Mitchell died of cancer and DeJoria took over. Today the company generates $1 billion in annual revenues. His tequila company is also a megahit. Patrón tequila is made in Mexico in a sustainable distilling facility that uses recycled bottles and leftover distilled water to fertilize the land. Now more than 2 million cases are sold each year.
But DeJoria doesn't measure his success in terms of dollars and cents. For the iconic entrepreneur it's not about money and power. As he sums it up: "I have been so down and out in my life. It makes me feel really good to be financially blessed and give back. I get great joy and a great high out of it. It's my way of paying rent on this planet to share with others less fortunate."
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The billionaire remembers giving a dime to the Salvation Army when he was six years old and living in Los Angeles. His mom told him, 'You may be poor, but there are so many people less fortunate than you, and every little bit helps.'
"Those words have always stuck with me," DeJoria recalls.
That philanthropic passion led DeJoria to sign Bill Gates and Warren Buffett's "The Giving Pledge" in 2011 to give half of his earnings to better the world. In addition, he established JP's Peace Love & Happiness Foundation as a hub for his charitable donations to causes that reflect the core values of his companies: saving the environment, helping the poor and protecting animal rights.