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."
More from iCONIC:
The 5 workplace myths this tech CEO busted on the way to $1 billion
The power couple that turned a passion into a $230 million retail empire
This is the No. 1 skill to live the life you want
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.
Through his foundation, he has raised millions of dollars to support more than 160 charities around the world. They include Grow Appalachia, a program that provides seed and tools to help poor families in six states throughout central Appalachia grow their own food to combat malnutrition; and Sea Shepherd, a marine wildlife conservation society that confronts illegal poaching and destruction of wildlife in the world's oceans.
This Thanksgiving he visited Mobile Loaves & Fishes' Community First Village in Austin, Texas, where they are building an innovative housing model that helps the homeless learn skills, earn income and get affordable housing.
So how did DeJoria maintain motivation and build such an expansive empire? He says there were three rules he followed on his path to success.
Throughout your career you are going to run across rejection, DeJoria points out. "You will knock on doors, and many will close on you. There will be people who don't like your product, your company — or you." It's important you realize this from the day you launch your business. "To be successful, you must remain as confident and enthusiastic on door No. 59 as you were on door No. 1." If you realize this is going to happen, the rejection won't hit you so hard. It will help you be resilient, he explains.
DeJoria is adamant: "Always remember you don't want to be in the product business. You want to be in the reorder business." As he explains, Work hard to develop a world-class product consumers want. That kind of thinking gives you a better shot at being a success.
"If a business wants to stay in business, it cannot just think of today's bottom line," says DeJoria. It must make a company commitment to help 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."
Demonstrating that point, DeJoria notes that since he started Paul Mitchell in 1980, His total employee turnover has been less than 100, and two of those workers retired.