Once-homeless John Paul Dejoria is selling his Patron stake in a $5.1 billion deal—here's his top tip for success

John Paul DeJoria.
Qin Chen | CNBC

Tuesday, billionaire co-founder of Patron Spirits International John Paul Dejoria sold his 70 percent stake in the tequila business to Bacardi Limited in a $5.1 billion deal, according to Forbes, which is expected to close in the first half of 2018.

DeJoria is now worth about $3.4 billion, though it is still unclear how the sale of Patron will impact his net worth. His wealth is thanks largely to Patron and Paul Mitchell Systems, the hair care company he co-founded, which has estimated yearly revenues of more than $1 billion.

But this billionaire is self made. There was a time when the serial entrepreneur struggled to afford a 99-cent happy hour margarita. Back then, he ordered it for the complimentary chips and salsa, which were dinner.

"The salsa was my vegetable," he tells CNBC.

As a kid growing up near Los Angeles, DeJoria would help his family make ends meet selling newspapers and Christmas cards, and later he was a door-to-door salesman, at times living out of his car.

The tree-hugging side of a tequila icon
The tree-hugging side of a tequila icon

And there were plenty of failed ventures: He hustled to sell dictating equipment, photocopy machines, life insurance and more, he says in the 2017 movie, "Good Fortune," which documents his life.

Yet DeJoria never let the failures stop him.

Be just as enthusiastic on door 101 if 100 have been closed in your face. Eventually you're going to do it.
John Paul deJoria
Co-founder of Patron Spirits International

While selling hair care products, DeJoria met Paul Mitchell in 1971, and the pair launched Paul Mitchell Systems with only $700.

"It took off," says DeJoria in the movie.

His next big success came in 1989. DeJoria's friend Martin Crowley promised to bring him back some tequila from a trip to Mexico. Instead, Crowley came back with an idea, DeJoria told Fortune. He believed the world was ready for a higher end tequila product than existed at the time in the U.S.

Patron Spirits produced 1,000 cases in its first year. Today, Patron produces, "more than three million cases of distilled spirits annually that are enjoyed around the world," Dejoria says in the Barcardi press release.

It all taught the uber successful entrepreneur one very important thing about success: Don't expect it to be easy.

"Be prepared for a lot of rejection," he tells CNBC Make It, "because you are going to get it. If you are prepared for it, it's not going to hurt you as much."

Indeed, it's all about persistence, he says. "Be just as enthusiastic on door 101 if 100 have been closed in your face. Eventually you're going to do it."

DeJoria has come a long way from those days living in his car. But he believes, "success unshared is failure," so he has also committed to philanthropy. The 73-year-old pledged to give the majority of his wealth away to charity as a member of the The Giving Pledge, a charitable campaign led by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates.

"Success is not how much money you have, success is how well you do what you do," he says.

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Patron founder's secret travel tip isn't tequila
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This is an updated version of a previously published story.