Jul 21, 2018

Role Models: John Paul DeJoria

By: Russ Zalatimo

Role Models is a series dedicated to those individuals who are pushing their passions forward in the world of business and beyond. From well-known figures to everyday success stories, we will highlight their achievements as we work to inspire our everyday lives.


When it comes to the career of entrepreneur John Paul DeJoria, persistence is key, as he’s led a number of diverse companies while consistently defying all odds. However, the Los Angeles bred self-made billionaire didn’t start on the right side of the tracks. The product of Greek and Italian immigrant parents, DeJoria was involved in a street gang as a young man, though opted out of that life early on. His former wife left DeJoria and his two-year-old son shortly before they became homeless, as DeJoria would endure many ups and downs on the road to the top.


A brief stint in the military led to a series of odd jobs before he joined Redken Laboratories, but after being terminated he joined forces with Paul Mitchell to create John Paul Mitchell Systems in 1980. At the time, DeJoria only had a few hundred dollars and was living out of his car. John Paul Mitchell Systems went on to become a backbone of hair care, and by 1989 DeJoria expanded his business reach by co-founding Patrón Spirits Company. From there he would collect many companies under his belt—some on brand (i.e. his interests in Pyrat Rum and Ultimat Vodka) and others being a leap of faith, including the John Paul Pet Company for animal hair/fur care. He also has interests in a variety of environmental companies like Solar Utility, Three Star Energy, Touchstone Natural Gas, and Sun King Solar among others. While DeJoria has an impressive portfolio, he makes no qualms about priorities in his business. “I make the majority of my money from Patrón,” he once said, “but my passion is with Paul Mitchell: I spend 85% of my time on it.”


There’s a very valuable lesson to be learned by the moves of John Paul DeJoria. While it’s ideal to have a number of companies working for you—by way of vested interests and partnerships—there’s a necessity in having focus. For DeJoria, Paul Mitchell is his focus; his cash cow (Patrón) is well oiled and flourishing. Yet while Paul Mitchell has also seen big wins, it’s clear where DeJoria’s self-admitted passions lie. Here’s another DeJoria quote to keep in mind: “Pay attention to the vital few and ignore the trivial many.” Once again, it’s a testament to his focus. As entrepreneurs, you’ll be faced with a number of challenges: in DeJoria’s case they erred on severe at times, though you may have your own war stories to share.


The goal is to understand your destination and tailor your journey accordingly. Sometimes wrenches will be thrown in plans, sometimes money will be lost, sometimes you’ll lose direction. But in the end what matters is where your mind is fixed and how to keep it there. Just ask a billionaire.

Author Profile

R M Zalatimo
R M Zalatimo
Inspire. Empower. Transform. Those are the words that NYC Wealth Innovator, Russ Zalatimo, lives by. From tips on leadership, self-help, and growing entrepreneurship Zalatimo provides the trade secrets to leading a well-rounded life.