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From Homeless to Hero: The John Paul DeJoria Story

According to one recent study, there are more than 500,000 people living in homelessness in the United States as of 2022. If you needed a single statistic to underline what a significant issue this really is, let it be that one.

In the distant past, one of them was a man named John Paul DeJoria. Born in 1944, he’s a businessman and entrepreneur based in the United States. He’s a noted philanthropist and, by all accounts, is a self-made billionaire. He co-founded the Paul Mitchell line of hair products and, along with the Patron Spirits Company, has certainly made quite an impact on a variety of industries.

But it wasn’t always that way.

The Journey of John Paul DeJoria

DeJoria was born in Los Angeles, California where, when he was just two years old, his parents went through a divorce. He began living with his mother who, unfortunately, wasn’t able to provide enough financial support for himself or his sibling. Not too long after that, DeJoria was sent to live in a foster home.

DeJoria was a part of the California state foster system until the age of nine when his entrepreneurial spirit first began to develop. It was then that he started selling Christmas cards and newspapers in an effort to find some way – any way – to support his family.

However, things weren’t necessarily on the way up quite yet.

As is true with so many young people in this type of situation, DeJoria joined a street gang. He was an active participant for an unknown period of time while he attended night school. He only left the gang after his night school teacher urged him to – again underlining the importance of knowledgeable and compassionate educators in this country.

After finally graduating, DeJoria was still on an uncertain path. He once again made a decision that is quite common for people in these environments – he joined the United States Navy. By this time, he wanted to go to college but had no way to pay for it himself so he spent two years in the Navy in order to get there.

Once he got out of the Navy, another precarious period in his life began. He found himself needing to work a plethora of odd jobs just to stay “above water.” He sold encyclopedias door to door. He worked as a janitor. He even worked at a gas station. But alas, hard times were still ahead of him as he was at one point entirely homeless. He spent this period essentially living out of his car.

Things finally began to look up when DeJoria took a job at Redken Laboratories, which developed hair care products. While it’s true that he was fired from this job a few years later, he took the money he had saved up – along with a loan that he was able to get – and co-founded John Paul Mitchell Systems with Paul Mitchell. He was still living out of his car during this entire period, but finally, things were beginning to trend in the right direction.

Both DeJoria and Mitchell were relentless in their perseverance, going to every salon they could find to personally demonstrate the hair care products that they had developed. It’s been said that they wouldn’t leave until someone bought their innovative brand of shampoo.

Based on the modest success that they had been able to enjoy, DeJoria then purchased the brand rights to the Patron Spirits Company in 1989. To put into perspective what a big deal this truly was, the Patron Spirits Company sells an estimated two million cases of tequila every single year.

Flash forward to today and DeJoria’s company produces more than 100 different types of products. They stock salons in roughly 87 countries around the world.

All of this was the result of the hard work of a man who was born with humble beginnings, and went through a lengthy rough patch in his life but still refused to give up. DeJoria certainly experienced a lot of failure in his life, but he wouldn’t let that keep him down. Even when living in his car, he kept moving forward.

In the end, this inspiring story comes with a decidedly straightforward lesson: never stop working towards your goal because you never know when success may be right around the corner. It’s certainly a lesson that all of us can afford to stop and remember every now and again.

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