HOMBRE Exclusive: Billionaire JOHN PAUL DEJORIA On Success, Building Global Brands, And Helping Mankind
John Paul DeJoria has the classic American dream story — once homeless he is now a billionaire, philanthropist, and pillar of the business community. After founding the still thriving hair care company Paul Mitchell in 1980, he went on to create the premium tequila category with the launch of Patron Spirits in 1989. Along the way he has remained firm in his philanthropy efforts throughout the world. His latest business enterprise is Aubio Life Sciences, a natural product line designed to erase the embarrassment of cold sores and blisters from millions of sufferers. In an exclusive interview DeJoria reveals the beginnings of his legendary global brands, his advice for your success, and his continuing efforts to help mankind.
DeJoria has struggled against the odds to achieve success, launching multiple international enterprises, while always supporting his motto, “Success Unshared is Failure.” Among his other companies are John Paul Pet and JP Selects—like his previous ventures, both are privately held, with high ethical standards and reputations for integrity. JP Selects’ e-commerce platform offers consumers a variety of the world’s best and most dynamic products that are also socially responsible, while John Paul Pet is a line of pH balanced pet grooming and hygiene products developed from his expertise in hair care. His revolutionary venture, ROK Mobile, is a nationwide mobile carrier and music streaming service.
Throughout the length of his success, DeJoaria has made philanthropy paramount. In 2011, he signed Bill Gates and Warren Buffett’s “The Giving Pledge” as a formal promise to continue giving back. The same year, he established JP’s Peace, Love & Happiness Foundation as a hub for his charitable investments, which span the core values of his companies, sustainability, social responsibility and animal-friendliness.
DeJoria’s charitable work spans worldwide through his work with global organizations, renowned world leaders, and A-list personalities. He has aligned with Nelson Mandela and 46664 to help raise awareness of the global HIV/AIDS epidemic, supports Robert Kennedy, Jr. and his clean water efforts via Waterkeeper Alliance, and rainforest conservation and reforestation projects in Peru and Guatemala through a recent alliance with Reforest Action. John Paul has been profiled for his corporate and philanthropic initiatives across a multitude of media outlets including 20/20, CNN, Forbes, Fortune, Inc., and Fox Business News, and recently appeared as a mentor for budding entrepreneurs via a guest shark appearance on Shark Tank.
His latest venture is Aubio Life Sciences. DeJoria has poured millions into this company to help billions around the world with various skin conditions like cold sores, herpes virus 1, fever blisters and the effective treatment his team developed using the science behind an ancient carnivorous plant – the Pitcher Plant.
Best known as the founder of blockbuster brand Paul Mitchell Professional Hair Care and Patron Tequila, DeJoria’s love affair with botanical-based products was already in full swing when a friend gave him some pre-production samples of a new cold sore gel formulated with the sarracenia extract. Soon after, Aubio Life Sciences (www.aubio.com) was born.
Apart from the sheer size of the potential market—3.7 billion people—DeJoria was also struck by how disruptive cold sores and fever blisters are to sufferers.
Aubio Life Sciences currently offers two products—a lip balm and a gel—for the treatment of cold sores. But DeJoria has set his sights much higher, spending millions on research and development, as well as assembling a world-class team of researchers with expertise in botany, horticulture, chemistry and dermatology dedicated to developing a broad range of sarracenia-based products. Along with Sarracenia, Aubio Life Sciences researchers are unlocking the secrets of other botanicals, combining them to create a range of Ultra-Effective Super Botanicals that form the platform for the company’s product line.
HOMBRE: What made you get involved with this new product, Aubio?
John Paul DeJoaria: I have so many businesses thrown my way and I pass on most of them obviously. But when I found the results that it worked on so many people, especially on my personal assistant, and got rid of her cold sore immediately I said this is something. I did a little research on how many people have that challenge and it was enormous. Two out of three people have the cold sore virus according to the World Health Organization. If I could do it so it’s affordable for everyone – and $29. is very affordable – and it’s something that really works, why not? Let me take plants, because Paul Mitchell was plants, Patron is plants; so it’s all plant based and it can help a lot of people.
H: Are there plans to expand the line into other products?
JPD: Yes, we’re going to expand the line. We’re in studies right now for pimples and acne and that sort of problems. We’ll have a skincare line probably this year.
H: Going back to the beginning, how did you start Paul Mitchell?
JPD: I worked for people in the professional beauty industry and I wanted to start my own company. I knew I needed $500,000. so I found a backer in 1980. Then the backer pulled out and never gave us a dime. I left everything I was doing. I had the formulations, the bottles all set up so we started Paul Mitchell Hair Systems with $700. I lived in my car for 2 weeks. I had just gone through a divorce and it was very difficult but we made it. Never borrowed a penny. It’s one of those things.
We started in 1980 and things were tough then because our backer pulled out. Inflation was 12.5 percent, interest rates were 17 percent, we waited in line for gasoline, unemployment was 10.5 percent. It was rough times but America still works, it gives someone a chance to get out there and do it.
H: Did you foresee the success the brand would have?
JPD: I had no idea. We just started a company. All we were hoping for was to do $5,000,000. a year and we would each make $200,000. and we would all be set for life. We had no idea we would go into hundreds of millions of dollars.
H: Now let’s talk about the beginning of Patron
JPD: I was sitting around in 1989 with a friend I helped out in business and we were drinking regular tequila. Of course we had to mix it because you had to hold your breath to drink it straight. He was going down to Mexico on a buying spree and I said Martin (business partner Martin Crowley), when you’re there see what the aristocrats drink. So he brought back these two bottles and said not only is this smooth, but I found a guy named Francisco Alcaraz who can make it smoother. So we did. Ordered 1,000 cases, 12,000 bottles to see how it goes. But it was very expensive. I think when we started in 1989 regular tequila was $4. or $5. a bottle, the really good stuff was $14. maybe $15. We had to sell it for $37. because it was so expensive to make. But we knew people wanted to treat themselves. Once they got a hold of it they would say ‘wooo this is really good stuff and I feel really good after.’ And that’s why people keep coming back to Patron. No disrespect, I want everyone to drink responsibly, but the high you get off Patron is a nice high and the way you feel the next day is not the way you would feel with another tequila.
H: Tequila had the reputation that it’d mess you up
JPD: It’d really mess you up. I’ve been there, most of us have (laughs).
H: What would you say makes people come back to your products, be it Patron, Paul Mitchell and hopefully Aubio?
JPD: A fabulous question. It’s the quality. Paul Mitchell works the same way every time you use it on your hair. It’s not like you use it and you have to switch to another product. It works the same way every single time. It’s the quality.
Patron, uses the highest quality agave and a very slow process to make.
Aubio works in our opinion better than anything else on the market today. When someone uses it it’s so reasonable they want to use it again. But the important thing for your readers to know is that it’s only $29. You can buy it now either on Amazon, Rite Aid, or CVS; but buy it now so that when you break out you put it on immediately and the problem goes away.
It’s available now on every Target also, or go to to aubio.com and they’ll tell you where to get it or give you a helping hand or ship it to you.
H: What would you say is the key to success?
JPD: The key to my success has been to be ready for a lot of rejection. Because when you have no money to start a hair care company everyone is rejecting you. You’re too young, too old, not enough money, not the right family. If you’re ready for rejection it’s not going to affect you. If you’re knocking on doors and you knock in a 100 and they all close in your face, be as enthusiastic when you knock on 101 as you were when you knocked on number 1. That may be the one you have to get through.
And the second thing is to have a quality product. It has to be so good that people will want to come back and use it again and again. I say don’t be in the selling business, be in the reorder business. Whatever it is, have a product so good you’re proud of it and people will want to use it again, and again, and again and they’ll tell others about it.
H: Who were some of the people you looked up to as a kid?
JPD: When I was a kid I looked up to everybody cause I was bored. I grew up between East LA and Echo Park which is very Hispanic. I looked up to everybody, I didn’t have any mentors. I wish I did. I had to figure out what’s right and what’s wrong.
H: But were there individuals that inspired you?
JPD: My mom, because even though we had nothing and we were very low income, during Christmastime we would take a dime and give to the Salvation Army. That’s all we could afford but you have to give something. We didn’t have a lot but the Salvation Army helps people have a house so we have to help and give something. She kind of started us in philanthropy and the thought that a dime goes a long way.
H: Is that why philanthropy is so important to you?
JPD: I think so. We had nothing and yet we gave. My mom showed us the importance of giving.
H: What’s the best advice she ever gave you?
JPD: The best advice my mom gave me was, ‘you can do it son.’ No matter what, you can do it. When I was selling newspapers in the morning at 11 years old we would go out at night to try to get new customers for our route and she’d say ‘You can do it Johnny, you’ll make an extra dollar for each one.’ She was very encouraging. We had a great mom.
H: And finally, we’re Latinos, so we have to ask about tequila, what makes Patron superior?
JPD: First of all it’s the quality of the Agave. We only use Highlander Weber Blue Agave, but it’s also the process. We make it the old fashioned way, in small wooden vats. When people get big they make it in large vats, its not the same. I spend the money and continue to make it in small vats. If you go online to www.patronspirits.com they’ll take you to a tour of our facilities. We do not take any of the quality away because we’re bigger. We take our time. We don’t roast our Agave plants overnight, we roast them for days. It’s a process that takes time so it’s always perfect.