A Force For Good

…The Ultimate Global Citizen
By: Michelle Mantor
Photography By Evin Thayer

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 Sometimes the tumble cycle of life knocks us around a bit. We may become ragged and thread bare from the constant motion and effort to keep up with “the process”. Speaking for myself, I definitely experience life-fatigue now and then. I need to recharge my batteries AND recharge my spirit, that part of me that not only keeps me going but also motivates me to reach higher, burn brighter and spread hope to others.

Recently, that inspiration came from meeting John Paul DeJoria, the perpetual entrepreneur that co-founded the mega hair care corporation, Paul Mitchell Systems. From the seriously challenged “tumble-cycle” of his youth to his incredible story of financial and philanthropic success, DeJoria’s journey is a beacon of hope that serves to remind us that we can achieve great things even when obstacles loom large.

Like so many events in our lives, meeting John Paul, or “JP” as he is known to friends and colleagues, was not something I sought out but rather it came about through a friend connecting us. Naturally I was thrilled at the prospect of meeting the man whose face I had seen in magazines ads and photos attending star-studded Hollywood events but it wasn’t until I did my research that I discovered the inspirational story behind the man; it wasn’t until I spent a few hours with him at his home in Austin that I realized the profound effect his efforts are having on our world; and it wasn’t until a few days after the interview when I couldn’t stop reflecting on his journey that I realized he had inspired me. My spirit was ready to keep reaching higher, burning brighter and motivating others.

I want to share his story with you.

Born and raised in what could certainly be called humble beginnings, DeJoria was faced with life’s challenges at an early age growing up in Los Angeles. Destiny’s way of ensuring that he had plenty of entrepreneurial experience, DeJoria started out selling greeting cards at age 9 and delivering newspapers to help out his single mother. After a stint in the U.S. Navy, he would go on to sell insurance, encyclopedias, dictating machines, work as a janitor and pump gasoline.

It’s hard to imagine this uber-successful guy being homeless but John Paul found himself briefly without a place to live not once, but twice. He slept in his car and collected bottles to subsist. Not to be defeated and not to be given handouts, he eventually landed a job in the hair care industry where he quickly received a promotion to National Manager of Schools and Chain Salons. After building his expertise in the marketing of hair care products and services in National and VP level positions with several companies, John Paul combined his marketing prowess with the hairdressing talents of Paul Mitchell to launch their now-iconic business, John Paul Mitchell Systems.

4L3C7303 low resAs with all companies that reach noteworthy status, a clear vision guided the dream – the pair shared a vision to create a company for hairdressers that would provide tools of success for hair care professionals, their salons and the entire beauty industry. Founding the company on just $700 the pair had scraped together, DeJoria and Mitchell put their heart and soul into the company with the unwavering conviction that their strategy would prevail.

And prevail it did. With determination and hard work, obstacles were overcome one by one. John Paul admits with a smile, “The company should have gone bankrupt perhaps 50 times during the first year.” But a strategy of extensive free product demonstrations all over the country and a guarantee to buy back any unsold products from salon owners led John Paul Mitchell Systems to become a leader in the hair care industry and to become one of the fastest growing privately-held companies in the U.S.

As they say, the rest is history. Well, yes and no. John Paul has certainly made history creating a company with $900 million in annual sales, being one of the first in the beauty industry to publicize not using animals in product testing, to expand products sales to 75 countries, to package products in recyclable containers and to harvest botanicals on the company’s solar powered awapuhi farm in Hawaii without harming the environment. However, the inspirational thing about John Paul is that he has certainly created a legacy of historic proportions but as soon as you meet him, you understand that he is not done. He is not done creating, saving, preserving, sharing…and smiling.

One might imagine that after creating a multi-million dollar company, traveling the world with family, socializing with Hollywood superstars and experiencing life’s pleasures, that John Paul might just rest on his laurels and enjoy a relaxing, luxurious retirement. Not only has he shunned “retirement”, he has put his creative energy into overdrive launching more companies, helping others less fortunate and saving our planet’s resources for the enjoyment of generations to come.

As John Paul waves his entrepreneurial  “wand” to create new ventures, he focuses on businesses that mirror his interests. He is an avid motorcycle enthusiast and thus owns a Harley-Davidson dealership; he is very conscious of the natural environment and thus has invested in numerous clean energy companies; he appreciates the smoothness of an excellent Tequila and thus founded Patron Tequila and he knows what everyone reading this article knows – that pets are endearing and valued as family members and thus he created John Paul Pet.

4L3C7307 low resJohn Paul explains the foray into pet products by noting, “Pets are important elements of many people’s lives and we believe that just as our customers of Paul Mitchell Systems understand that quality product ingredients produce beautiful results for their hair, those same customers want the best products for their pet’s coat.” Taking the philosophy of Paul Mitchell Systems to pets seemed like a natural strategy and one that has produced very useful products including shampoos with oatmeal for sensitive skin, gentle and safe eye and ear wipes as well as innovative solutions like tooth and gum wipes, coat brighteners, flea and tick formulations and the soon to be released awapuhi  inspired “awapoochi” shampoo.

John Paul Pet product manager Mike Harvey expounds upon the need to differentiate between human and animal hair products. “Our products are pH balanced for a pet’s skin, which is a different balance than human skin.” The value and care poured into each bottle of shampoo, conditioning spray, detangling spray and functional wipes is clear as soon as a pet owner uses the product or provides the product to their grooming professional. As proof, the product sales are ever increasing and more pet supply stores are opting to retail the product line.

At the Paul Mitchell School in Houston where hair care professionals are trained as stylists and also trained on John Paul Pet product knowledge, Owner-Director Sandy Matos sees John Paul Pet Products flying off the shelves. Sandy and his wife Rosie Matos who also own Salon Matos, a Paul Mitchell Focus Salon in Northwest Houston, understand that branching out from a high quality brand and superior manufacturing and distribution process enjoyed by Paul Mitchell Systems provided an enormous advantage in the launch of a pet product line. Rosie notes, “Experience in the beauty industry, knowledge of product ingredients and brand recognition all combine to make John Paul Pet a success.”

In addition to offering great products, Rosie and Sandy are also philosophically aligned with John Paul’s commitment to give back to the community. They have supported the Citizen’s for Animal Protection gala and Mr. Magoo celebration on numerous occasions supplying hair and make-up services for the fashion show, donating product for the swag bags and donating items for the silent auction.

One facet of the John Paul Pet product line that consumers will find enticing is the product packaging. The practice of creating unique promotions that include pet accessories with the products such as bandannas, collars or toys to enhance the customer experience is a value-add along with the convenient packaging of the Pet Care Packs that contain a complete home pet care system all in one box.

It’s really refreshing to encounter a business empire like John Paul’s where every product and employee are top quality and where focus is on the customer experience and an eye is on the big picture of philanthropic endeavors. I speak from experience in saying that the Paul Mitchell hair products and salon professionals produce a great result, the John Paul Pet eye wipes are a daily must in my house and my opinion of Tequila was completely transformed after I experienced the perfectly-chilled-smoother-than-velvet shot of Patron Platinum that John Paul served up at the end of our photo session.

Yes, everything about John Paul is a quality deal, including his family life with his wife and life-partner Eloise, his children, his choice to make a home in Austin where his son could be raised in a values-oriented environment away from the Hollywood lights and last but not least, even his pets are the sweetest, most endearing canines I’ve encountered in a great while. John Paul’s affection for Jack (featured on the cover), Bella and Suzie Q is evident and the dogs are content to roam the riverfront property in eternal bliss. Not a bad living at all!

Ultimately I believe John Paul’s efforts to help others less fortunate, conserve our environment and spread hope through learning are his true legacy.  His impactful actions are felt far and wide and are too numerous to mention in entirety, however a few noteworthy endeavors include serving on the Board of Directors for Robert F. Kennedy’s Waterkeeper Alliance focused on keeping waterways clean of pollution, Grow Appalachia, an effort to help residents of Appalachia grow their own healthy food, his support of Sea Shepherds in which he has taken a stand against clubbing baby harp seals and providing support and money to members of the Armed Forces, The 100 Club, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, AIDS organizations, hunger-ending projects in Africa, and the World Wildlife Federation.

The list of good deeds that John Paul and Eloise have spread around the globe goes on and each act sews many hopeful seeds for a better world. As a man that has no qualms about addressing a wrong that he encounters to make it a right, his fearless desire to improve the world through his resources is admirable but also highly effective in setting an example for others to follow.

It was by chance that I met him but perhaps divine destiny that his unique brand of calm confidence, his contagious zest for adventure, his impassioned trademark of positive thinking, his fierce belief in treating all creatures with respect and his conviction of purpose serves an irresistible elixir of inspiration for me.

That’s a cocktail I will gladly drink.

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