This is an interview of an outstandingly inspiring man Who Did Well and then Did Good – John Paul DeJoria. He is a Greek-American entrepreneur and philanthropist, Co-founder of Paul Mitchell and the Patron Tequila, two visionary, iconic companies. He has struggled against the odds, was homeless twice in his life and today, he is estimated to have a three-billion-dollar fortune!
A testament of his innovative and marketing genius is that he started Paul Mitchell (the largest privately held beauty company in the world) with just 700 dollars and three products – and made a fortune! To top that, DeJoria went into production of premium tequila, with no clue how the industry works, and made it the biggest selling tequila in the world!
John Paul’s motto is: “Success Unshared Is Failure.” He looks at any project with a philanthropic attitude. For him, success is not about money. He believes that you can do well for yourself by doing good for other people. He has a strong desire to make a difference in the world and has met with Dalai Lama to exchange ideas on world peace. He has also been invited by the CIA to share the unique culture of Paul Mitchel. His story and philantropic work has been shared at Barbara Walters 20/20. Renowned for his giving back, he signed Bill Gates and Warren Buffet’s “The Giving Pledge”, in 2011. He has also established JP’s Peace Love & Happiness Foundation as a hub for his charity investments, which support the core values of his companies: sustainability, social responsibility and animal friendliness.
It was in June that John Paul DeJoria was invited by The Hellenic Initiative, along with THI international Ambassador Tatiana Blatnik, to talk about “How to start a business with little or no money“, in the Athens Hilton hotel. On that occasion, I was introduced to him by Tatiana Blatnik. I was taken aback by his kindness, how much he stressed his mother’s love and good parenting and credited her for his future success. His eagerness to share and help others and, of course, his one of a kind entrepreunerial spirit. I consider myself to be so lucky to have met and interviewed him for #theFMartini!!
Q & A
You refer to your Greek origins very often. To what extent do you feel connected to your Greek side and relatives?
Well, my mother was born in Greece and she is from Kavala. She came to Elis Island, United States by boat. I’m first generation American. I come to Greece probably every five to seven years, I visit my relatives in Kavala, but this is my stepping point before going to the islands. I was baptized in the Greek Orthodox Church Saint Sofia, Los Angeles, and when my youngest son, who is 19 now, was three years old, I flew my mother and of all my family, including his godmother and godfather, (“nona” & “nonos”), to Kavala, where he was baptized in one of the oldest churches in Europe. He was my youngest and I wanted to bring him there. So, on this specific trip to Athens, I brought with me eight greek relatives. I have four families up there in Kavala and I brought two members from each family. We all checked-in, in the same hotel, Grande Bretagne, which has beautiful rooms! For the last two days, everywhere I go, they go with me! As two of them don’t speak English, I have an interpreter with me at all times.
Do you believe your “Greek” characteristics and “ethos” have contributed to your success?
I definitely feel that I have a lot of greek personality and ways of living within me. My mother grew up with us, teaching us how to grow our own vegetables and be self-sufficient. She taught my brother and me, at a very young age, to work around the house, we swept the floor and washed the dishes. She made a point of teaching us how to be part of something from a very young age. And that was just our upbringing; we thought nothing of it. Today, children are like “ What? Do you want me to wash the dishes or sweep the floors?” For us, it was common, we just did it automatically.
So, I believe the good ethics my mother gave me on working around the house, along with the notion that you can do anything if you work hard for it, played a very important role in my life. In fact, I’d like to quote another very famous Greek, Ariana Huffington. Ariana, who started Huffington Post and who is also in my movie “Good Fortune”, has actually put it very well. She said that we have greek values of working hard and overcoming problems along the way and just doing so with a positive attitude – that is very Greek!
My mother also made a point of us coming all together. She gave us a lot of love – this, too, is very greek in itself! Greeks are very loving people and that was definitely beneficial to me.
In the beginning, with Paul Mitchell, you faced so many challenges. What really kept you going? Had you envisioned such huge success?
I think I never gave up, because I believed in myself and felt what I was selling was so good; that it benefited people so much that, if I could just tell enough people about it and if enough people knew and tried it, it would become a good business! I trully believed in it.
When we first started, my partner and I, our dream was like that: if we could only have a business that did 5 million dollars a year, then we would make like 200 thousand dollars each, and this would set us for life! Little did we know how much it would grow and, as it grew bigger and bigger, I learned about how to run a bigger business along the way. I had no idea it would be as big as it is today. Not even a clue!
Your movie “Good Fortune” is about someone that “Did Well and then Did Good”. Can you talk about it a little bit more?
Sure! It starts out when I was younger and my mother came to the States from Greece, and it goes all the way to present day. It also shows a lot of personal challenges, like maybe that I didn’t have the best upbringing I could have. But I had a lot of love from my mum, a lot of love was there! It also shows other aspects of my life, like being a biker for a while and hanging out in that community or being homeless once with a small child and overcoming that; or even having many jobs, but not the right one, or being fired from one job or another… All these finally led me to what my destiny really was and that was to start my own business. And even when I started my own business, I had no money! I left everything behind and I didn’t know how the money would come through… But I made it, nonetheless. And then, once you succeed, I believe you have to help other people, whether it is financially or by just taking them under your wing and helping them succeed.
I’m also part of Warren Buffet’s and Bill Gates’ the “Giving Pledge”, along with some other very wealthy people. There is 153 of them, mostly Americans and there is another Greek besides myself. I think we are all billionaires, as far as I know, and we’ve all pledged to give 50% of our fortune while we are alive or after we die, to make the world a better place to live in. And a lot of people don’t even know we exist!
What made you give so much to charity? What was the key point?
I started with so little and so poor that, when I finally made it, it was very easy to share. My motto is: “Success unshared is failure”. And it was actually my mother who instilled in me the concept of sharing and always giving back. I believe that if you have so much, you take care of yourself, your children, your children’s children and so on, and there is more…You should be like “Let’s help others, too!”. It’s like having a big barbeque, a big feast, with steaks and vegetables (if you are a vegetarian) and anything you can imagine, and all this food filling the room, enough for my family and my family’s family families, but in the next town there are a bunch of families that don’t have any food! And I have all this extra food! Are you kidding? We can’t use it, we are already full! Share it with them! Again “Success unshared is failure!”
In your speech, you talked about your loving marriage. Do you think having a loving home is a key element to success?
Definitely, having a loving home helps. There is no question about it, but just love and a family alone will not make you successful. That’s helpful, because if you have a life torment and you are not happy, then you are not going to be good at any business you do. So, a loving home is very important, but you have to make it yourself and not depend on just a loving home to do it for you!
Thank you John Paul DeJoria for the great honor.
Thank you Tatiana Blatnik & The Hellenic Initiative for making this possible.