Born in California, John Paul DeJoria sold newspapers as a youth. After a stint in the Navy, he bounced from job to job, including pumping gas and selling encyclopedias. But while working as a hair care sales manager, he met hairstylist Paul Mitchell and they launched a line of hair care products.
Things took off, to say the least. Since then, DeJoria has entered the tequila business (Patrón) and wireless service (ROK Mobile). He also keeps a high profile in the nonprofit world. He has lent a hand in causes as diverse as ending homelessness, protecting natural resources, providing tsunami relief and eliminating landmines in Africa.
DeJoria makes his home in Austin, and he took time recently to answer our questions.
AF: Tell us about your family.
My son, John Paul Jr., is 49. He has his own Paul Mitchell School. My 37 year old, Alexis, is a Top Fuel funny car driver. Her best time at 321 miles an hour is 3.94 seconds. My other daughter, Michaeline, is 33 and is the vice chairman at John Paul Mitchell Systems. John Anthony is 18, and he’s an exceptional college student and adventurer. Together, on his 18th birthday we successfully climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro.
AF: What part does philanthropy play in your life?
It’s a big part of my life. It’s part of my lifestyle. It’s part of who I am and who I’ve always been, since I was a little boy. My mother taught my brother and I at an early age to give back and help people who are more in need. There’s always someone who has it a little more difficult than you.
I learned this at age 6, when my mother took us downtown for Christmas. She handed over a dime each to my brother and me and told us to place them into the Salvation Army bin. At the time, it was a lot for our family. A dime would have covered a lot and here we were told to give it away. It’s a moment I will never forget, and I’m still talking about it today. It’s with me for a lifetime.
AF: Growing up, you took jobs to help support your family. Did that earlyexperience create the entrepreneurial drive in you, or did it already exist?
It definitely helped! I was used to working; it was a fun thing to do, not a necessity.
AF: How did your rags-to-riches business experience shape your parenting?
In the early days, it was not as great as I would have liked. I was on the road all the time, working hard to support my family. That’s not the best parenting. However, in the last 25 years, I was off the road more and was able to watch the kids more and attend school events.
AF: Why did you decide to live in Austin?
It was definitely family values. Austin is a city with great family values and schools.
AF: Do you have any business advice for other parents—whether they are billionaires or not?
My advice is to spend as much time with your children as you can and realize that their thinking could be much different than yours. We as parents have to understand where our children are coming from in order to properly communicate with them. I’ve learned that times have changed, and it’s very different these days.
AF: Do you have anything you’d like to say that we didn’t cover?
Success unshared is failure. It doesn’t have to be money that you lend out or give away to help someone; it could simply be your time that will make a
difference in someone else’s life.