By Robin Bronk - 08/02/11 10:58 PM EDT
The rags-to-riches story of John Paul DeJoria exemplifies the American Dream. Today, John Paul Mitchell Systems currently produces more than 90 products sold through 90,000 hair salons across the United States and in 45 countries worldwide with annual retail sales topping $600 million. This son of immigrant parents from Italy and Greece found himself homeless on more than one occasion. Eventually, his fate changed course when he joined forces with his friend, Paul Mitchell, then one of American’s most influential hair designers. DeJoria and Mitchell literally went door-to-door visiting hair salons across the country “I have said many times that the difference between successful people and unsuccessful people is that successful people do a lot of the things that unsuccessful people don’t want to do. Like when the door is slammed in your face ten times, you go on to door number eleven with just as much enthusiasm,” smiles DeJoria. Enthusiastic about alternative energy sources, DeJoria helps to fund the world’s first environmentally friendly oil refinery in Tunisia, has transformed the demilitarized zone in Korea into an ecological preserve and has invested in solar powered automobiles. His entrepreneurial interest also continues to expand into other areas including the House of Blues nightclubs, Patron Tequila, Pyrat Rum, Solar Utility, Touchstone Natural Gas, Three Star Energy, Diamond Audio, and even a Harley-Davidson dealership. On the 20-year anniversary of his homeless days, he bought a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. DeJoria has donated to a variety of charitable causes including research for cancer, Autism, Diabetes, AIDS, Leukemia, and Multiple Sclerosis; plus a variety of inner city and children’s foundations, animal rescue and ecological organizations. He’s credited with saving a tribe of more than 2,000 Native Americans living in the mountains near the Mexican border from certain extinction by providing food, blankets, plows and seeds. And DeJoria gives more than just monetary contributions. Recently he put himself between hunters and baby harp seals on the icebergs in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. He also serves as a spokesman of Mine Seekers, the organization devoted to removing land mines in war torn regions. DeJoria’s motto, “Nothing in life is worth doing unless you’re having fun doing it.”
ROBIN BRONK: If you had five minutes in the Oval Office with President Obama, what would you discuss with him? What issue would you like him to know about?
John Paul DeJoria: I would discuss what it really takes to get American jobs back and how to get the unions to work hand-in-hand with a plan that benefits everybody.
RB: If you could give President Obama one piece of advice, what would it be?
JPD: There are far too many wasteful jobs in government. Make government more efficient. You don’t have to fire anybody, just let them go through attrition, just don’t rehire them. In other words, one-third of the people who work in government right now, don’t need to be there. Give the others a 10 percent raise to be more efficient. The government just saved 23 percent, was given a raise and fired nobody.
RB: If you could ask President Obama one question, what would that be?
JPD: Why did you lie to everybody when you ran for office? For example: you said there will be no pork-barrel spending. You said you would veto any legislation that had pork barrel spending in it and you never did. If you didn’t lie, then who stopped you from keeping your promise? That’s just one example.
RB: What book would you lend
President Obama? Why?
JPD: Oneness by Rasha, because he needs to know that he can be honest and it’s okay to tell it like it is. This book will put him in touch with himself.
RB: If you were going to send the President to one place in the United States for one day, where would that be? Why?
JPD: I would send him to my home in Colorado with me there, so that he can get a very objective look at a real rags-to-riches story and learn how he really can serve America and the world. He needs to be grounded a little bit.
RB: Would you ever consider a political career?
JPD: The career I would consider would be as an executive adviser or presidential adviser for $1 per year.
Bronk is a seasoned Capitol Hill strategist and advocate. She started her career at The Creative Coalition, a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy group for the arts and entertainment industry, in July 1998. During her tenure as CEO, Bronk has taken The Creative Coalition from a New York-based entity to a national organization. www.thecreativecoalition.org