John Paul DeJoria: A Tale of Two Startups (Part 2)

By Amber Middleton

The Patrón Spirits Company and John Paul Mitchell Systems were founded by the same man, but the manner in which these companies were started couldn’t be more different.  When John Paul DeJoria started John Paul Mitchell Systems with his friend Paul Mitchell in 1980, they had $700 between them, and DeJoria was living in his car.  By 1989, when DeJoria started Patrón Spirits Company, his money troubles were a thing of the past. 

According to DeJoria, Patrón was basically started on a whim, when his friend Martin Crowley brought back a bottle of high-quality tequila from Mexico.  DeJoria was impressed, and the pair decided to try making and selling it themselves.  Their venture led them to a factory in Jalisco, Mexico, where the high-quality tequila was already being produced.  They changed the formula to make the tequila even smoother, and The Patron Spirits Company was born.  They bottled the ultra-premium tequila in hand-blown bottles, and DeJoria bought the first 12,000.  He told Entrepreneur Magazine, “My thinking was, if no one bought it, I would keep it, because Paul Mitchell was doing good. And for 10 years everybody I knew got one–for their birthday, christening, bar mitzvah, any kind of holiday you could think of. ‘Here’s a bottle of tequila! [laughs] If you’re too young, give it to your parents.’”  

At $37 a bottle, the ultra-smooth Patrón changed the way people saw tequila.  DeJoria’s friend Clint Eastwood drank Patrón in the 1993 movie In the Line of Fire, and it was served at Paul Mitchell events.  Soon, Patrón was sold at all high-end bars, restaurants, and nightclubs.  Today, The Patron Spirits Company is extremely profitable, producing more than $1 billion in annual revenue.  Although Patron and John Paul Mitchell Systems sell completely different products, the core premise is the same.  DeJoria explains, “…it’s the quality. Whether it’s a product or a service, make sure you have the best quality out there. The next thing is, whatever you do, make it so good people will want to buy it again.”


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