By  on June 1, 2012

Build your industry and you’ll build your company. That’s the advice from John Paul DeJoria, co-founder and chief executive officer of John Paul Mitchell Systems.

In his view, one avenue for achieving that mission is through philanthropic ventures.

“People are becoming much more aware. Now whether it’s a spiritual thing, whether it’s just all of a sudden we’re becoming smarter, who knows? But what is for sure is if you do things in the old way, it doesn’t relate to today’s new customer,” he said.

He cited an example from the tequila industry and Patron, a company he started and is still a major owner of. The tequila industry as a whole, he said, has fostered sustainability, created jobs and donated to charities. “Did this help out the tequila industry? Heck, yes. Tequila sales last year grew. Did it help out Patron? Last year, Patron became the number-one, by dollar volume, tequila company in the world. And we’re only 23 years old,” he said.

Relating his concept to beauty, DeJoria said the salon industry needed to change the method for training and graduating its students. “I invested 10 years ago in starting beauty schools throughout the United States. I’ve invested millions of dollars in beauty schools, and we have about 110 right now and a couple overseas that we’re starting. Has it been very profitable for me? No. Will it one day? I hope so. But is it profitable for my industry? You better believe it,” he said, adding that the effort gives dignity to the profession. Beyond learning how to provide top-notch services, students are trained in how to market the business. Altruism is part of the education, too, with every student required to spend part of their time raising money for their community, their state, their government and their “planet,” DeJoria said. Raising money for good causes is now part of the culture of being a hairstylist, he said.

Not all graduates of his school wind up in Paul Mitchell salons. “My competitors are helped out like you wouldn’t believe,” he quipped. “Perfectly okay. We want the industry to be built. We’ll graduate right now 16,000 students; same time next year, 20,000 students will be graduating from Paul Mitchell schools.”

Burnishing the image of an industry can produce better sales, he said, citing a new product with very expensive ingredients. The confidence consumers have in the items results in them spending $20 on a shampoo versus $10 or $11, he said. “Had we not helped raise the prestige of the people in the salon, where they came across as professional people, we could not successfully launch something with that price point. We have to raise the industry’s value, the industry’s image in order to do it,” said DeJoria.

He urged the industry to increase its interest in sustainable products and those with no parabens and no sulfates — despite them being more costly. He said, “But if my industry and your industries all get behind this, and everyone’s buying more ingredients that eliminate sulfates or parabens, my cost goes down, your cost goes down and we’re able to offer it to a whole bunch of people, a lot of great products, even more realistically priced, and still have some nice profit margins.”

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