6 Strategies That Paul Mitchell Used To Turn $300 Into $1.1 Billion

John Paul Mitchell Systems was founded in 1980 by John Paul DeJoria and Scottish-American hairstylist Paul Mitchell.

Did you know that before getting a $350 loan from his mother to start the business, Paul De Joria used to sleep in his car?

Young Paul Mitchell and John Paul

Together, until Mitchell's death in 1989, the two men shaped their entrepreneurial creation into a market winner, succeeding through Mitchell's haircutting demonstrations. But very few people know that Paul DeJoria was fired from 3 Hair care companies before he set up his own company with Paul Mitchell.

Paul Mitchell promoting their famous tea tree conditioner

DeJoria and Mitchell had both obtained success earlier in their careers before, but both were, for different personal reasons, at low points in their lives. After considerable discussion, the two decided to start a new business together.

It seemed like a natural combination, Mitchell had expertise in hair care products and DeJoria had expertise in selling products.

Their initial products—Shampoo One, Shampoo Two, and The Conditioner—broke new ground in terms of quality and effectiveness, quickly gaining traction with professional salons.

Paul Mitchell in his signature style Hair Styling demonstrations

Instead of traditional advertising, they relied on educating the community. DeJoria and Mitchell personally visited salons, conducting live demonstrations and building relationships with stylists and salon owners. They adopted a unique business model, selling exclusively through professional hair salons. This approach not only ensured product authenticity but also built a loyal customer base among professional stylists. The early years were financially challenging, issues like product counterfeiting, and limited investment made things even more difficult.

After producing a limited amount of hair care products as their initial inventory, they could only afford to pay for black ink printed on white bottles, which ultimately became a part of their special trade mark.

Their marketing campaign started by arranging opportunities for Mitchell to put on hair styling displays in various salons around the Hawaiian Islands. After Mitchell finished showcasing his skills, then DeJoria would stay put at the salon until every bottle of product was sold!

A Vintage Paul Mitchell Advertisement

Eventually, they were able to expand over to the US mainland. They soon became a team of 700 hair stylists around the nation who would put on hair shows displays, and promote the Paul Mitchell hair care products as they styled their customer's hair. Dejoria attributed much of this sales success to the system he set up in the beginning with the three-stage, distributor-to-salon-to-consumer marketing system. They became a corporate phenomenon, utilizing a staff less than 30 employees, and almost no overhead, all while bringing in $5 Million a month.

In 1986 they crossed a staggering $100 million annually!

6 Strategies That Made Them An Industry Leader

  1. Brand Distribution: Their commitment to salon exclusivity and large-scale hairstyle demonstrations fostered a strong loyalty among professional stylists.
  2. Continuous Innovation: They always maintained a strong focus on product innovation both in terms of packaging and formulation, never letting down their customer base.
  3. Brand Integrity: The company was a pioneer in cruelty-free and environment-friendly products, appealing to socially conscious consumers, and building a respected brand.
  4. Reinvention: Over time, Paul Mitchell expanded its product range to include a variety of hair care and styling products, regularly innovating to meet changing consumer needs and trends.
  5. Brand Awareness and Education: Paul Mitchell Systems is often credited as one of the pioneers in pushing the emphasis on educating their stylists, creating courses and also setting up skilling programs on the evolving trends in hairstyling.
  6. User Feedback: Brands instill loyalty when they can show that they listen, Paul Mitchell always remained that brand that gave importance to user feedback and kept on evolving with new trends.

By the 2000s, Paul Mitchell Systems had grown exponentially and continued its journey to the $1.1 Billion revenue mark in 2022.

Unfortunately, Paul Mitchell passed away of pancreatic cancer in 1989, but despite the sad loss, his partner John Paul carried on the legacy ahead with Paul Mitchell Systems.

Its tools, styling products and dyes are sold in more than 100 countries in 150,000 salons. Sales to salons make up about 95% of John Mitchell's revenue, and 70% of its US business comes from independent salons.

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