It's a Matter Of...People
When Beauty is the Family BusinessOctober 05, 2021 BeautyMatter
October 05, 2021
Family businesses built from humble beginnings to billion-dollar brands, independent of outside capital, are the very fabric of the American dream. The vision of the founder is bigger than a personal financial windfall. It’s about creating a business that reaches far beyond them, creating a legacy that continues the work in perpetuity. Leaders like this think big and they think beyond the bottom line to the impact the company makes to an industry, a community, and to the team that keeps the dream alive. Michaeline DeJoria joins Kelly Kovack to discuss her journey from the production plant floor to her new role as CEO.
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Michaeline DeJoria [00:00:16]: Hi, I’m Michaeline DeJoria, CEO of John Paul Mitchell Systems, and to me, it’s a matter of people.
Kelly Kovack [00:00:26]: Family businesses built from humble beginnings to billion-dollar brand, independent of outside capital, are the very fabric of the American dream. I’m Kelly Kovac, Founder of BeautyMatter. Very often the story ends with a massive exit, but sometimes – and it’s very rare – these brands are quite simply not for sale. The vision of the founder is bigger than the financial windfall. It’s about creating a business that reaches far beyond them, creating a legacy that continues the work in perpetuity. Leaders like this think big and they think beyond the bottom line, to the impact the company makes to an industry, to a community, and to the team that keeps the dream alive. Where they lead, others follow because they believe in the vision too.
So, Michaeline, thank you so much for joining us today. And, congratulations on your new role as CEO. That’s super exciting.
Michaeline DeJoria [00:01:23]: Thank you. Thank you for having me. I’m very excited about our coffee talk today.
Kelly Kovack [00:01:28]: I know, right? If only it could be sort of in-person, that would make it better. But we’ll make do.
Michaeline DeJoria [00:01:33]: This is close.
Kelly Kovack [00:01:34]: Yeah. So I’ve been dying to ask this question. Your father is this sort of iconic, entrepreneur, legend. He’s achieved wild success and the story sort of comes from quite humble roots, and honestly he is the American dream.
Michaeline DeJoria [00:01:53]: Totally.
Kelly Kovack [00:01:54]: And he’s just such an inspiration. So I am super curious, what was your childhood like growing up with such a charismatic, passionate, and kind of prolific entrepreneur?
Michaeline DeJoria [00:02:05]: That’s a great question. So different from all of the other kids.
Kelly Kovack [00:02:08]: I’m sure.
Michaeline DeJoria [00:02:09]: No one had a dad like mine. Even putting, like, career and successes aside, even putting his incredible life story and background aside, just his dynamic, positive, optimistic personality. I mean, anyone who has ever met him will tell you, he is just the most infectiously joyful person. And it was very different having a parent like that who just wanted to have fun and wanted to go play and wanted to go see the world and have cool conversations and hear different people and learn about things. It was great. We really saw the world as an opportunity to learn, an opportunity to share and help lift each other up, and we were just raised that way. I took my first flight at a week old. He hits the ground running and so I was just kind of born into that. It was awesome.
Kelly Kovack [00:02:58]: Wow. I come from sort of a very different background. My parents are not entrepreneurs at all. When I went to start my first business, I guess it was like in 2000, and was leaving a company that had been acquired. They were like, but it was just acquired by a big business! And I was like yes, and I could work for the telephone company too, but that’s not going to happen. So sort of very different backgrounds.
Michaeline DeJoria [00:03:25]: Yes. Not many people have the background I’ve had. It is true. But I think what’s really cool about it is the background that I had was also so different from other kids with entrepreneurial parents, because it wasn’t again, about business. It wasn’t about things. It wasn’t about stuff. We were never about that stuff. It was about people. And it was about connections. And it was about giving back and just really trying to get every little ounce of life that you can out of it. So the perspective that we have always had as a family about my father’s success has been really different than how I think most business people or entrepreneurs would look at it. Which is such a blessing, it’s such a healthier way to see it. Help me build more so I can give more feels a lot better than help me hoard more.
Kelly Kovack [00:04:12]: Yeah, and you know, I kind of feel like we’re finally coming back to kind of that sensibility. You know, I think we lived through a period where it was about bigger, faster, how much money I can make, and it was all about sort of profits and investors, and it wasn’t about sort of the community or even the people in the business, and I feel like we’re kind of coming back to that. So, I mean, I think your father is clearly a visionary in many ways. But, you know, the company is still very much a family business with Angus Mitchell leading the creative side of the business and you’re on the business side. And in doing the research for this podcast, I read that you have letters from your three-year-old self saying you wanted to hurry up and finish pre-school.
Michaeline DeJoria [00:05:02]: Oh, I couldn’t get out fast enough. I started kindergarten at four.
Kelly Kovack [00:05:05]: So you could graduate and start your job as CEO of the company. So what does it feel like to finally be CEO?
Michaeline DeJoria [00:00:16]: It’s so surreal. It still hasn’t sunk in yet, honestly. It’s like you work so hard for something for so long and it’s such a big something that there’s always, I think, a piece of it that feels like it’s pie in the sky. So to actually be here, I’m like, it’s just a trip. I still can’t believe it. I’m so excited. I’m so – I’m just so optimistic about the future. I’m thrilled. And I love the people that I work with so much. It’s all for the people. You know, one of the things with this job is I was never asked to take on this job one day; that all came from me. I never had the pressure, there wasn’t any expectation. I didn’t need to take on this job. I chose to commit my life to this job because I care so much about our people and about this incredible JPMS family that John Paul built from essentially the back of his car. So knowing that and just loving it so much and having so much gratitude for an industry that helped us create the life we’ve been able to create and to give back in the ways that we’ve been able to give back is something that I’m endless committed to. That gratitude is something I’ll always have. So it feels incredibly exciting, but above all, I’m just still really humbled by it, truly. I’m proud of where we are, but I’m honored – that’s the word I’m looking for.
Kelly Kovack [00:06:36]: Well, and you certainly didn’t inherit the position. I mean, you worked across departments of the business. Why was that important to you? And what was your first job in the business?
Michaeline DeJoria [00:06:47]: So, again, no one asked me to do that. I just kind of showed up and started doing it. So my first job job in the business was, oh my god, I’ve come my whole life. So I would go and “help” [I’m air-quoting for everyone who can’t see] everyone in the office, which was really just like putting crayons in their fax machine and like writing on pieces of paper. So I was always just trying to be everywhere. I would answer phones a lot. I would go and help the front desk if I’d come in with my dad for work. And my first job job, I just started showing up right after college and asking a million questions and they were finally like, oh, you should have a title that’s fitting to what you’re doing, which is learning and shaping for the future. And I said well, before I get into any titles or offices, I still want to keep asking and learning. It was incredibly important to me that I spend time understanding every department. And I still do. Everyone that works for me will tell you, I constantly am asking questions and touching base with different departments: can you help me understand this? What does this acronym mean? It still happens. At least once a week I’ll see something in a meeting where I’m like, why do we call it that? What is that acronym? I’m fully honest about the fact that I don’t have all of the answers because it would be foolish for someone to act like they did. And I just – I always felt that I couldn’t be the most effective leader someday unless I had all the information. I couldn’t possibly make the best choice unless I know how it impacts all the other departments and all the stops to get to the end user. So I did. And now, you know, an example I use is if someone asks me about a cap color, blue or white, it’s not as simple for me. Anyone else could just pick the color they like. I now know, because I took the time and invested that time and had the humility to ask a lot of questions, I know that if I do that, what it’s going to do to impact international regulations, therefore screening, therefore SKUs in the warehouse. There are so many more pieces to every decision that’s made in an organization, and I think the best thing any leader can do, and I think that everyone is a leader in one capacity or another in any job they have, is to understand the implications it has on everyone else, understand your coworkers’ positions and your customers’ positions, because if you don’t have that knowledge, you can’t possibly be serving them to the best of your ability and making the best choice for the longest amount of time for the greatest amount of people.
Kelly Kovack [00:09:22]: I think the cap choice is such sort of a brilliant story because creative choices sometimes get made from an emotional place rather than sort of an intellectual place, which is always fascinating because there are business impacts to creative decisions, but very often people don’t really sync them. I’ve had clients where it’s like, don’t show her anything yellow. She hates yellow. And I’m like, that’s preposterous, but okay.
Michaeline DeJoria [00:09:53]: I know, like if we have a customer, like customer ABC might love yellow and that’s what would sell the best. It’s not about what I would choose to tattoo on my body; it’s about the best choice for that customer or that brand. It’s not about us – any of us. It’s about our brand, for sure.
Kelly Kovack [00:10:10]: You know, did you feel sort of extra pressure to prove yourself because you are coming in as one of the founder’s daughters?
Michaeline DeJoria [00:10:20]: Oh, absolutely. I think in having this lovely chat conversation with my friend Kelly, I have to be fully transparent. I think that coming in as the owner’s daughter was an extra pressure. I think coming in with a successful family background was extra pressure. Being a woman was extra pressure. Being a young mom at the same time was certainly extra pressure. So for me, that was just one of so many things where they’re all lovely problems to have. I love my family. I’m proud of my family background. My father has created this tremendous thing. But people assume it would be easier because of those things. It’s quite a bit harder on the pressure standpoint because I now not only have to prove that I’m capable at my job, I have to prove that I am more than capable than any other human being living on planet earth who could possibly take this job. Because there are so – people get a little excited when they watch things fall. And so early on it my career, it was a lot of resilience. Not only in – the industry has always been lovely. In the business world, it was tough. Amongst coworkers sometimes it was really tough. I think most people root for you to win, but there can’t help but be a little bit of satisfaction when someone who you think got there in an easy way has some issues. So I went in avoiding all of that from the beginning and I said I am here to serve you, let’s be very clear on that. There is no self-serving purpose here. This is my dream. My dream is to one day take care of you guys the way that my father has and in my own way so that we have a thousand more years together. And I came in humble and I’ve stayed humble. Truly. I have conversations and I have broken those barriers down for countless years and I continue to do it because people have actually learned to trust the fact that they are getting what I am giving them, and that’s really all there is to get. There is no hidden agenda. I’m not phoning it in. If I don’t know something, I don’t pretend that I do. I never expect myself to have the best idea, but I expect myself to make the best decision regardless of whose idea it is. So not having an ego I think was probably the most helpful thing that I could have come in with and it has served me well. Because it’s a lot to disprove those theories.
Kelly Kovack [00:12:52]: Oh, I mean, of course. I mean, the first thing, you know, if people don’t know the backstory, it’s like yeah, she’s there because, you know.
Michaeline DeJoria [00:13:00]: She’s an easy person to hand it off to.
Kelly Kovack [00:13:03]: Right, exactly. But how would you describe your leadership style? So in a day-to-day, how do you kind of operationalize this humility and constantly asking questions? And being so hands-on in such a large organization.
Michaeline DeJoria [00:13:19]: Yeah. My leadership style is first and foremost collaborative. I collaborate with every “level” of leadership within our team. We exchange ideas. We talk. We collaborate. There aren’t really barriers between me and anyone else. We have open conversations in that way; innovative. I’m always looking to see, okay, 20 years from now, what do we want to be doing? Let’s plan for that. So I’m extremely forward-thinking and I’m very big picture thinking. Innovation is important, and I do have a high standard when it comes to attention to detail. And again, just thinking about 20 years ahead, 10 years ahead, five years ahead, so if I look at something and they say okay, we’re going to redo a package on this bottle, which screen do you like better? I have to look at it and say okay, I like this screen better, but if we know this other segment is going to get rebranded in three years and it may have a similar color to what that is, I want to save that color for that launch and not paint ourselves in a corner now. So to sum it up in words, I would say: collaborative, forward-thinking, innovative, and big picture-focused.
Kelly Kovack [00:14:31]: You know, it’s interesting you say that because I feel like maybe it’s the past ten years, maybe it’s less than that, because the industry moves so fast, people have started employing this very short-term thinking, like I’m going to fix it for now, what’s going to get me there the fastest, make me the most competitive now, make the most money now, rather than thinking, you know, long-term. I think…you know, I haven’t, until very recently, heard people have the desire to build brands that have legacy. It’s been this like, I want to build it, and before there’s even goop in a jar, there’s an exit plan. Which perpetuates short-term thinking because there’s a short-term goal, which is to exit.
Michaeline DeJoria [00:15:23]: Totally, I agree. I think the short-term thinking is so dangerous and we have gotten so far away from that, we’ve become such a reactive society. We’ve become such a reactive business in general. Everything seems to be very reactive and impulsive and short-minded, and that is not setting us up for long-term success. So I’ve always had a slightly different approach. And being a – which I found out from my kids the other day, I’m like a geriatric millennial, whatever that is. I was like, oh my god. But apparently the millennials they say are the ones that are supposed to be the most short-sighted, and I’m like, I don’t know, maybe I do do things different. But I do see a good population of people, to your point Kelly, starting a trend back where they do value long-term. And I think in the devestation of COVID, of course, there are always gifts to take from everything, and one of the gifts that I hope came from COVID was just this realization of I’m going to switch jobs every 18 months and get, you know, this much more, that much more, be in an office that’s this much cooler. People really stopped to think, wow, anything can change any second. Maybe I should start thinking about having grounding, structure, stability, long-term planning. I think it was a little bit of a party out there. It was a little bit of a wild west and now the music is softening and people are like, maybe it’s time to go home and get some rest. Maybe we need to start actually planning and putting emphasis into legacy brands and actually starting to build something that can be an impactful and positive thing on the planet, not just the next cool thing.
Kelly Kovack [00:17:10]: Yeah, and especially on sort of the professional side of the business there’s been so much consolidation and also brands that sort of started in the professional channel moving outside of the professional channel to achieve growth. But sort of the positioning and the DNA of the brand, I would imagine, makes sort of that long-term thinking that much easier, because from what I understand, the business is never going to be sold. It’s never leaving the professional channel.
Michaeline DeJoria [00:17:38]: Never
Kelly Kovack [00:17:39]: So, you know, it kind of – all of that noise goes away and you can kind of focus on what the mandate is of the business. I’d love to hear, in your words, what the DNA of this amazing business is and how it’s differentiated the brand sort of in a super competitive category. But you guys are the leaders, you’re wildly successful, and privately held, which is also sort of a rarity.
Michaeline DeJoria [00:18:08]: Yeah. I think that our DNA is all about love. Like we love everybody. We have been, from day one of our business, we have been all-inclusive, we’ve been cruelty free, we’ve cared about the environment. We did things that we actually were criticized for back in the beginning because it was “bad business.” It was inefficient testing practice to not use animals, but we’ve always been principle-based because we’re just humans first. And I hate to oversimplify it, but I think the DNA of just being a human being that cares about the planet and cares about people and just everything starts with love has really helped us through. I mean, we haven’t waivered from that. You can see it in everything we do. And still to this day, for a corporation of our size, we really function very much like a small business. I mean, we joke a lot about how even when I interview candidates to work directly with me, I say a lot of people have in mind when they see my title on paper this glamorous Devil Wears Prada moment where it’s like everyone has on their heels and they have like these security clearances and they go up to the big buildings and there’s like a barista. That’s just not us. It’s not. We are actually walking the walk. We’re creating big business. But our DNA is very much how it was when it started. The only difference is, I think, because we’re a family-owned business, because it’s a privately-held company, there’s a decision-maker. It takes two seconds for us to pivot. It takes one word from me to make a decision that could change everything. We don’t wait to go through red tape and processes. We don’t have a board we have to answer to. I mean, our board is made up of a handful of people, three of them are John Paul, Angus, and myself. So it’s not like we’re being dictated by a big corporate group. We can pivot on a dime and we can adapt and we can play and we can try new things. And a big thing for me, I always say to the team, let’s try it. If we haven’t done it yet, let’s try it. I mean, unless it has to do with going against our principles, no real long-term pain is going to come from trying anything new. So we’re always just looking to play, and we have the freedom and ability to do that because we haven’t allowed ourselves to get very corporate.
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You now, it’s interesting, I did a webinar…it was a couple months ago with a completely different business, but the similarities strike me in sort of the commitment and clarity and purpose, and that’s Dr. Bronner’s.
Michaeline DeJoria [00:21:34]: Oh yeah.
Kelly Kovack [00:21:35]: You know, same thing. You know, it’s like they know what they stand for, they’re committed to it, privately held. I think there’s kind of a freedom in operating in that way. And I think also, businesses, which, you know, it’s definitely in the minority that have those convictions and that culture in the DNA found it easier to navigate the past year, and COVID and Black Lives Matter and sort of the political divide because you didn’t have to have this big comms meeting of how you were going to engage, you just knew because it’s second nature.
Michaeline DeJoria [00:22:16]: Yeah, absolutely. And there is something to be said for, you know, last year was our 40-year anniversary – 40 years later when you have had this tremendous reputation that John Paul has built, that Paul in his early days built with the business, that the brand has. You have relationships and you have the trust and the support and the ear of people, and because we have such an incredibly beautiful, diverse network of people in our personal and corporate lives, it was incredible to be able to have these kinds of productive conversations with people where they know you, they know where your heart is at. If you see an opportunity to do better, we’re the first people to say, oh, you know what? There is an opportunity to do better. Thank you so much for telling us. Full transparency. Like, nothing really happens behind closed doors in the world or in our organization for us. So yes, it serves you well to be driven from purpose from day one because you’re just so much more grounded when the winds come. You’re not trying to find your North Star. I know where our North Star is. If you can help me get there, if you can help me see it a different way, that’s fantastic. But I’m not scrambling like so many of these start-ups were to see what’s our position? Are we political or are we not? Are we this are we not? It’s like pick something and hope.
Kelly Kovack [00:23:31]: It’s not only you, I would imagine your entire organization isn’t scrambling because everyone just…
Michaeline DeJoria [00:23:38]: Oh, that’s what I mean.
Kelly Kovack [00:23:39]: It’s engrained.
Michaeline DeJoria [00:23:41]: Yeah, yeah. I think if you, as a company, can just know who you are from the beginning, it’s a whole lot easier to find your ground.
Kelly Kovack [00:23:50]: When the COVID pandemic hit the professional haircare industry, or the professional industry period, really hard, I was so inspired by how brands in the professional channel wasted no time stepping in where the government was falling short and really came to the table in a profound way to make sure people were okay. I literally just got goosebumps thinking about it because it happened immediately and these were not small gestures, they were big. Can you share a little bit about how the pro channel moved so fast? I don’t know, I mean, maybe you knew how this was going to play out. And also some of the initiatives that you guys made sort of over the past year to help your partners make it through.
Michaeline DeJoria [00:24:37]: Yeah, and it is so beautiful. You do get goosebumps thinking about it. This industry has always been such an incredible and such a supportive industry. So I’m not surprised at all by how much we responded to taking care of one another. Speaking for us as a company, when it all came down, no one knew what the end was going to be. No one knew when the end was going to be, how it was going to pan out. The first thing we thought of, which was the opposite of what almost every other company I’ve spoken to, and I’m like, where are you guys at? What are you thinking about? Their headspace was in a very different place than ours. We did not, for a second, start thinking about how do we save ourselves or how do we start cutting the budget and saving money. We went straight to how do we save our customers? What can we do to help the industry get saved? And honestly, when we had this conversation – John Paul and I had this conversation, we had it with Angus, I said look, if this is the era where JPMS goes down because our ship sank giving our family life vests, that is a hell of a legacy for me to leave behind and I would be very satisfied with that. It mattered so much more to us, it wasn’t even – that was just a two-second, that wasn’t even a conversation. We were so aligned on that. So we just – from day one, we went straight into it. When the stimulus program came out, it was all about our people, it was all about the industry, it was all about the customers. So the first thing we did was we reallocated funds that we were going to put towards our big semi-annual gallery and we said okay, let’s take this, let’s take extra funds, let’s put together a stimulus package, and let’s send it to our customers. So we sent free product, we sent sanitation supplies, we sent color, back bar, anything they would need to reopen their salon and to take the weight off of you now don’t need to worry about buying equipment to reopen. Here is a kit worth thousands of dollars of revenue that you can start to open the doors with. It was tens of millions of dollars’ worth of goods that we had sent out. We also, in there, included coupons of 50% off once they come back into the salon. So we really tried to make the landing as soft as possible from the get-go and say, look, you have this for when you reopen, take that off your plate. And for your next step, when you need to replenish, it’s going to cost you half as much as it did before, we’re going to make it, and the support that we gave too was also very emotional. Before they even got the directive from us at leadership, our sales reps were already calling their customers. They were already texting them. How’s your dad? Are your kids okay? Do you need anything? Is the salon fine? Can I bring you food? I remember that you said your mom lives out of state, do you need anybody there to help with her? That’s what gives me goosebumps. I mean, our team, the amount of pride and the amount of tears that I shed during that time, seeing how much our team just loves our people and our industry so much, it was – I mean, I get choked up talking about it now. It was so organic. It was not a business trying to save themselves; it was a business saying okay, now it’s time for us to step up and return the favor in your darkest hour. And again, if this is how the company ends and every resource goes towards that, I would be just as proud of what we did as the other alternative, which is wow, we actually made it through, we’re stronger than ever. People really appreciated something as simple as a phone call a lot more than they did a printed paper from a corporation.
Kelly Kovack [00:28:24]: I found that, at least sort of initially, the pro channel really sort of came together faster than other segments. And I think maybe because it is, you know, at the end of the day, a lot of people who own salons are creatives. Creatives first, businesspeople second. And they don’t have a lot of working capital. A lot of businesses don’t have enough working capital to get through what we go through. But these are small businesses; they’re mom and pop businesses. My niece is a hairdresser in New York City and I sort of saw what her owners were going through. It was amazing to me that brands like yours and other leaders in the industry, it was about if we don’t take care of our distributors, of the individual stylists of the salons, we don’t have a business.
Michaeline DeJoria [00:29:15]: Totally.
Kelly Kovack [00:29:16]: So it was this long-term thinking of, you know, and I also think the pro-channel is much more community-based than perhaps other segments as well.
Michaeline DeJoria [00:29:24]: Yes, I was just going to say, I think there is such a unique camaraderie that comes in this industry. That’s why I say this industry is really special. I wasn’t surprised to see, of all the industries out there, this one was a standout for how quickly we responded and how quickly us, as an industry, just came together. We really care about each other. Hairdressers are the best. They really are. It’s so infectious.
Kelly Kovack [00:29:50]: They certainly have fun. The hair shows are not like any other show.
Michaeline DeJoria [00:29:53]: They love what they do. No, I’m like, god, should I have, like, a short hot pink bob? Like, I leave these shows and I’m so inspired. I’m like, no, I’ll just put my brown hair back in an elastic. But it is very inspiring to see.
Kelly Kovack [00:30:06]: I know, I always think, oh my god, I feel so old and spongy.
Michaeline DeJoria [00:30:10]: I know, I know. People think in my position that I always have great advice for what products they can use. People ask me all the time, like, what products can I use for this kind of hair? I’m like, I’m not a hairstylist, and god bless the people who are, because I can’t even blow dry my own hair. I have a tremendous amount of respect for those people.
Kelly Kovack [00:30:26]: You and me both. I find it – but I cannot blow dry my own hair to save my life.
Michaeline DeJoria [00:30:33]: Me neither. I actually went to a stylist once when I was a teenager because I got the brush stuck in my hair. I couldn’t get it out.
Kelly Kovack [00:30:39]: I always get my hair stuck in the motor of the hair dryer somehow. Yeah.
Michaeline DeJoria [00:30:45]: Yeah. You know what? We have great products that we can use for heat styling or air dry, so I’m going to lean toward air dry and just bless a stylist when they decide to heat style me as a treat.
Kelly Kovack [00:30:57]: I think during the past year I have – first of all, I didn’t realize how many people were involved in keeping me looking like I work in the beauty industry. It’s a small army. And how incapable I am of grooming myself.
Michaeline DeJoria [00:31:16]: Totally. I felt like I had such imposter syndrome. I’m like, oh my god, are you sure you want this to be the face? Thank god for glam squads because I just realized you can get these lights on your laptop like a month ago. Like, I didn’t have any of that for 14 straight months. I was like, god, I’m so behind.
Kelly Kovack [00:31:37]: I know, it’s crazy. Well, you know, I mean because of the vaccination, you know, it feels like very quickly we’re getting back to some semblance of what normal is going to be. What is your – you know, since you are so tapped into the pro channel, sort of what is the current state of the businesses and the channel? And what do you think the future is going to look like?
Michaeline DeJoria [00:32:03]: I think we’re going to see a little less saturation in the market. I think the era of just these quick pop-up brands, it was really out of control. We had so much market saturation for so long, and I think through COVID, through just this reassessment of what kinds of brands and corporations the consumer wants to support, I think we’re going to see fewer and more impactful. I think we’re certainly seeing a call to action amongst this industry, and quite frankly, every other when it comes to sustainability and social responsibilities, and people want to feel good about the companies they’re supporting. So that’s not a nice to do anymore, that’s a got to do. We’ve been doing it forever and no one cared and now everyone is like oh, we’re going to do it to! And we’re like, yay! I get so frustrated; I want to show you what we were doing from before. But it’s nice that they’re finally joining and sharing in those ethos. So I think we’re going to see fewer brands but more impact. And I think things like care and repair and wellness goes without saying. I think that is going to see a huge uptick. Because if there’s one thing that this last year taught us, it’s less about the aesthetic and it really is more about meet and repair and wellness and self-love and nourishment for your skin, your hair, your body, all of those things that make up this incredible thing that we live in every day.
Kelly Kovack [00:33:30]: I mean, do you know – I guess I’m not looking for exact numbers, but have the majority of salons kind of made it through?
Michaeline DeJoria [00:33:38]: I don’t know what the specific number would be. We have really varying reports. Also because the states all opened at different times, it’s like whack-a-mole. I know that when most states reopened, I think the overall was about half made it and half didn’t. Having said that, some states just reopened, some have been opened for a long time and maybe they’ve opened since then. So I really can’t give a number, but generally speaking, we were hearing it was about half and half across the board.
Kelly Kovack [00:34:10]: And are people sort of feeling optimistic?
Michaeline DeJoria [00:34:14]: People are feeling optimistic and I’m actually – I’m seeing a lot of innovation come from work dynamic also. That’s another reason why I’m so hesitant to say which salons made it and which didn’t, because so many storefronts closed.
Kelly Kovack [00:34:26]: I think things changed. Yeah.
Michaeline DeJoria [00:34:28]: Yeah, but the stylists didn’t close their business; they didn’t stop being hair stylists. I don’t think anything really could stop a hair stylist from being a hair stylist. Once you’re in that club, you’re pretty ride-or-die. But a lot of people now are moving towards being an independent stylist, are moving towards apps and house calls and more concierge service-based services than the traditional brick-and-mortar we were seeing before. So I don’t think it’s going anywhere. I think it’s changing. And I think that that change is going to help us grow.
Kelly Kovack [00:34:59]: It’s too soon. I mean, to your point. So sustainability is definitely top of mind. I mean, it has to be. Consumers are demanding it. But beyond that, it’s just kind of the right thing to do. It’s infinitely easier to launch a sustainable brand from zero to take a heritage brand and kind of retrofit sustainability. So can you share a little bit about how you’re tackling sustainability?
Michaeline DeJoria [00:35:25]: Of course. So we had, last year I launched our big corporate sustainability pledge. The four main pillars are: commitment to ethical sourcing, reduction of virgin plastic, reduce waste to landfill, and reduce our carbon footprint. Within that, you can see on our website we actually posted a tracker for public accountability. We put that on ourselves so we can hold ourselves accountable too. And on that there are so many things. Every little thing really adds up. I think what’s important for people to understand is this big pledge that we’ve made is one of many things of the future because you can’t just set it and forget it. The same way we had it figured out at the time in 1980, it’s very different in 2021. So this is just a constant evolution. You have to keep changing. I hope to god that this is one of many sustainability pledges that we hope to as new resources and information come out through the next ten’s and twenties and hundreds of years. It’s very important to us, and I think a very detrimental thing that people need to understand from every aspect is it’s a lot harder to implement some of these changes than the consumer world or even the customer world might think it is. You can’t just overnight say, we’re going to go to recycled plastic. There are months and years of testing and sourcing and reformulating if something’s not compatible in a package. And then you learn about this kind of plastic. Okay, it saves you so much water, but it’s a little worse for the carbon footprint. Okay, but this one wastes more water, but it’s better for the carbon footprint. It deserves to have the time and education because these are huge changes and if we make a change, we want it to have, again, the greatest impact for the greatest amount of people for the longest amount of time. So these things are wonderful to do and I would just encourage everyone – collaborate with these companies. Collaborate with people like us. It’s really easy to sit behind a keyboard, and luckily we’ve been pretty lucky here, but for any business, it’s easy to sit behind a keyboard and say, you didn’t do this fast enough, or you’re not doing this. It’s like guys, you have no idea the thousand dominoes that that is going to affect. And at the end, it might not even be giving you the thing you think you want; it might be doing more harm than good. So it takes a minute and luckily we’ve had 41 years of minutes to continue to craft these things.
Kelly Kovack [00:37:55]: No, it is such a large topic and it’s so complicated. It’s like a ball of string: you just keep pulling and pulling. And, to your point, there is no one right or wrong. It depends on so many variables. It depends on the business itself. And I really feel like there are a handful of businesses kind of having this realistic conversation about what it takes and the decision-making required and the implications. But that’s a complicated narrative to tell people, and it’s also – I’m not sure how many people care and want to understand it.
Michaeline DeJoria [00:38:37]: Exactly. Again, they just – right now, short term thinking. Give it. Give it right now.
Kelly Kovack [00:38:43]: Yeah, and then there’s this other narrative happening where, you know, there’s sort of this fear mongering and kind of I’m right, you’re wrong narrative, which makes me crazy because it doesn’t help anyone. It doesn’t help brands, it doesn’t help the industry, it doesn’t help consumers. But I do think that, to your point, there’s going to be maybe less brands, more quality, and brands that have longer-term thinking that are thinking about sustainability in sort of a sustainable way, you know?
Michaeline DeJoria [00:39:15]: Yeah, absolutely. 100%. I agree.
Kelly Kovack [00:39:20]: Yeah. So what is in store for the future? You guys are such innovators.
Michaeline DeJoria [00:39:24]: Thank you.
Kelly Kovack [00:39:25]: And you’re just getting started. I think you stepped into this role in February, right?
Michaeline DeJoria [00:39:30]: I did, yes. This just happened – or no, was it March? February/March, somewhere around there. So for the future for us, always, innovation, innovation, innovation. Lead with innovation, absolutely, when it comes to product, processes, programs, education, we’re so excited about what we’ve been able to do to our digital activation as a result of COVID. It’s actually opened a lot of opportunity for us to just share that information. Knowledge is power. Technology, of course, in the AI space. We launched Hair AI last year, which is amazing. It reads the scalp and hair and can give you a full rundown of what it looks like, give you product recommendations right there. And what’s so great is that particular technology, for us, was exciting because it’s a tool that we’re giving our customers so they can best serve their customers. Especially if you’re starting out as a stylist, or you’re carrying a brand like ours, our portfolio is huge. We have so many brands and so many products. We have something for everybody. And it’s exciting to give them that confidence where they can make a product recommend that is specifically and truly, even through the verification of AI, the best product for their hair in that moment. And it also helps because a lot of these stylists don’t have to carry as much product. They can order from there and still make the commission and we’ve set it up in that way when we first transitioned to Amazon, little known fact. The only reason we did was because we wanted to find a way where we could take the diverted sales and put them in the pockets of the people who deserved them, which was in the industry. So credit to Amazon, they worked with us, and it’s the first time we’ve done that, where we could actually commission our customers because that was the only way we would do it. So it’s exciting to see technology being used to help our team as opposed to seeing technology as something that’s competing with our team. Like, oh no, we don’t use technology to replace people. We use technology to connect the people and to help your business thrive so you can connect even more.
Kelly Kovack [00:41:31]: That’s one of the things that I have been so excited about sort of the past year, you know, a lot of the technology kind of leading into COVID was just about that: replacing the human touch, how can we be more efficient and how can we kind of bypass that. And the technology coming out is how can we use technology to bridge the gap between the physical and the digital using sort of a human being to be that connection, which I think is amazing. Because you can’t replace sort of that human interaction in beauty with an app.
Michaeline DeJoria [00:42:10]: You cannot and I mean, sure, you can put a pigment on your hair at home, but you are never going to get the same experience you would if you go and see your stylist and get a color. You wouldn’t. And that relationship piece. I have so many treasured memories sitting in that chair and having conversations with stylists. It’s such a sacred place. It really is. And it sounds silly because it’s just like oh, you’re just getting your hair done. You’re not just getting your hair done; you’re trusting someone with this shell you wear every day and you’re saying to them, in your own vulnerability, this is how I want to express myself, can you please help me get there? When you really step back and think about the relationship and the process between a stylist and the customer, it’s so beautiful. It’s so much more layered and so much more vulnerable and trusting than people realize it is. It’s not about the service; there’s so much more to it than that. And our goal at JPMS is always to remind people of that. That’s why we want to drive them to go see a stylist. You can’t replace it. And my biggest fear as a business owner, as a parent, as a wife, as a mom, as just a citizen is technology starting to replace people and replace relationships. Even through COVID, I kept telling the team, look, this is working for us now, but let’s not start to lean on this as, oh, it’s so much easier to just see each other through a screen than it is to drive to work. It’s a really slippery slope. You don’t have to leave your house for anything anymore. I’m like, no, come back! See your stylist. Go to work. See each other. Have lunch with friends. Don’t lose that.
Kelly Kovack [00:43:40]: Yeah. At BeautyMatter we are a very small team and we’ve always kind of had a hybrid approach, but yesterday was the first time the majority of the team was together and we just did it in my apartment.
Michaeline DeJoria [00:43:53]: Didn’t it feel so good?
Kelly Kovack [00:43:54]: It was amazing. I don’t know how productive we were, but it was amazing to see each other.
Michaeline DeJoria [00:44:00]: It’s the best. And I call it the COVID awkward greeting. We’re like, oh, I want to hug you, are you comfortable, are you handshaking? And then everyone feels compelled to give their vaccine status. They’re like, oh, hey Jim, I’m vaccinated.
Kelly Kovack [00:44:16]: I know. Are you Moderna or Pfizer?
Michaeline DeJoria [00:44:19]: Yeah, which one did you – how were your side effects? The way Angelinos talk about traffic and our commute and which route do you take, this is like the new conversation here. Which side effect did you have? Which shot did you get?
Kelly Kovack [00:44:32]: Yeah. You know, I live in New York and we – my husband and I were with my mom outside the city for most of the year, which I’ve never been away from New York for that long. And coming back, it’s like this weird re-entry, but everyone’s kind of going through the same thing. It’s like this social awkwardness I’ve never seen before.
Michaeline DeJoria [00:44:51]: It’s like everyone’s first day back at school. You’re like, hey guys, where have you been all summer? All 14-month summer?
Kelly Kovack [00:45:00]: Yeah, it’s funny. Well, Michaeline, thank you so much for joining us. It was a pleasure meeting you. This was so much fun. I was really excited – you’re running one of the most iconic beauty brands, so it’s an honor to kind of have this conversation and hear it from you firsthand and share it with our audience.
Michaeline DeJoria [00:45:19]: Thank you so much, Kelly. That’s so sweet. And I’m so happy to be here. I was really honored that you even wanted to talk to me.
Kelly Kovack [00:45:24]: Of course!
Michaeline DeJoria [00:45:45]: I was like, oh, okay, great. Sure.
Kelly Kovack [00:45:29]: No, you know, when your team reached out, it was more about kind of an editorial, and I’m not a journalist; I came from the brand side. And I was like, no, I want to have a conversation with her, I don’t want to write about it. So thank you.
Michaeline DeJoria [00:45:42]: I love it. I’m so glad you did, this is so great. Thank you for having me.
Kelly Kovack [00:45:53]: For Michaeline, it’s a matter of people. She may have been born into the beauty industry, but she made the decision to dedicate her life to the professional salon haircare industry and to the brand her father built with the motto “success unshared is failure.” As the largest privately-held US professional haircare brand, the business was hit hard during the pandemic. Yet their survival plan was focused on the survival of independent salon owners and hairstylists that were the lifeblood of their business. Michaeline is excited about reimagining the future and pushing the business to new bounds while maintaining the ethos that the company was founded on. Their commitment to the professional industry is unwavering; it’s their North Star. She has spent her entire life preparing for this moment, and as CEO, she has some pretty big shoes to fill. But there is no doubt she is more than capable of shepherding this family business into the future. So in the end, it’s a matter of people, and that’s what matters. I’m Kelly Kovac, see you next time.
Michaeline DeJoria [00:47:01]: Hi, I’m Michaeline, and to me what matters is people. At the core of everything we do as a company, as humanity, it all comes down to people. Lead with people and principle first, and success will inevitably follow.
Kelly Kovack [00:47:18]: It’s A Matter Of is a production of BeautyMatter LLC. You can find more content and insights on www.BeautyMatter.com and follow us on social media @BeautyMatterOfficial.
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