As the daughter of John Paul DeJoria, a cofounder of John Paul Mitchell Systems [JPMS], Michaeline DeJoria, 36, grew up in the business. She supplemented her hands-on experience with studies at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising and Pepperdine University. She officially joined the company in 2007, spending time in every department—including the warehouse floor. She was named CEO in March, and previously served as Vice Chairman. Here, Michaeline talks about her vision for the future of JPMS and why it was so important to put profits on the back burner in favor of supporting salon professionals through the pandemic.  The company created the JPMS Salon Jumpstart Stimulus, a $4 million program that included free hair color, free backbar product, discounted offers and enhanced digital support to help beauty professionals generate immediate revenue upon salon reopening.

Beauty News: What are your goals for the legendary brand—what will stay the same and what will be different?
Michaeline DeJoria: The one thing that will always be the same is the corporate ethos. Our company principles are founded on everyone, treating everyone with equality. We celebrate all different types of looks and styles. We are not a company that tells you how to look or what you should do with your hair. We’ve always been cruelty free and environmentally conscious—these pillars are supreme to us.

What will change is that I am always looking for how we can be bigger, better and more innovative. I look for things within our company as far as programs and processes on an internal level and how we can be more efficient—incorporate more voices and ideas into the decisions we make. We have a very collaborative culture. The hope in doing so is that we can constantly be thinking outside the box to reach new people, to make innovative products, add technology and see how we can speak to a wider audience.

BN: What’s the genesis of your new XO Your Pro campaign with Winnie Harlow and celebrity hairstylist Cesar DeLeon Ramirez that’s featured across several media platforms and on the brand’s website?
MD: XO is all about celebrating stylists, especially coming out of a year with COVID. We want to remind people about special relationships with stylists—it is something that can’t be replaced with any at home service. We want to celebrate all of those who have shown up for us all these years to help us look and feel our best. And we all know, a good stylist is like a therapist and a friend.

BN: What did you learn during the past year? How did you deal with the closing of salons? What worried you the most when the world shut down?
MD: Most people always need to wash their hair, but what I was worried about was people losing their relationship when they were out of the chair with their professional. The professional piece was what worried me; not so much the care piece.

We did something different than a lot of businesses. We didn’t lean into saving the company or saving profits. We leaned into saving the industry and providing as much aid to our stylists and distributor partners [including the Jumpstart Stimulus]. It was important for us to support them—even if we had gone out of business doing so. We chose to divert funds into an industry that has supported us for so long as opposed to saving our own ship and bottom line. [JPMS did not furlough any employees].

What was surprising and what makes us feel so grateful is our business actually increased exponentially. We are at record breaking numbers. At the end of the day, people go back to relationships… it isn’t about hashtags and imaging. I was proud of how we handled the past year and pleasantly surprised on how it did impact our business.

BN: How has your distribution evolved? You talk about being where your customers are.
MD:  The last 10, five and even two years taught us is that things are constantly evolving. We have to be able to pivot and stay relevant. One of the things I am proud of is we have always pledged to stay within the professional hair care industry. The way we were able to do that with ecommerce was to find a way to not take away from the professional industry, but actually divert funds back to their pocket.

Our partnership with Amazon allows salons and stylists to receive commissions for JPMS sales they make through the site, giving them the opportunity to earn extra money without taking on extra inventory [also helping eliminate unauthorized web sellers]. Once enrolled, they receive a custom URL code that is linked to their own businesses and can be easily shared with their clients to make extra commissions [JPMS is a leader in Amazon’s pro beauty category for commissions rewarded]. We also incentivize our customers for these sales through our corporate loyalty program. We took the idea of ecommerce and used it as a tool to support stylists and the industry as opposed to joining it in a way that would take away from what was most important to us.

BN: What advice do you give to others, especially young professionals, looking to grow their career?
MD: My advice first and foremost is to lean into youth. Use your open-mindedness and the fact you have outside eyes to bring a different perspective. I never tried to copy what anyone else was doing or prove myself to any model. My value was having fresh eyes.

The number one advice I give to anyone is to keep your ego at the door.  If you have the humility to collaborate with your team, ask questions if you don’t know the answer, admit if you made a mistake, keep the group elevated and take time to learn the different areas about the business, you set yourself up to be a complete and successful leader and a better decision maker.

I took the time in every department to digest everything that they did, and I now can make decisions I know will positively impact all the different departments. I insisted on that. I knew I couldn’t be a good leader if I didn’t understand all the implications of every department.

BN: Did you have a favorite position or one that had a big impact on you?
MD: One area I enjoyed was warehouse and operations; the backbone of our business. I have a tremendous amount of respect for what they do. No matter what we do in the office, if your warehouse isn’t running like clockwork you can’t do anything. What also surprised me in operations is how one tiny change, a blue cap for a white cap for example, can have so much impact.

BN: What new products do you have in store?
MD: We always have new products. Last year we launched Paul Mitchell Clean Beauty which we call ‘farm to bottle.’ It is made on a bio-dynamic farm where the ingredients are sourced and manufactured right there with sugarcane packaging. It is a beautiful marriage of sustainability and performance.

We launched our Hair AI technology powered by Fitskin, which uses proprietary technology and advanced artificial intelligence to display magnified images and evaluate the conditions of the scalp and hair strand. And in the next year or two we have expansion in our Tea Tree Collection, and we are leaning more into color and color support. We are leading with color to drive traffic back to salons.

BN: You have kids and a busy schedule. When and if you have spare time, what do you like to do?
MD: I enjoy backgammon, I’m a real foodie and love cooking for my family.

BN: Will we see any food inspiration future launches? And are you following your dad’s path in launching spirits?
MD: No alcohol…we are staying in hair care. But we are looking for ideas that fit our ethos and customer needs that might go beyond topicals. That’s interesting about asking about food; we might just have some food-inspiration coming up.