Inspirational Interview – Erin Patten & Willis Marshall (DāO Detroit) Defy All Odds – Bringing Something Special to this World that Encourages Others to Defy All Odds

How did you meet?

We met at a legendary rooftop lounge in Detroit called 3Fifty Terrace. Will was there celebrating his birthday and Erin had just moved to town and was out with a few new friends. We happened to bump into each other at the bar and Erin struck up a conversation that ended up lasting a good 20-30 minutes. Will even met my friends, but we just exchanged information and went our separate ways after. There definitely were no fireworks or love at first sight sparks, however, the connection was very strong. We would text nearly daily after meeting and bump into each other at events across the city for the next month or so before we decided we needed a proper date. Once we made that initial step to spend quality time together, we never looked back and have been together every day since. Pretty awesome to think about!

Where did the name DāO come from?

DāO (pronounced day-o) very simply is an acronym meaning Defy All Odds. And Detroit represents the city where we met and where the business began. Defy All Odds is a personal mantra we created not too long after we met. We are both free spirits and have been intentional about blazing our own paths since we were kids accomplishing things that defied all odds. It was fate that brought us together. We truly believe that our union was predetermined and we were meant to bring something special to this world that encourages others to defy all odds just as we have. Once we established that our name would be DāO, we started to learn so many new things about Taoism and the founder Lao Tzu. The eastern philosophy has really become the inspiration for the brand ethos and even brand images. We believe in following your true path and encouraging others to do the same. DāO is a lifestyle.

Did your professional backgrounds influence DāO? 

In many ways, every aspect of our backgrounds — professional, personal, and family — has influenced DāO. Will played professional football for 12 years injury free and has been managing his own aquatic therapy business since. So many of his learnings from his experience as an athlete and therapist are critical to our wellness business. We are dedicated to teaching people holistic methods to care for their mind and body and much of these teachings come from our own personal experiences. Additionally, Erin’s experience working in NYC’s competitive fashion industry coupled with getting her masters in business and public policy at Harvard helps us to build a robust business model that will scale quickly. We understand that in order to be of service to others, we have to have a solid foundation as a business. In short, we have been preparing to Defy All Odds with DāO our whole lives.

You say in the video on your site that you were trying to find something that worked for both of you, what was the “A-Ha” moment that sprung you into action before this “testing” phase? 

The universe was speaking to us in so many different ways. However, the “A-Ha” moment happened when we were on a casual shopping trip to Target and were walking down the beauty and cosmetics aisle just doing some market research. As we were browsing, two different women walked up to Erin asking her, “What products do you use?” and “How do you get your hair like that?” It seemed like an easy question to answer, but it was hard for me to say, “Well, I have my own products,” because at the time we weren’t selling them and frankly, weren’t making more than a few bottles at a time. We brushed it off as a missed opportunity until we were scanning our items at self-checkout and another woman interrupted us and complimented Erin on how beautiful her hair was and asked again what products does she use. It was then we decided that we have to sell these products and further educate folks about the holistic journey of caring for the mind, body and hair.

What was the biggest setback early on in your DāO journey? Were you close to giving up?

Two months before we shipped our first product, Erin’s dad passed away unexpectedly. A month after that, one of her closest friends was murdered while visiting family abroad. It was an incredibly bumpy start for us dealing with family loss, managing an early-stage company, and learning to heal deep wounds. Giving up was never a serious consideration though there were trials and tests along the way. We felt greater than ever that this DāO journey was meant for us and the setbacks further affirm the acronym Defy All Odds. We really believe that if we are to teach and inspire others through our mission, then we also have to walk the walk ourselves.

What were some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned from your experience so far? 

The biggest lesson we’ve learned is we are better together. The setbacks we experienced taught us that we have to always communicate with each other and treat each other with kindness and compassion daily. People have cautioned us from the beginning that doing business with a love interest is bad business. However, we intend to prove all the doubters that a family-built business is not only possible but ideal for creating long-term wealth for generations.

DāO products are plant-based. Are they cruelty-free also? Are they considered Vegan?

Absolutely. We are so meticulous about ensuring that each ingredient used in our formulas are sourced ethically and meet vegan standards. There are no parabens, petroleum, phthalates, silicones, sulfates, or mineral oils in our products. So much of the beauty products found on drugstore shelves are packed full of harmful ingredients because there’s very little regulation in the beauty industry. Though often found in small quantities, over time, these harmful ingredients have been linked to asthma, birth defects, infertility and even cancer. We cannot live with these outcomes on our conscious, so we work tirelessly to provide the best quality products to protect you and your family.

Tell us about DāO’s mission of sustainability? How are you evolving this mission for an ever-changing world?

DāO’s mission is to empower individuals to embrace their unique gifts with love and healing. We believe as people learn to love who they are and learn to take proper care of their mental and physical health, good things emanate from them. Research shows that people who are mentally sound and physically healthy oftentimes lead happier lives, live longer and give back to their communities. DāO hopes to create a butterfly effect of goodness by inspiring good in individuals. As the world changes, people need to feel empowered to solve problems within reach and do so with empathy. Our goal is to help build more diverse communities that are self-loving and committed to supporting each other and working together to accept others just as they are.

Which charities do you support through your company? Is there anything you would like us to know about these charities?

We work with a few different organizations in Detroit to help improve community engagement and foster economic development. One organization we’re most proud of supporting is the VentureSchool. The VentureSchool is a young charter program that teaches high schools students curriculum via an entrepreneurship lens. Most people know of Detroit’s bankruptcy, but many folks don’t understand the full story. There are so many creative minds in the city that just need to be motivated and cultivated to think outside of the box and do things differently. We are inspired by organizations like the VentureSchool who challenge the status quo education standards to graduate students who will be our next business and civic leaders and innovators.

What’s next? Growing the DāO brand? Any other products or interests that we might see you dabble in?

Our future is so bright. We’re excited to be expanding DāO as a lifestyle brand. With such a focus on wellness, we will soon be launching activewear and products designed for body and skin care. We’re already in conversations with hotels and spas to feature our products as amenities in the bathrooms — another opportunity we believe will be great in elevating our brand presence and awareness. We ultimately see DāO building out beauty and wellness spaces where we can engage with local communities to create a “safe space” for all people to get educated on how to be care for themselves and their families and of course, purchase our amazing products.

Where can we find you online / shop for your products? 

Currently, interested buyers can find us online at www.daodetroit.com. We also encourage folks to follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter @daodetroit.

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