When native Texan and Harvard Business School MBA graduate Erin Patten discovered Detroit after an internship at Shinola in 2014, things clicked.
“I fell in love. I fell in love with the culture. And it was similar to Brazil,” she says, referencing a trip she took as a student – “very culturally diverse, especially the people of color, of African descent. (Detroit) was developing, coming through bankruptcy – this new class of creators, makers and entrepreneurs that I was incredibly attracted to.”
After graduating in 2015, Patten found work as a fellow with the Kresge Foundation. This was on the heels of a bad experience at her first full-time job in New York. She wore a natural hair style her boss claimed was against company policy. She quit the next day, and then – in order to fit into the business culture – started relaxing her hair. But by the time she got back to Detroit, that all changed.
By 2016, she’d cut her hair and started making plant-based products in her bathroom, which she applied to her own hair. People noticed, and Patten, along with a partner, co-founded DāO Detroit.
“Our acronym – Defy All Odds – is part of our ongoing campaign to encourage folks to own their identity,” Patten says. DāO Detroit sets itself apart, she adds, by being targeted at men as well as women. That’s something you don’t see often in hair business, Patten says. “We really wanted to create a brand that could reach across gender lines and generational lines.”
Patten calls DāO safe enough for kids yet effective enough for adults. It’s also a true Detroit product. “As part of our business model, we contribute a percentage of our profits to nonprofit organizations and initiatives that promote our ethos of owning your identity.”