Erin Patten is the acting Co-CEO of DāO Detroit, a large haircare company based out of Detroit, Michigan, and CMO at Potencity, a recruiting platform for high potential diverse professionals. As a seasoned entrepreneur globally, Erin first gained her knowledge from the joint degree MBA/MPP program at Harvard’s Business School and Kennedy School, while spending her summers working at an accelerator in Rio de Janeiro and at Shinola in Detroit.
We caught up with Erin for a Q&A into her business and worldviews about Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies and what people should know…
What were your original motivations for becoming an entrepreneur?
From a very young age, my father would often advise me that the best way to build wealth for myself and family is to be an entrepreneur. As a college student, I had a strong desire to strike out on my own, yet harbored a healthy fear of not having enough experience, resources, or access. Fast forward a few years, I realized the daily 9-5 grind wasn’t getting me where I wanted to be financially, professionally, or spiritually. I wanted to own my destiny and truly occupy a space where my creativity, skills, and full-identity are valued and accepted. These became my motivations for becoming an entrepreneur. The freedom that comes with this journey is liberating, yet at the same time laden with lots of responsibility. I’m learning how to manage this balance to this day.
What were the top three “real-world” lessons you took away after your studies at the joint MBA/MPP program at Harvard’s Business School and Kennedy School?
Be yourself. At any elite institution, it’s really easy to get sucked into the culture of high-performance, competition, and hierarchy. This is something I had to fight hard against while a student and it served me well once I transitioned to the “real world.” These cultural norms may appear to be acceptable in the short-term, but over time it breeds envy, greed, and stifles creativity. The best cure for these outcomes is to Be Yourself accepting your flaws and knowing that though you may not look like or be like everyone else, you’re there for a reason.
Tell your story. I took several leadership courses across the two schools and the same critical theme resonated across all of them — be vulnerable by telling your authentic story. So often we’re conditioned to keep our baggage to ourselves, yet I discovered that sharing these experiences not only helps to heal my wounds but also connects me to others who may be going through similar experiences. These connections go a long way in building relationships, loyal followings, and ultimately, social movements. Learning how to be more empathetic and vulnerable have been true gifts on this entrepreneurial journey.
Know your sh*t. No one can dispute facts. So it’s important to be prepared and know what you’re talking about at all times especially in business situations. In the “business world,” people have little patience and can spot BS a mile away. Therefore, it’s imperative that you do your research, fact check it, then, do it again. You don’t want to ever miss an opportunity because you’re not ready. You may not get the chance again.
Have you had any successes ever investing?
Success is so relative, right? I would say in the traditional sense of the definition, I’ve had moderate success in earning the returns I expected from investing in funds, stocks and now cryptocurrency, specifically Bitcoin. It’s a long-term journey, and I’ve always taken a more aggressive stance contributing as much as I can to various funds. However, to date, I haven’t realized the full gains I’d expect on any of these tools.
On the other hand, I’d claim I’ve had good success on the “non-traditional” investment in my own ventures in the way of time, money and sweat equity. Given my high financial expectations and goals, I’m not quite there yet. Nevertheless, I’ve definitely realized gains in so many intangible areas.
When did you first become aware of cryptocurrencies and what were your original thoughts?
I first became aware of cryptocurrencies about a year ago. My original thoughts were grounded in curiosity. Unlike most people I encounter, who are vehemently against non-traditional investment instruments, I was eager to jump on the bandwagon and understand myself how the industry works. I watched a Netflix documentary, read a few articles and chatted with friends who were involved before making the investment. So, I had a bit of knowledge before getting involved.
Why do you love the idea of creating decentralized systems?
It all comes down to democratizing power structures. The way in which our current financial system operates makes us beholden to the powers that be. In many ways, we have no say in the decisions the Federal Reserve makes and this lack of access and transparency cripples wealth building for the majority of our country’s population. By disrupting traditional banking systems, it is my hope that more diverse individuals will have access to financial instruments and a voice in how they’re allocated and utilized.
Out of all the cryptocurrencies, which one do you think has the most staying power?
This is a tough question, but I’m going to have to go with what I know and my answer would be Bitcoin. Though it’s down significantly (as are all the others), I still have faith that the network effect of having more active participants will give this currency staying power.
Do you feel the addition of cryptocurrencies will help or hurt small/large businesses in America, including your own?
Diversity in every sense equals improvement. I believe diversifying the way in which people engage in transactions will help businesses in America. Of course, there will be those that don’t or can’t adapt to the addition of crypto and may be left behind; however, change/evolution is inevitable. It’s worthwhile for all businesses to explore the use of crypto as it is here and isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Will your company DāO Detroit accept Bitcoin and other currencies ever?
Great follow up! To be honest, we had considered the addition of crypto to our checkout process, but not in a real way. I’m now seriously exploring the addition of a cryptocurrency checkout with our DāO team to see if it makes sense for us and our customer base at this time. Stay tuned!
Your company is all about environmental sustainability… With crypto, one could argue that it’s more environmentally friendly than printed money. What are your thoughts on that stand-point?
It’s the truth. The evolution of exchange is an interesting one. Global societies have gone from exchanging naturally occurring metals such as gold, silver and other precious elements to mass paper printed currency. This goes back to my statement about centralized banking systems. Very few people or governing entities, rather, hold physical assets such as gold and the like. While the rest of us run around town with paper promissory notes, essentially, that claim a value we blindly trust. With crypto, the exchange is immediate and to the best of my understanding, fully backed in value without the paper trail. Environmentally friendly at its best!
What regulations would you put into the ‘crypto world’ if you could?
The regulations I would impose would be fairly minimal. I’d want to make sure that cryptocurrency is protected from being a vehicle for money laundering and especially safeguarded from the financing of terrorism. Also, being a digital currency, there is the threat of hacks and theft. Somehow, there needs to be a safeguard against these kinds of attacks.
Finally, what is the best advice you have ever been given?
Be humble. Sit down! I’m a big Kendrick Lamar fan. There’s so much wisdom wrapped up in those simple phrases. I’m beginning to learn that the key to a healthy and happy life is remaining humble despite the successes I may achieve because just as easily as they seemingly come, they can just as quickly be taken away. And I interpret the “sit down” statement to mean “be patient.” In this instant gratification world of nearly on-demand everything, we can sometimes grow impatient, which can lead to negative thinking and behavior. Good things do come to those who are willing to patiently and positively wait for them, and I’m definitely willing to wait for my blessings.
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