October 21, 2014

“Be Relentless in Your Dreams”: DooBop Founder Jodie Patterson on Madam C.J. Walker

Spotlight on National Treasures: Villa Lewaro

Jodie Patterson, co-founder and chief creative officer for DooBop.com

Moments like this come when you least expect them -- when you’re so moved to want to live more intentionally, to follow your passions and fearlessly go after that ‘thing’ you know you were always meant to do but never found the courage enough to carry out. This is just one way I was inspired by my conversation with Jodie Patterson, co-founder and chief creative officer for DooBop.com, the first online seller of beauty products geared towards women of color.

As I write this, I am listening to “SHE” by Alice Smith -- allowing lyrics like, “She had a power that they tried to tame, couldn’t tame her, tried her everyday to take it away,” to further stir the excitement of this blog post connecting Madam C.J. Walker’s legacy to the revered "beauty gladiator" (as referred to by Fast Company) that is Jodie Patterson today.

“Beauty without struggle, that’s the movement that I stand for,” says Patterson. “I stepped into the industry wanting to help women be their most beautiful selves in a very natural, symbiotic, easy way. Not trying to change yourself but instead highlighting and becoming your most beautiful self.”

One can easily find Patterson’s take on beauty to be uplifting and refreshingly pure, but it’s not until you talk about her motivation over the years, that you find she intentionally modeled her business around the ideals of the first self-made female millionaire in our nation’s history, a woman more widely known as Madam C.J. Walker.

Madam Walker rose above race, gender equality, and social justice to build a beauty empire that she intended to be a benefit to her race long after her time. She was a visionary, with a foresight that is today, unmatched. As a huge proponent of hard work, Madam Walker was unapologetic about her success, stating, “I had a dream and that dream begot other dreams until now I am surrounded by all my dreams come true.”

An example of Madam C.J. Walker's beauty products

Patterson’s first encounter with Walker occurred while on bed rest during her final months of pregnancy.

“I had just gone through Fashion Week, I was exhausted, and the doctor put me on bed rest,” Patterson recalls. “My niece sent me a link to a documentary on YouTube about the business of black hair care. The video takes the viewer on a journey from Madam C.J. Walker to the present. It showed a very influential black woman servicing a community in Harlem and making a lot of money off of a very smart product and being very diligent and entrepreneurial. That was when I thought, wouldn’t it be nice to do something similar -- take a very personalized approach based on experience, from the consumer’s perspective. That was my inspiration: to be a modern-day Madam C.J. Walker.

After that encounter with Madam Walker’s story, Patterson decided to open up what she calls a “romantic-feeling” boutique in Soho called Georgia that had both a nostalgic and personal aesthetic (think chic furniture, eclectic art, and other feminine accoutrements).

“I was attached to this idea of presenting beauty products in a beautiful way to people that I cared for,” she says. “I modeled my first foray in the beauty industry after what I assumed was her [Madam C.J. Walker] approach.”

Indeed, Patterson took Madam Walker’s approach and ran with it, successfully creating a beauty movement and expanding her brand to include the online platform, DooBop.com, alongside her business partner, Benjamin Bernet. The site has been praised by top beauty publications such as Teen Vogue and Glamour, and prides itself on supplying personalized solutions and expert beauty advice for the everyday woman.

Villa Lewaro, as seen from the back

When I mentioned that one of the reuse options for Villa Lewaro was to be a health & wellness spa, you could feel the vibration of excitement in Patterson’s voice: “I think that is a fantastic idea. Health and wellness [are] a big part of the beauty conversation right now, especially when you are talking about beauty from the inside out. This option is right on trend with where women are today.”

Like many who have found inspiration from Madam Walker’s business savvy, Patterson believes a sustainable future for Villa Lewaro is paramount and could be an extraordinary resource for those who unfamiliar with the achievements of this remarkable businesswoman.

“There is this idea to do things from your gut and from your soul,” she says. “For me, I’ve learned that [idea] from not only Madam C.J. Walker but also from other women in my life that do and have done amazing things in their lives that have moved a lot of people, being led by their belief system. They want it and they get it, not in a bullish way and not by compromising their womanhood. I learned from Madam C.J. Walker and others to be relentless in your dreams and your pursuits and your wants and desires, because they are yours. If you thought it, it’s yours; you just have to actualize it.”

Ensuring that Villa Lewaro is protected and preserved means more than just keeping the four walls of a mansion intact. It’s about re-engaging a nation around the history of this pioneer in business, while also unifying the idea that behind every great stream of innovation and creativity, lies a forefather or -- as in Patterson’s case -- foremother.

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