Katie Did and Katie Does
A Lion’s Heart
Categories: Business, Danny, Life

Where to begin…

This is a love letter of sorts. It’s mostly a declaration about the person that I call my life partner. Yes, it’s a declaration of love, but this is not about our relationship. This is about who he is. Because I have never met anyone like Dan.

We had known each other only two months after he left the company he started and grew for 10 years, clevermethod, to start You and Who. Dan is a web developer who, at the time, had zero experience or knowledge of the retail industry. He was moving from a service-based company that required no start-up capital to a goods-based company that required a lot of continuous capital. I thought he was crazy. That speaks more about my aversion to risk and deep-rooted fears than it does about his ideas or his abilities. It’s been just over three years, and this has been the most eye-opening, stomach-churning, heart-wrenching roller coaster ride of my life. And I owe him everything for it.

You see, we don’t know how the You and Who story will end. Right now, we are just at the beginning of a major crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to try and launch our own Made in America t-shirt line. (This is not a place to tell you about You and Who — if you want to learn more, go here, here or here.) If you’ve ever owned a business, you understand what it takes to get something off the ground. You understand working through the night, sleeping at the office, saying “yes” to as many opportunities that come your way because you never know when those opportunities will run dry. You also understand that when you own your own business, you never work harder or hustle faster or sleep less or worry more in your entire life. You understand being pushed to your limits so far and so often that you marvel at how far you can go before you break.

Dan and I have experienced all of that, but Dan especially. He’s the one that does everything technical for You and Who–coding and making enhancements to the website, and whatnot. He’s also the one who serves as the customer service operator on YouAndWho.com. He’s the one that takes care of printing the t-shirts when orders are too small to go through our screen printer, which he usually does between midnight and 3am. He’s the one that consistently brainstorms what the company needs to be doing next, who’s the next person to speak to, who’s the next group to collaborate with, what interns should he bring on, what projects should You and Who be getting involved in, what events should he go to. He’s the one that changes our water filters over the weekends for the direct-to-garment-printer. He’s the one that fixes that same printer when it breaks for no apparent reason. He’s the one that ships out orders. He’s the one that takes all of the inventory. He’s the one that tries to give our interns a memorable experience. He’s the one that makes sure coffee is always on hand in the office and that our water jugs in the fridge are always full. He’s the one that hand-delivers t-shirts to customers outside of normal business hours. He’s the one that serves as tech support in our office, simply because no one else knows how to handle the equipment as well as he does. He’s the one that researched and changed his sleep patterns to get only four hours of sleep per night and two 20-minute naps during the day so that he could gain three more hours of productivity each day. Seriously. He’s the one that when you tell him “that’s crazy,” he takes that to mean he’s on the right path because it might just be crazy enough to work, and who cares if he’s the only one doing it that way  — he’s a trailblazer.

He’s the one that always says “yes.” He’s the one that dreams big. He’s the “out-of-the-box” thinker you’ve always been told to be more like. He’s the one that knocks (sorry — couldn’t resist the Breaking Bad reference).


He’s the one that gave up everything he had to chase a dream, because he would have lived to regret it otherwise. He’s the one that, at 38 years old, strapped a backpack on and traveled 30 U.S. cities in 90 days going door to door securing new artists to design shirts and new organizations to make donations to. He did this by using only public transportation, walking for miles on end, couch-surfing–with friends and also strangers–and sustaining himself on two Clif bars a day (two, not three — two). And no one knew this but me. I am not a person who prays, but I asked someone or something every day while  he was gone to keep him safe and healthy, and to keep him from being lonely. And yet, as taxing as that was, he did it with a smile on his face believing this was what was needed to make his dream a successful reality.

He’s a friend. He’s a colleague. He’s a mentor. He’s a community activist. He’s a thinker. He’s a doer. He’s a do-gooder. He cares. He’s passionate. In fact, you will never find someone who cares more or is more passionate than Dan about the things that matter to him.

He has lists upon lists of ideas, and he would pursue all of them without hesitation if he had the means to do so.

He’s an entrepreneur, through and through. And he’s a risk-taker. I don’t have the stomach that he has. I also don’t have the heart that he has. Because to do this day after day takes guts, stamina and more courage than you can ever imagine. Dan has spent many days and nights alone, literally pounding the pavement in cities he knows nothing about telling anyone who will listen about You and Who. I couldn’t stand knowing he was out there doing this, let alone imagine myself in his shoes.

He also never complains. That is probably the most amazing thing about Dan. He never complains, even while he pounds the pavement eating the same wretched Clif bar.

He has given everything–and I do mean everything–to this company. He has even given what he doesn’t have. Wanting to continue his quest to help as many people as he can, Dan has spent the past six months researching options to bring You and Who’s manufacturing here to the U.S. in an effort to do his part to help keep jobs here. He’s a web developer who has gained retail experience in the last three years, but he has zero background in manufacturing. That lack of knowledge or experience likely would have stopped many with the same idea in their tracks, but it did not stop him. It wouldn’t be Dan if it had. While I became paralyzed from complete and utter fear for how much more we would have to put into this company, how much more we would have to sacrifice, how much harder we would have to work, Dan moved ahead and charted his course as he went. And I respect him for it. Despite my fears–which are 100% my own issue–he knew with such strong conviction that this was the missing piece to You and Who’s puzzle, and he had to go for it. Who was I to stop him — I could never stand in the way of someone fulfilling their dreams, least of all the person I love.

He researched what it would take to set up shop internally and bring clothing manufacturing jobs to Buffalo. He also researched existing facilities across the country. The former turned out–much to his dismay–not a viable option at this point. He eventually found a cotton source in North Carolina and a cut-and-sew facility in Pennsylvania that he felt good about doing business with. He liked the quality of their products, and he worked with them to design and produce a custom You and Who tee to his own liking — it had to be ultra-soft and ultra-comfortable for our customers and mostly for those we donate to. For Dan, this had to be the best shirt someone’s ever worn, and he was going to stop at nothing to achieve that. Along the way, he became extremely knowledgeable about the entire production process for clothing from beginning to end. I was completely amazed.

As I said earlier, we don’t know how this story ends. We’re still in the middle of it. You and Who could end up being the next TOMS shoes, or it could wind up on a shelf one day. Obviously, we hope it’s the former. Yet, even if it all goes away tomorrow, I want Dan to know that, no matter how taxing this has been, how much we’ve sacrificed, how much we’ve fought about the direction we should go in–I have no regrets. To say that I am proud of Dan is the biggest understatement the world has ever known. My heart wants to beat out of my chest with pride for him, for who is he, and for what he’s accomplished. He is the strongest, smartest person I know. If it can be done, he can do it. If it hasn’t been done yet, he will find a way to do it.

I have learned so much from Dan. His passion, his drive, his sincerity, his never-give-up attitude, his fearlessness…all of that is what makes him him, and it’s so incredible and so awe-inspiring. The only thing I know to do at this moment is to write about it–because that’s what I do when I feel overwhelmed. I am overwhelmed by him, in the best way possible. Because I live with him, I see what so many others don’t. Even if you know Dan, you don’t see what I see on a daily basis. You might see how hard he works or you might see that his brain never shuts off, but you don’t see to what degree those things are happening the way I do. And all I can do is try to shout it from the rooftops, because he deserves every bit of respect and admiration I have the ability to give.

We had our kickoff party the other night for this Indiegogo campaign and I was overly emotional throughout the day. So much has led up to this point, and I want this so badly for him. But whether or not the campaign meets its goal, or You and Who goes any farther than it already has, Dan is the most successful person I know. He gets what life is supposed to be about. He went after his dream, and he stopped at nothing to achieve it. Regardless of what happens next, that fact alone is truly remarkable. How many people can say they’ve done the same? Not many.

I titled this post “A Lion’s Heart” because that’s honestly the first thing that popped into my head when I thought about what I wanted to say about Dan. I didn’t know how to begin this diatribe, but that phrase is the crux of my message. He has the biggest heart. If we all were as thoughtful as Dan is, and did things with half as much gusto, spirit and drive as Dan does, we could probably move mountains. It really does just take one person to make a profound impact on so many. Not just to those he donates to (that’s an obvious one), but to the many others his journey has inspired along the way.

I am a much different person than when I first met Dan, and I am so thankful to him because of it. He has ripped me out of my comfort zone and gave me experiences and opportunities I never thought for a minute I would encounter. He showed me that the the phrases “anything is possible” and “if you can dream it, you can do it” are more than just sayings. They’re his reality. And they’ve become mine too.


16 Comments to “A Lion’s Heart”

  1. Dan says:

    I don’t even know what to say. This is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever read. What people don’t known is the level that Katie has supported me since we’ve been together. I left clevermethod to start You and Who like 2 months after we met and there’s no question that I couldn’t have done it without her. I’m so very thankful and I want nothing more than to succeed for HER. She deserves a medal for putting up with me 🙂
    I’m so very lucky, everyone that reads this is because we love her. Her smile lights up the room and my heart.
    Ok enough mushy stuff. Back to work 🙂

  2. Wow Katie, this is spectacular! I can feel what you feel 6,234km away (http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=Distance+from+Luxembourg+to+Buffalo).

    I only met Dan for four days in 2011 but I could sense straight away that he was a swell guy. Not an asshole, not a showoff, just a nice man happy with himself and happy to meet other people.

    I am glad (not with glee) that you were pushed outside of your comfort zones and had to encounter uncertainty. Life is much better that way. When you get old and think of your life would you rather say that you lived an easy, straight-forward life with no risk or would you rather say ‘Wow! We did a lot. We took some chances and we won and lost, we bust our guts but we had so much fun, did so much more and succeeded in many ways.’ Your life is richer that way. Diversity and learning is the spice of life. Love can spring from admiration. It is clear that you have found someone really special and really admirable to love.

    YOU TOO should take a bow and get some praise. Maybe you did not realize it but you accepted that life was going to be uncertain, difficult and maybe crazy but you chose that. A lot of people would run away from such a big change in life. It could be the fear of uncertainty, the fear of failure, selfishness, ego, but you chose to stick with Dan! That says everything about you.

    Both of you – well done. Keep it going. The world is a much better place with people like you in it. And last of all, I am so happy I know you.

    Best wishes, lots of love and happiness. X

    • Katie says:

      Thank you Seanan — you are right, life is much better being pushed and prodded, discovering the unknown and taking risks (although I wouldn’t mind hitting up Easy Street every now and again). Thank you for everything you said, and for taking the time to read this. Love you lots. xo

  3. Beth Kappan says:

    Katie –
    You should see the tears rolling down my face right now. This was beyond beautiful, profound, and the greatest tribute anyone could receive. Your love, respect, admiration and dedication for and to Dan are even more apparent, and it makes my heart swell for you both. I love you both, and I truly wish you both mountains of happiness together, success, peace, love, patience, and longevity. I’ve always understood/known most of what you said about Dan, but to what degree and with what intimacy… well, I think it’s fair to say that I was still a bit in the dark. And you, my baby sister, have always been an inspiration to me, and this adds yet another layer to it. You work hard, you sacrifice, you give your all, you support, and you make things happen. Dan is lucky to have you, just as you feel lucky to have him. It’s a true partnership.

    To Dan, you’re an amazing guy and I’m proud to call you “brother-in-law” even though the “in-law” part is just a legal formality. You are family, you are friend, you are inspiration, you are heart and soul, and you are loved. I have the utmost confidence that you will succeed and support you 100% of the way.

    Much love to you both! xx

    • Katie says:

      Thank you, Beth. I’m so glad this post moved you. I want everyone to be as moved by Dan as I am. And thank you for all of your sentiments. I love you too.

  4. Holly says:

    This is the most inspiring letter I have read in a long time . Bravo to both of you for getting what LIVING is all about ! I don’t know either of you but wish I did ! Here is my question how can we get Dan and his company more recognition ? Can someone send this beautiful letter to the Today Show or Good Morning America I think that one or both might feel compelled to put this on the air giving the company more exposure. How can a pure stranger help ? This letter was a highlight of my year !!!
    Thank You ,

    • Katie says:

      Hi Holly — thank you so much for reading my piece and for your kind words. I am glad it moved you, and your kind words mean a lot.

      I have tried reaching out to the Today Show, GMA, Ellen, Oprah to share You and Who’s story, but I had no luck. That’s not to say we can’t try again. And by all means, please feel free to share this link with whoever you know in whatever way you feel comfortable. Our site is http://www.YouAndWho.com, which tells you more about us, and we’re on Facebook (facebook.com/YouAndWho) and Twitter (@You_And_Who). Or, if you’d like to support our crowdfundinng campaign to help our shirts be Made in America, here’s the link to that, where you can donate (or essentially pre-order a shirt — an email will be coming later asking about what design, size, color you want): http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/you-and-who-making-the-goodest-t-shirt-ever.

      Thank you so much — even just the offer to help spread the word means so much to both of us. Really. Thank you again for taking the time to read this.


  5. holly says:

    This is the most inspiring letter I have read in a long time . Bravo to both of you for getting what LIVING is all about ! I don’t know either of you but wish I did ! Here is my question how can we get Dan and his company more recognition ? Can someone send this beautiful letter to the Today Show or Good Morning America I think that one or both might feel compelled to put this on the air giving the company more exposure. How can a pure stranger help ? This letter is a highlight to the year 2013 for me !!!
    Thank You ,

  6. Matt Davison says:

    Sweet and heartfelt (and spot on) letter, Katie. He is a unique combination of smarts, graciousness, confidence, and humility, with a capacity for very big ideas.

    A rare breed indeed.


  7. Mark says:

    Katie – great post and perfect timing. Buffalo.com is asking for the people leading the resurgence of Buffalo and I was about to write at length about Dan.

    Now I am just posting your link. There is no way I can top that to make sure that the editors must make mention of Dan if their article is going to have any credibility.

    Do I have permission to send link? (please?)

  8. Dana says:

    What a wonderful letter! Beautifully captures Dan’s positive energy, caring nature and adventurous spirit.

  9. Jill says:

    Wow…So now I know. Thanks for posting–very lovely piece…and I am sure we can potentially revisit the You and Who story getting some national media attention. 😉

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