David Patterson Puts the Pedal to the Metal with 1M+ YouTube Subscribers – That Dude in Blue
YouTube Personality, Entrepreneur, Car Enthusiast
In 2015 when Regent University first sat down with YouTuber and Regent alumnus David Patterson ’13 (CAS) he shared a story of foregoing Hollywood film pursuits to explore a newer, riskier, and less traveled road: YouTube. Within just two years of trial and error, he had blazed a trail, quite literally, by combining his love for cars and cinema to earn a living documenting his driving. David firmly established ThatDudeinBlue and gained more than 360,000 subscribers. As of early 2022, that number had grown to 1.18 million subscribers, plus sponsorships and travel beyond his dreams. He’s also launched a new car-detailing product venture.
If you spend any amount of time on YouTube, and you like to watch car reviews, chances are, you’re familiar with David’s expertise in drifting, his spectacular road trips, and his famous 2013 grabber blue Mustang, “Smurf.”
“I am humbled and grateful that my YouTube hunch has paid off, and I’m simply blown away by all the great people and opportunities I’ve had,” says David. “But, for anyone who reads stories like this and thinks the person on the other side is an overnight success or that it all came easy, that couldn’t be further from the truth.”
The Business of Building Success
David describes a dark time in 2012 as he wrestled with purpose and the safe road vs. the calling he felt to a road less traveled and the accompanying grueling hours required to flesh out his ideas. This time of testing and exploring included two unsuccessful video channels and a work schedule he has painfully learned to intricately organize. He also leaned into the intensive homework necessary before each shoot to help him achieve a natural persona. And, to this day, David navigates how to create healthy margin for his personal and professional life. “Work-life balance when you’re a one-man operation is no small feat,” he quips.
“My parents graciously gave me two years to live at home in Richmond, under their support while I built my channel and explored my craft, which wasn’t a slam dunk every time by any stretch of the imagination,” David shares with a laugh. “In the early days, I would make anything. I experimented almost to a fault, but it taught me how to wisely choose where my energy should go and to make more calculated choices.”
David has found that car reviews and features are his “bread and butter.” Today, he is thriving in his own home in Atlanta, GA. He recently moved his home office to a business park to better separate the lines of work and play.
Well-aware of the tension between fiscal security and creative exploration, he says he intently fights the temptation to strictly “follow the data” (for views and engagement) at the risk of creative staleness.
“Sometimes I struggle with trying to force likes or going the opposite direction and ignoring my fans in the name of passion projects that I’m way too caught up in. That’s always when my videos perform the worst,” he says. “It’s important to have the calculations and previous history, but I have to be interested and intrigued in the story and subject matter too, just not to a fault. When I am authentic and invested in my followers, that brings the win-win.”
One of his proudest wins has been tastefully and seamlessly integrating sponsorships into his business. David says that he only endorses products he truly believes in. He explains that he can take more risks and explore more areas his fans enjoy when he has the financial freedom afforded by the sponsorships. One of those opportunities took him to London in 2019, where he was part of a stunt scene with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in The Fast and the Furious: Hobbs and Shaw.
David has also tried his hand as a TV host; collaborated with his own “YouTuber crush,” the iconic Rob Ferretti; driven more than 1,200 cars for reviews; and flew 80,000 in the first nine months of 2021 alone for business. But his list of favorite escapades doesn’t stop there. He was invited to tour McLaren Automotive while in London, attended a drift academy in Texas, drove on a frozen lake in Minnesota for one of his YouTube episodes, and joined some of his YouTube heroes in Beijing as a speaker, teaching others how to amplify their presence on social media.
“I’m blessed that I get to pick and choose with such freedom to travel now, and I’m grateful for all the people who have believed in me and supported me,” he reflects.
“Life is short. Let’s get stuff done.”
Values Drive Outcomes
David attributes much of his success to his commitment to these four values:
- Make friends, not just deals.
- Be humble and authentic in every situation. “Who you are on and off the screen and in and out of the boardroom should match.”
- Show your face to potential partners; be present. “You can’t just be online; be with people.”
- Establish long-term relationships with sponsors with mutual respect and fairness. “It’s about integrity, not just the almighty dollar.”
He says those values were either refined or born out of his experience at Regent University. “Regent emphasized ethics and integrity in a way that few other schools do,” David says. “Almost every class challenged me to consider how my work ethic, the way I treat others, and who I am personally and professionally should make a positive difference in the world. I’m grateful for that foundation.”
David points to his Regent public speaking class as one of his first opportunities to practice being himself and honing his on-camera skills. “I learned not to try to be a character or put on a façade, but to be the laid-back-but-professional me,” he explains. “And that’s how you build connection and trust.” David is also grateful for the film-set etiquette he learned at Regent, as well as editing skills and frequent reminders from his Regent professors that pacing “is a thing.”
Another Regent perk was building lasting connections. In 2019, when David launched Patterson Car Care with a business partner, he called on the talent of one of those Regent friends to shoot the products and is hopeful that he can rebrand and relaunch his products in 2022.
What’s the mantra he lives by to keep moving forward creatively and in business? “It’s better to be busy than bored, right? Life is short. Let’s get stuff done.”