DETROIT – Daviant “Dae” Palmer carefully inspects every inch of a dark blue Chevrolet Silverado, scrubbing out any imperfections. His mother, Typhany Jones, follows him, cell phone in hand.
Palmer, 27, from Detroit, is the founder of Dae’s Detail. When people get their vehicles cleaned at his shop, he wants people to go and say, “It looks better than it did when it was bought.”
Palmer has been a fan of cars since he was three, Jones said. With some encouragement from his wife, he quit his job as a cable installer in April 2020 and began detailing cars in August of the same year.
Palmer started the business in his driveway, cleaning his friends’ cars because he loved it. His mother, a marketing professional, decided to post videos about her son’s cleaning techniques. She quit her marketing job and took on the role of marketing for Dae’s Detail.
Jones did a TikTok of Palmer detailing a few cars showing a before and after of the cleaning process. For fun, she turned a Cadillac into a Porsche in one video. She posted the transition video while Palmer was on his honeymoon, having just got married. That morning, Palmer woke up and his video had over 3 million views.
“He calls me from his honeymoon like, ‘Mom, everyone’s calling me. My phone won’t stop ringing,'” Jones said. “That’s why the deal was really, really good.”
After posting six or seven videos, the son-mother duo became a viral sensation, gaining more than 238,000 followers on TikTok by posting tips and tricks on how interested people can clean cars inside and out. Her most popular video had reached 16 million views, and viewers came from places as far away as Australia and Ireland.
“They’re so far away and still cheering for him. It was huge for me and I was just blown away by it,” said Jones, 45. Viewers said Palmer inspired him to start her own business too. “He even inspired me a bit.”
Palmer also won a sponsorship at Turtle Wax, an Illinois-based auto detailing company that has been in business since 1944.
The success on social media has translated into real customers, and the duo have not looked back.
Running the business from Palmer’s driveway was starting to become too much of a fuss for neighbors, who watched as vehicles lined up on their street to be cleaned. Their sales increased by about 70%.
The family bought a building last October. Palmer shares the premises with his father, Kenya Jones, who runs a plumbing business.
Palmer could quit his job and so was his mother. They now work full time for the detailing business, with Palmer as the owner, Jones as the marketing manager and Stevon Ferrell, his uncle, as a partner in the business.
Ferrell said he has been in the detailing business for 15 years and got on the Dae’s Detail train in May 2021 upon seeing his nephew’s success. They frequently exchange leads, Ferrell said.
“It’s always been a dream to do something like this, and it feels great to have people working with me — people I know and people I can trust,” Palmer said.
“It definitely changed my life,” Palmer said. “I learned a lot about economics because I had no idea. It was something I wanted to do, I just didn’t know how, and then I just got thrown in.”
The company posted a video of a slinky having to be cut out of a vehicle’s ceiling. Other in-vehicle findings are becoming the norm, such as chicken nuggets and gravy on the seats, milk and cereal in the cup holders, and bags of open groceries on the floor.
It took time to get the business off the ground because the demand was so great. They had to quickly create a website to keep up with the booking because of so many calls coming in.
Dae’s Detail aims to be a no-judgment zone. Detroit resident Shanna Shepherd, 42, recently worked from the store’s lobby while waiting for her car to be detailed. She said her car was disgusting.
“I have two messy boys, one is 8, one is 10, and the back of my seat is awkward, as are the cup holders, so it definitely needs some help,” Shepherd said. “I pay far too much for a car for it to appear that way.”
Shepherd knows Jones, she said, but following Dae’s detail on TikTok finally convinced her to get it done.
“To have so many things on your plate as a worker and mother [having a clean car is] one less thing to worry about,” she said.
Services can include a full interior and exterior cleaning, as well as interior UV protection and exterior waxing. Prices depend on the size of the vehicle and he wants his customers to know that not every stain may come out, pointing out that some kids leave a vehicle with permanent stains.
With spring approaching, retail bookings for March and April are piling in fast.
The family hopes to open more locations in and out of state in the future. Palmer also wants to bring more employees to its upcoming locations. But now he plans to expand his Detroit location.
“I really want to give back to this community,” Palmer said. “I really wanted to see Detroit go back to how it used to be and I want to be a part of that.”
Reach out to author Chanel Stitt’s staff on Twitter: @ByChanelStitt.