Dan-O's Seasoning: How Louisville native built his business on TikTok – Courier Journal

It was a typical Kentucky State Fair, hot and steamy in mid-August. In the vendor hall, Louisville native Dan Oliver was working hard to make a sale. In 2017, Oliver, the founder of Dan-O’s Seasoning, was selling his all-natural food seasoning at state fairs and flea markets. The recipe was something the home cook had created 15 years before while he was in college.
On that hot summer day at the Kentucky State Fair, Oliver remembers one customer in particular.
“There was a lady standing at my booth who had taken a bite and she said ‘now, this is Dan good.'”
The clever compliment didn’t immediately register with Oliver, who was deep in sale mode.
“I just kept going with my pitch explaining how it was all natural with no sugar and I showed her the ingredients,” he said. “She repeated her line a couple of more times and then finally said, ‘stop, honey, listen to me. It’s Dan good.”
At that moment, standing in his booth at the Kentucky State Fair, Oliver said a light bulb went off. He realized humor combined with his high energy, creative grit and never give up attitude could go a long way in boosting his sales.
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Today, phrases like “Dan-O-Myte,” “Dantastic,” “Dangood,” “Put Some Dan-O’s On It,” and “Dan-O’s Fan-O’s” (of which there are millions) are part of his company’s lexicon.
“I have always believed in this product and there are more than a few moments in the Dan-O’s story where I realized ‘wow this was meant to be,'” he told The Courier Journal.
For a guy who loves to cook, the Dan-O’s story is a dream come true.
“I could cook for people all day long,” he said. “I love it. Cooking is what I love to do.”
A graduate of Trinity High School and the University of Kentucky, Oliver comes from a large Louisville family, all of whom he said have an entrepreneurial spirit.
“I am the youngest and felt like the black sheep for a long time because I was always trying to figure out what I could do,” he said. “My family thought I should become a chef but I didn’t want to work in a corporate environment.”
He worked in sales for a while after college, but left the corporate world and found a job in the kitchen at the former Diamonds, a bar with food service in St. Matthews. One evening, he served a customer a chicken dish using his original seasoning recipe, the one he’d created long before in college.
“The guy loved the chicken and said I should be selling the seasoning,” Oliver remembers. “I had been searching for my ‘entrepreneurial idea’ but I never considered it was the recipe that had always been in my back pocket.”
The recipe for Dan-O’s low sodium, no sugar, no MSG, no GMO, and gluten-free seasoning didn’t come from his grandmother’s recipe box. Oliver created his flavor-packed spice blend using ingredients like sea salt, onion powder, garlic powder, parsley, lemon peel, and orange peel.
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“At my first flea market, I went in hoping to sell around $1,000 worth of product and ended up selling over $3,000,” Oliver said.
He believed in his product so much that he gave away bottles to friends and strangers and suggested they replace their salt and black pepper shakers with the healthier, low-sodium seasoning.
“I knew if they tried it, they’d love it,” he said.
It wasn’t long before Tyler Watson tasted Oliver’s seasoning at a backyard barbeque.
“I remember saying to my friend, ‘Holy moly, this stuff is awesome. What did you put on this chicken?'” remembers Watson.
Within a few months, Watson, who is married with a couple of kids, quit his full-time sales job and joined Oliver selling Dan-O’s Seasoning at trade shows, flea markets and state fairs.
“Health and wellness and ‘good for you’ products are what I had always sold and that’s what intrigued me about Dan’s product,” Watson told The Courier Journal. “That and the fact that it makes food taste really good.”
But then the COVID-19 pandemic brought in-person events like state fairs and trade shows to an abrupt halt.
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“I didn’t know what I was going to do,” Oliver said. “TikTok was relatively new in 2020 and I thought I might be able to reach enough customers that I could keep the company going.”
He was creating recipes and shooting video after video for the platform with little success when suddenly, out of the blue, a crab cake recipe went viral and sales of Dan-O’s Seasoning skyrocketed.
“I said I needed to make $200 a day to survive the [COVID-19 pandemic] and all of a sudden, we’d grown to doing a few thousand dollars a day and it just kept growing,” Oliver said.
With over 1.8 billion social media views in 2022 across the company’s social media channels, Dan-O’s internet success has fed into success on the retail shelves. Oliver has been able to bring in a partner, Phil Crosby of Crosby Interactive, a local marketing company. Crosby now runs the business side of Dan-O’s Seasoning, while Watson heads up the sales division, which has landed Dan-O’s in Kroger’s and Walmart stores nationwide.
Customers can now find Original, Spicy, Chipotle, and Crunchy (also called Everything Bagel) on the company website. Locally, the Original and Spicy varieties are available at dozens of stores including some Dollar Tree stores, Paul’s Fruit Market, Liquor Barn, Frank’s Meat & Produce, Morris Deli & Liquors, Rainbow Blossom and more with plans for further expansion including Lowes Hardware. Dan-O’s Seasoning is also available on Amazon.
Adding a bit of zest to the company’s profile, in the spring of 2022, Dan-O’s Seasoning sponsored Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike during the Belmont Stakes. The company sponsors other athletes like Louisville native and reigning NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Champion Ben Rhodes, Eric Wood, a former NFL center for the Buffalo Bills, professional cornhole player, Big Time Bob (Bob Vonch), Lucas Bogosian, a full-time professional angler and Crazy Team Ridenfaden, a Louisville cycling club.
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All the social media and retail success has meant Oliver can now get back to what he enjoyed most about creating Dan-O’s Seasoning in the first place.
“I can do what I do best, which is cooking (he creates about 10 recipes a week). I can change people’s lives in my own little way through healthy seasoning and with my videos I can put a smile on people’s faces with my unique sense of humor,” he said. “I always believed in this goal and now I am having fun doing what I love.”
Reach features reporter Kirby Adams at kadams@courier-journal.com.


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