Derek and Tessa DuPont turned an Instagram account into an “experiential marketing” business

If you walk into Short North store Pursuit any day of the week, you will find slim dress shirts, an assortment of ties and elegant, modern suits. But sometimes, if you come on the right day, you can also stumble upon a full-blown music performance.

Since February, the “In Pursuit” concert series has been bringing local artists — from rapper Dom Deshawn to “adventure-folk” artist Hebdo — into the shop each month during Gallery Hop. The endeavor, created by married couple Derek and Tessa DuPont, not only highlights talent, but provides a unique marketing opportunity for Pursuit.

“We're also creating content,” said Derek, who, along with Tessa, manages “In Pursuit” under their LLC, The Wild Path. “We're bringing the artist in. We [film] an interview with them as they're getting suited up about what they're in pursuit of and just about life. … And then we do a video of the performance.”

“It's been amazing,” Derek continued, reflecting on the season, which will close with indie-rock band Winter Makes Sailors and an exhibit by Alison Rose's Nicholas Nocera on Saturday, Sept. 2. (A separate exhibit by Nocera's partner, Alison, will be shown nearby at Surprise Modern Party + Cocktail Goods.) “[People] were looking at [suits] and they were taking pictures in the photo booth and asking questions and staying the whole time. So as far as the marketing piece for [Pursuit], we saw the success right away.”

The unconventional nature of a concert in a suit shop is right in line with the Wild Path, which the couple — Derek is 25 and Tessa is 26 — officially established in June 2015.

“Our formal tagline that we have working for us is: We help disrupters bring to life ideas that they thought were impossible,” Tessa said. “The disrupter piece is really big for us because we don't want to be status quo. We want to go against the grain.”

Currently, the DuPonts serve as DJs, often together, for weddings, CrossFit competitions and yoga events. Besides Pursuit, they “create experiences” and produce “alternative experiential marketing” for a mixture of clients that includes gyms and yoga studios.

“We don't want to serve the country clubs and the big corporate money-makers,” Tessa said. “Success can be defined lots of different ways. It's not just about money.”

The DuPonts weren't thinking about turning a profit when they created @thewildpath Instagram account while documenting a self-imposed challenge to travel out of state once a month. Indeed, if you scroll past the pictures of dapperly dressed musicians and people in yoga poses, you'll find the very first post, featuring the couple laughing at the beach in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, dated February 2015.

Derek and Tessa had met about five months earlier at a fundraising event and set a follow-up meeting to discuss business.

“I think we talked about business for like 10 minutes,” Derek said.

“And then we got engaged six months later,” Tessa added.

So what was it like for two professional event-planners to collaborate on their own wedding? According to Tessa, Derek took the lead.

“He had always dreamed of how he wanted his wedding to be and I wasn't that girl that had a Pinterest board with my wedding,” Tessa said. “So it was a very long process of him convincing me to do different things.”

“It was just so mesmerizing to see the Columbus community come out to support us,” Tessa said of the ceremony, which took place at Camp Mary Orton in May 2016. “Tons of different vendors came out and supported our wedding just because they wanted to.”

Working together as a married couple comes with its challenges, such as navigating when to leave business out of personal time.

“Having your own business, you can always be doing something, and we finally … after these couple years, have gotten to a point where we can shut it off,” Derek said.

As for the future of The Wild Path, the DuPonts may think about expanding the staff — Derek's younger brother, Brock, is the only other employee — but they definitely want to add a philanthropic component. Regardless, music will remain an important element in the business.

“I've always been passionate … about bringing value to local musicians and connecting them with businesses,” said Derek, who also co-founded the Columbus Songwriters Association. “I think the more we continue to do that, the better.”

Beyond that, the DuPonts are up for considering any request for help that comes their way.

“We want people to come to us and say, ‘I had this crazy idea [but] I don't know how to do it,'” Tessa said. “Whether it's a wedding or a small business event or whatever … we'll make it happen.”