November 1 2016

Doing One Thing To Make A Difference – Meet Dot Products Founder Hallie Darphin

Love school supplies? Us too. Really love the really pretty ones? Of course you do, and so do we, and that is why we are obsessed with Dot Products. Thanks to founder Hallie Darphin, not only can you buy the coolest school and art supplies, but you can also bring education to children in need. With every school and art supply you purchase, you’ll fund 1/2 a day of education in some of the poorest countries in the world.  Read on to learn how you can “Do One Thing” to change the world with Dot:

screen-shot-2016-10-27-at-12-27-58-pmWhat was your inspiration for founding Dot Products?

When I was in college, I lived and worked at a children’s home and school in Uganda for a semester. There was a student named Disan that I would tutor every afternoon after school. He was in sixth grade but struggling with his multiplication tables because he hadn’t gotten the chance to get a consistent education until that year. His family would pay for his school when they could and when they couldn’t, which was often, he wouldn’t attend.

As we talked and got to know each other, I was overwhelmed by his excitement and joy at each new thing he would learn. He was thrilled to be getting an education and saw the many doors it would open for his future. When I returned home, I knew two things: I wanted to be a part of changing the lives of millions of children who aren’t able to attend school, and I wanted to provide opportunities for college students to be involved in the global poverty crisis.

After lots of prayer, conversations with people in business and education, and an incredible entrepreneurship class, Dot Products was born. Through Dot, we fund education for children who wouldn’t be able to attend otherwise. We sell school supplies and fund ½ a day of school in East Africa and Central America with every product we sell.

screen-shot-2016-10-27-at-12-06-07-pmIf we are going to “do one thing,” why is providing education the thing we should do?

Nelson Mandela once said that “Education is the most powerful weapon that you can use to change the world,” and we’ve seen it be true. To educate a child in a developing country means so much more than just giving them knowledge. It’s giving their families and communities a hope for a brighter future. Often times, our sponsorship takes intense pressure off a hardworking set of parents because they not only see their child thrive, but the child also is being taken care of for 8 hours in a day. They aren’t worried about where the children are while they’re at work, and they know their children are being physically fed and emotionally and educationally nurtured while they’re away.

Who did you have to convince that you had a good idea? How did you do it?

For me, it was actually the other way around. Many people had to convince me! I was a senior in college when we developed the idea, and, as a psychology major with zero desire to be in business, I doubted my ability to get Dot off the ground. I just wanted to improve on the impossible conditions I had seen around the world, and starting a business seemed to be the most sustainable and viable solution. I remember telling my mom about the business plan and saying something like “But that’ll be really cool to do in fifteen years when I have experience and am more capable.” I really expected her to say that that decision was the wise one, but instead she encouraged me to not wait, but to go for my dreams now because it was the time in my life that I had the least responsibilities and the most likelihood of continuing even if things got hard. Her response was really the fuel that made me follow my dreams and hold onto the purpose behind the company even when things have gotten difficult.

Where are your products sold?

Currently, our products are sold on our website and in our local store, as well as in a number of small retailers around the country. We also travel to conferences and festivals to share the Dot Story and give people a chance to make a difference with their everyday purchases.

screen-shot-2016-10-27-at-12-25-14-pmWe’re school supply obsessed! What’s your absolute favorite this season?

This summer, we got to go to Haiti and work with our artisans to develop a zipper keychain wallet that we are still so excited about. While not technically a “school supply”, we’ve found it’s a complete necessity for college girls in the US, and it’s such a blessing to get to offer them a way to make a difference in the lives of families living in poverty!

Other than our Haitian made products, our handpainted journals are our very favorite. We partner with incredibly talented students artists who volunteer their time in painting the journals. They paint six journals for us and get one to keep for themselves! We’ve loved collaborating with so many talented artists, and our very favorite days around the office are ones where we get to open a brand new box of art journals from one of our students!

screen-shot-2016-10-27-at-12-05-47-pmWhat do you look for in your interns? What do you think are some key traits that interns should have?

Willingness to learn, desire to make a difference in the world, flexibility and at least a little spunk. No two days are alike at the Dot Shop, and we look for vibrant college students who are willing to get their hands dirty and have the passion to make a difference.

How do you spread the word about your mission?

We’ve done a little bit of everything! But the things that have been the most successful are definitely social media and events. In our experience, students have been so excited to be a part of the life change that we’re a part of around the world, and we love challenging them to get involved in ways that don’t look like getting on a plane!

Another incredible way we’ve spread our mission is with the opening of the Dot Shop, a give-back shop in downtown Clinton, Mississippi. In it, we feature local artists and other social causes as well as getting to tell the story of Dot to each person as they shop. We opened in July, and it’s been our favorite adventure yet.

How do you know you are making a difference? Do you have any success stories you can share with us?

Honestly, “success” with global education looks a lot slower than we’d like. The child we started sponsoring as a kindergartener two years ago is now a second grader. But we are in it for the long haul because we understand that the return on this longterm investment could literally change communities, countries, and the world. As far as education goes, we feel a sense of success each time we get to pay another student’s school fees.

Another big win story this year was getting to go on our first ever partner trip to Haiti. We work with artisans there to create beautifully sewn products and provide jobs in the local economy. It was such a surreal moment to land on the ground in Haiti and realize that seven women had given up a week, a lot of comfort, and a good bit of money to jump on board and be fully invested in our mission!

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What do you like to do when you aren’t changing the world?

The whole work-life balance thing has definitely been a journey. I recently got engaged, so wedding planning and marriage prep has been taking up most of my time lately. I love spending time with friends and family. I’m still close with my college friends and they live across the country, so traveling to see them and having them return to our college town to visit us is probably my favorite current pastime. I also really love reading or a good Netflix binge!

Is there an inspirational quote that inspires and motivates you in your mission?

Dot stands for “Do One Thing” and it really sums up the whole of how I think we should each live our lives. We are so limited in our individual capabilities, but when we get together and each do the thing we were created to do, it’s amazing what can happen.

Thanks Hallie!  Be sure to check out Dot’s at dotproducts.org and on Instagram @dotforschools.

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