If you would have told me five years ago that today I’d be selling school supplies and living in Jackson, MS, I would have laughed at you. Isn't that the truth of how we see our futures compared to how they actually turn out? I didn't see it coming together like this, but I couldn't have planned it better. My name is Hallie Darphin. I’m the 23-year-old founder of Dot Products, a school supply company focused on educating students around the world, and this is my story.
In 2011 during my junior year of college, I took a semester off of school to work at an orphanage in southern Uganda. The orphanage took in children whose parents had died and educated them with the goal of raising up strong future leaders for Uganda.
While in Uganda, I met a young boy named Disan who changed my perspective on need. Disan wasn’t an orphan. His parents lived in the village surrounding the orphanage and his dad had recently become a guard over our complex. Because his father worked at the complex, Disan was able to go to school for free. I found myself tutoring Disan every afternoon. While he was of the age to be in sixth grade, he was struggling to master multiplication facts, a skill that is typically learned in third grade.
In most developing countries, public school is not free. Parents must pay tuition for students to attend school and if you can’t pay, your student doesn’t go to school. Before coming to our school, Disan had been able to attend school sporadically when his parents had enough work to pay for him and his two sisters to attend. When I met him, he had been consistently in school for six months. He was, for the first time, coming alive with the thought of a future brighter than working in the fields or driving a motorcycle taxi. He was willing to work incredibly hard to overcome his circumstances, and he started by mastering his multiplication tables in the months I was in Uganda.
I came home after three months in Uganda and returned to school. In my senior year of college, I participated in a shark-tank like competition in an entrepreneurship class. We were challenged to find a problem we were passionate about and fix it through business. With Disan in the back of my mind, I tackled education funding in developing countries and developed what is now Dot Products.
Dot Products is a school supply company that sells high-quality eco-friendly school supplies and funds education in developing countries. Every Product we sell funds half a day of school for students in Congo, Tanzania, and Mexico. We launched in the fall of 2014 and currently sell journals, binders, and pencil sets. In the next few months, we’ll be launching three new products for the 2015-2016 school year.
Our products are made in America so that we can ensure that no little hands are hurt in the helping of others little hands, and we use recycled materials as much as possible. Since our launch this past fall, we’ve sent 14 students to school all three countries. With a Dot scholarship, students get everything they need to succeed in school. This includes tuition, school supplies, uniforms, and other costs.
We love to give students the opportunity to make major impact through their small decisions. After all, Dot stands for Do One Thing, and it’s the idea that you will make your biggest long-term impact through your consistent small decisions. We challenge you to do one thing today to make a difference in the world. It doesn’t have to be moving to Africa; it can be as easy as purchasing your school supplies and other products from social enterprises like us! We’d love for you to check us out online or Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
Founder of Dot Products