Photos and Story by Abigail Walker
Hallie Darphin knows the value of a good education. Since its start in 2014, her school supply company, Dot, has helped fund over 4,000 days of school for children in developing countries. Now the 25-year-old entrepreneur is opening the doors of The Dot Shop to better spread her education mission and encourage others to change the world.
It began when Darphin took a semester off from Mississippi College to work at a children’s home in Uganda in 2011. There she saw the effects a lack of education had on an impoverished community. When she returned to MC, she added a business minor and was challenged in an entrepreneurship class to take a problem she was passionate about and solve it using business. Fueled by the children she met in Uganda, Darphin created the idea for Dot school supplies.
Dot, named after Darphin’s grandmother, has come to stand for “Do One Thing.” Every product funds half a day of education for a child in Haiti, Mexico, Tanzania, or the Congo. Darphin says they aim to fund all aspects of education, including teacher salary, supplies, and uniforms.
Dot started as an online store, but after the urging from MC students, Darphin began looking for a new business headquarters. The Dot Shop, located at 205 West Leake Street in Clinton, opened at the end of May this year. Set in a sunny yellow house on the Brick Streets, The Dot Shop allows visitors to learn more about what Dot is doing around the world, meet Darphin and the Dot crew, and purchase products that directly aid children in other countries.
Available Dot school supplies include binders, journals, pencils, colored pencils, and coloring books. Unique, hand-painted binders and journals have recently been added to the collection. The Dot shop also sells items made by locals and MC students, as well as products from other give-back causes around the world.
This summer, Darphin and several others on the Dot team traveled to Haiti with But God Ministries. They served in schools and helped with the student sponsorship program and were able to see how Dot is directly benefitting children and their families.
Darphin says economic development is also a huge component of Dot. They have been working with local artisans in Haiti to develop new products, such as a pencil pouch made from rice bags and the gingham that matches the students’ uniforms. “Our goal is to have at least 50 percent of the products made in the countries we help,” Darphin says, adding that providing jobs to parents is just as important as funding their children’s education.
Other projects in the work are school supplies bundles, like the ones at Christ Covenant School that have helped supply weeks of school for children in Haiti and Mexico. Darphin hopes to expand this program with other schools and maybe incorporate a pen-pal program so that students can connect internationally.
To see Dot making a global impact has meant the world to Darphin. “It’s overwhelming and extraordinarily empowering,” she says. She adds that empowering others is what Dot’s all about. She looks forward to seeing the kids that are being funded graduate. But Darphin also has a desire to invest on a local scale. She says that opening up a store in Clinton is a way to teach people that small decisions can make a big difference.
She credits the relationships and support from the Clinton community and from Mississippi College for Dot’s success. “Clinton is a fun place to be, and I love seeing this place grow,” she says. “I want to give the Clinton community an opportunity to give back and be involved in what we’re doing around the world.”
Darphin is excited to be a part of what’s happening on the Brick Streets and hopes that The Dot Shop will become an event space or a place where students can simply congregate on the patio. “I want it to be a place where people can come and hang out and learn about the impact of small changes,” she says.
Even the new space is a series of small things come together. Darphin says that God has grown Dot into something she never would have imagined and that he continues to send new ideas through people. She’s been able to hire a part-time operations assistant, take on interns, and collaborate with student artists.
“I trust God 1000% more because I’ve seen him show up,” she says. “I’m more willing to do the impossible because I’ve seen the impossible be done over and over again.”
Darphin says she’s still learning, but that she knows she’s doing exactly what she needs to. “If there’s something that God’s calling you to do, he will equip you.”
The Dot Shop is opened Tuesday-Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. You can find out more about Dot and purchase school supplies at http://www.dotproducts.org.