Dot in Retrospect : Season One


In order to know where you’re going, you have to know where you are, where you started from, how you got there. I want to start at the beginning and share the story as I see it now.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be sharing this story of Dot — of my life over the past eight years. Since God and I jumped on this wild ride that led me from a college campus in middle Mississippi where I believed that “business was bad and innately corrupt”, across the globe to researching nonprofits, business and sustainability, becoming an entrepreneur, working to impact communities, partnering with students in my own community, failing and succeeding again and again, getting married and somehow falling in love with Mississippi and the mess that she is in the process and being called back to her and to the problems I had originally run away from in hopes of “changing the world” and forgetting about the place I came from.

Now I want to be realistic with you (and I’ll get into this more in future posts). That sounds more beautiful and poetic than it has been. It has been clunky and chunky and messy. It has been beautiful and hard, all in one. If I’m completely honest, some of the twists and turns of the past two years were not the story I wanted, but God. He knew. All along, He knew the story He was writing, and He knew the places I would need to be in to get there. I believe in a God who uses all things for His glory and who uses ALL THINGS for our longterm good — even if we don’t see that good until the other side of eternity. In the places where I don’t understand, I am choosing to believe the truths I know about Him. That He is Good. And He is Good to me.

I’m twenty-seven, and I’ve been at this business thing for five years — seven if you count the planning phase. It has taught me more about myself than almost anything. God has used it as much as any relationship, friendship, church, or otherwise. The only things that have affected me more are my family and marriage — and even those have been tied up closely in my understanding of business.

If I look back, I have to start with that fall semester in Uganda at nineteen. (This is the link to the blog that I started in that season of my life.) I wanted that trip to end up with a mission. With a lifelong commitment — I wanted to be Katie Davis, with an Amazima and thirteen daughters to adopt and raise. It’s only in these days, almost a decade later that God is clearly revealing the way He wired me differently, perfectly for me. It’s almost a decade later that I’m praising Him for not answering those prayers, for knowing better than I could have ever known.

And then there was my dad, and his insistence that I add a business minor — agreed upon only because it was a part of the deal of taking a semester off of school. At the time, I didn’t understand what business actually was — that it’s the way the world works, the way of getting things done, the language of effectively working in the world. I couldn’t see it, but my dad could. And I agreed to add the business minor — before I even left for Uganda — because I thought it was an empty promise; I thought I wouldn’t be returning to school that spring. I thought I’d prove my dad wrong.

And when I did return, God used that business minor to ignite a passion for entrepreneurship and launch my first venture. I came up with the idea for Dot in a classroom at Mississippi College and launched it a year later at 22. It gave me the ability to connect with thousands of people around the world, partner with hundreds, provide more than forty full-year scholarships (and still continue to!) to students in four countries.

Over the four years that Dot focused solely on education, we were able to do some incredible things through business, and my knowledge grew exponentially — mostly through Google and conversations with people much, much smarter than me. I was committed to community because I simply didn’t have any other option. My funds and knowledge were limited, but people LOVED helping a young girl with a genuine heart for helping kids in desperate situations, and I soaked up every bit of knowledge they would share with me.

What I learned in those first couple years of Dot is that people are typically beautifully good and supportive when you give them clear ways to be involved. (Some people suck, but that’s usually their own thing and you can’t let them mess up your day and especially not your life or business.) I learned that it’s a heck of a lot of work to run a business, so you have to really care about it, but I did — more than almost anything else at that point in my life — so it was worth it. I learned that you can learn so, so much on Google, and that it really is true that almost everyone is “just winging it”. As the years progressed, I learned other things too, and I’ll get into those in another blog post soon.

Looking back, our first few years with Dot were blissfully simple. They weren’t easy, far from it, but my full focus was on the company, and we didn't hit many roadblocks. I learned and learned and learned, and people were incredibly supportive. It was so hard, but it was so, so good. I’m so thankful for those years. I’m so thankful for LifeHouse — the coworking, ministry space we were a part of in Jackson for the first two years and the community we had there. For our intern team — each girl who gave up her summer or free time to voluntarily work for a boss who clearly didn’t know what she was doing (me!). For every person who supported us — whether you’ve known me my whole life or found us randomly on the internet and decided to give us your money in trade for a journal and the commitment of a half a day of school. For all of it, it made me believe in business and sustainability and the world in a way that has changed me and shaped me for the rest of my life.

More to come about the next season soon.

Hallie D. Brand