Today we’d like to introduce you to Katie Donnenfield.
Hi Katie, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
I started MOLO in September 2019 as a creative outlet that quickly turned into a side hustle on Instagram. I create macrame pieces that range from home decor to baby goods to more practical items (yoga mat straps, dog collars, cozies), but most importantly, MOLO donates 15% of sales to our partner nonprofit organization, Ga-Mphahlele Home-Coming, in Limpopo, South Africa. This partnership began because of COVID-19 and the want to assist rural communities in Limpopo that are often forgotten. Ideally, I wanted to assist the community that I was based in (Mavalani village) during my Peace Corps service, but I thought that was too farfetched, so I decided to cast my net to the Limpopo province instead. Little did I know that this partnership would actually allow me to directly assist Mavalani. Since April 2020, we’ve assisted over 100 families with food parcels containing staple and non-perishable foods, as well as sanitation goods, 700 face masks and 1,500 personal hand sanitizers that were distributed to seven primary and secondary schools across three rural communities. MOLO has also started a monthly sponsorship program where individuals can sponsor a specific family each month.
We are now up to ten monthly sponsors and we’re always looking for more. I can’t and won’t take all the credit for what we’ve been able to do so far because it isn’t just me that has made this happen. The reason we’re able to directly assist Mavalani is because of my two friends in the village (Nomsa and Olga) and they do all the heavy lifting, which includes going grocery shopping, putting the packages together, identifying the families in need, delivering to the families and spending time with them. Without these two amazing ladies and Moeletsi, MOLO could not exist. I can’t wait until I can go back to South Africa and meet Moeletsi in person for the first time and bring us all together. We are a small team with big hearts working towards the same goal – assisting those in need. After returning early from my Peace Corps service, I was overwhelmed with feelings of failure and regret, but starting MOLO brought me in a full circle and has completely washed away those negative feelings. The saying that everything happens for a reason could not be more true in this instance. Although I didn’t complete my service, I know that our team has made a greater impact in Mavalani than what I could’ve done by myself in my two years of Peace Corps.
I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
The biggest struggle within MOLO was figuring out how to transfer money to a rural community in South Africa in the most cost-efficient and timely way. It took a couple of trials and errors to finally figure it out, but we did it. Our donations go through a total of four bank accounts before it gets in the hands of Nomsa and Olga, but we’ve made it work! The biggest struggle personally running MOLO is that I don’t give myself many breaks and it has been hard to find a balance with being an entrepreneur and having a life.
As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I am the creator behind MOLO. I strive to create timeless macrame pieces for your homes and everyday lives. My most popular items are plant hangers, coaster sets, earrings and yoga mat straps. The thing I’m most proud of is how MOLO has created awareness and a community for others to help those in need. Our giving back program is what sets us apart from others. Because Nomsa and Olga live in Mavalani village, they are deeply connected to the community members. When they go to drop off the food parcel and sanitation packages to the families, they don’t just drop it off and leave, but instead they sit down and listen to them. They hear their stories, struggles and recommend additional services when they’re able to.
Risk taking is a topic that people have widely differing views on – we’d love to hear your thoughts.
At the end of March 2020, I was furloughed by full-time job for 60 days. After 60 days, they asked me to come back to work, but I declined their offer and decided to fully focus on MOLO. During my furlough, I invested all my time and energy into MOLO and when I did that, I saw it flourish. I couldn’t believe the positive response I was receiving by all my followers and so that was what drove me to make that decision. I would consider myself a risk-taker. I think taking risks are important to push yourself out of your comfort and it’s a great way to learn. Some risk-taking could end in “failure,” but there will always be a lesson to be learned, so are you really failing?
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