Madi Lommen’s for-profit banana bread company, Madibanani, had a very charitable beginning. Back in 2012,Madi, along with a handful of students from Beck High School in Minnesota, traveled to an orphanage in Thailand to build relationships with the refugee children that lived there. “The whole premise of the trip was to be pen pals to the students. We were to simply go and establish friendships and then return to the United States with more knowledge about the displacement of these refugee students,” Madi explained. During the trip, the girls and their chaperones went on an excursion to see a building that was in the process of being built for Children of the Forest orphanage. While at the site, they learned that the orphanage needed more funding to complete the project, so Madi and her classmates created a plan to raise money in order to finish building what would become the home for their new friends. The girls felt that raising money to finish this project for Children of the Forest would be a great way to leave a tangible impact on the lives of the refugee children.
Madi always had a passion for baking. “My family had always encouraged me to sell my banana bread, but up until this point I really only viewed this passion of mine as a hobby,” Madi explained. As her and the other girls brainstormed how they could raise the $10,000 dollars needed to finish building the home in Thailand, a light-bulb went off in Madi’s head–she could use her banana bread to make a difference. So that’s what she did, and in two months they raised enough money in order to complete the project. The following year Madi and her team returned to Thailand to finish building the new home for Children of the Forest.
After the project was complete, Madi decided she wanted to continue her partnership with Children of the Forest. She felt that Madibanani would be the best way for her to “contribute without physically being there,” so, she found a commercial kitchen, obtained a food licensure, and created a business model in which 50% of the profits would be donated to Children of the Forest. In fact, part of the mission of the company is to bring awareness of social injustices of people around the world back to the Unites States. Madibanani now also contributes funds to the Mamelodi Initiative in South Africa.
Madi’s favorite part of being an entrepreneur is being able to help others through her company. She explained how the social mission of the business is what really inspires her and “kept her sane when the business seemed to be going insane.” Her advice to other aspiring women looking to start their own businesses is to “keep on and be ambitious!” She firmly believes that “being a young woman can unlock a lot of potential.”
Since the initiation of Madibanani, she has been back to Thailand multiple times and continues to stay in touch with the people she met there on her first visit. Beck High School also continues their partnership with the orphanage in Thailand and has the girls from the first trip act as mentors for the Beck High School students who attend the trip annually. To learn more about Madi’s journeys to Thailand and more, you can check out her website madionthemove.com.
Contributor: Ally Massimi