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Dorothy’s House: Starting Up in DSM USA

Dorothy’s House allows victims of human trafficking a place to recover their bodies, hearts, souls and voices. Founder Kellie Markey shares the story of how she began the organization in Greater Des Moines (DSM). The organization focuses on four pillars of care: physical health, mental well-being, community engagement and life/job skills and education.

Getting Started

Kellie explains how she started out wanting to reconnect with the DSM community. She did that through volunteerism, specifically with teen girls. From her experience, she learned about the nature of abuse against kids aging out of the system who were unable to be successful within society. After fostering, Kellie found a house in need of some renovation and decided to create Dorothy’s House. There are three areas that people work towards in preventing sex trafficking: advocacy and awareness, victim services and law enforcement. Dorothy’s House focuses on victim services but works with those who build awareness and law enforcement. The goal is to make it so difficult to transact that traffickers go around Iowa.

Importance of Timing

At the time Kellie started Dorothy’s House, other organizations like churches and philanthropic organizations were beginning to reach out to those affected by trafficking. The timing helped Dorothy’s House be successful.

Advisory Boards Versus a Board of Directors

An advisory board has functional knowledge and experience to help Kellie understand the industry to better serve her clients while building the company. It’s a volunteer position. A traditional board comes after your business gets off the ground. The board of directors is elected. You may move people on the advisory board to the traditional board once they’ve proved they’re the people you want long-term.


The girls bounce up to seven times before it sticks. You’re dealing with heavily traumatized mental profiles so partnerships and resources within the DSM community help Dorothy’s House walk alongside clients in their recovery. They focus on giving girls continuity as they get customized service from other organizations.


Each day in a startup is different. There’s always something to learn.

Hear the stories of other small business and startup business owners in the community in The Partnership’s Small Business Resources Hub or sign up for the NAME TBD newsletter to stay connected for information about upcoming events, other resources and the latest announcements in the small business community in DSM.