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Meet Rahel Mwitula Williams of ILAVA: It Can Be Done in Kenwood

Today we’d like to introduce you to Rahel Mwitula Williams.

Rahel, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
In December 2009, I had an opportunity to travel to Kenya for three weeks through a study abroad program for my Master of Science degree in International Public Service from DePaul University. When considering why I chose Kenya, I must be honest and say that it was because I knew that it was only 6 hours away from my homeland, Tanzania and more importantly I will have an opportunity to visit my grandmother.

Never in a million years did I think that I would fall in love with Kenya. I visited several women cooperative organizations, but one organization, in particular, stirred up something inside of me; The Kibera Paper Project (KPP) is an organization that makes greeting cards using recycled materials. Meeting the women of Kibera Paper Project changed my life and confirmed the one thing I had always known, which was that in Africa with hope, determination and hard work it can be done. I ended my journey filled with both excitement and frustration because I was confused about the next step. While my trip to East Africa ended, my contribution towards the economic development in Africa was just beginning. As an African woman, I understand my responsibility towards it.

Early 2010, I began volunteering with KPP helping the organization sell their cards here in the United States. Within months of selling cards to family members and friends, I realized that my involvement needed a strategic plan. As a result, the formulation of ILAVA: It Can Be Done! came into existence.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It’s labor of love… I started ILAVA with my unemployment check. I had no idea what I was doing but I had passion and conviction. Not having capital was and still my hardest challenge. My sister and business partner ( Mwasi Mwitula) join ILAVA team a year after trying to do myself. We both have full times job thus the biggest challenge is working this business afterward and knowing that we have a strong social mission behind our brand …

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the ILAVA: It Can Be Done story. Tell us more about the business.
ILAVA is a socially responsible lifestyle brand that uses fashion to empower women and inspire change around the world. Currently, ILAVA specializes in four strong products: lifestyle fashion, jewelry, handmade cards, and home decor. ILAVA is devoted to making women feel empowered and celebrated by offering a variety collections that tell the story of ILAVA women from Tanzania. Through fashion, ILAVA has created community, women are empowered, and everyone looks fabulous!

Our mission is to provide African-Inspired fashion, accessories, and other lifestyle items to our consumers while celebrating,  powerful and inspirational women around the world! Every ILAVA purchase provides school uniforms to children in Tanzania and helps to create jobs for women.

We work diligently to provide exceptional customer service, support our customers, and serve our community through various promotional initiatives.

ILAVA aims to become one of the leading, socially responsible fashion brands in the industry by offering the best quality attire and lifestyle items at a price point that reflects the brand’s ability to give back. More importantly, ILAVA wants to create a culture where women will embrace the uniqueness and versatility African clothes without feeling out of place in mainstream society. By celebrating women, entrepreneurship, education, and success against all odds, ILAVA will continue to grow ahead of the curve and offer unique products to service the ILAVA woman. In addition to this, ILAVA will continue to give back to the country of Tanzania and others global south countries through amazing programs, partnerships, sponsorships, and giveaways!

We are proud of is ability and sacrifice we made to give back during our growth stages.. most companies wait until have made a significant profit to give back but we are giving back as a part of our mission… part of our business plan.
2. Keeping our production in Tanzania and Kenya. We have been approached to take our production to Asia countries but we believe strongly that Africa can be manufacture hub.

What set us apart again.. we use fashion to make impact.. to educate people about the beauty of African culture, also, young African women are philanthropist .. we are changing the narrative of what is means to be a philanthropist

Our partnership with Msichana Initiative has been a life-changing. Be able to provide transportation to girls to attend school has been powerful.

African print is a lifestyle and not trend!!!

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
Interesting… I am a woman of faith so I tend to you use the word ” bless” nevertheless, a great opportunity has come our way because we stay true to our brand and our mission. It has not been an easy road.. we are still waiting for the big break even after LA Fashion week. 2018 goal is to increase or sales and to partner with others business so we can grow and be able to hire more people and fulfill our social mission.. we are waiting for our good luck or what I would like to say ‘”breakthrough”

Contact Info:

  • Address: 4633 South Langley
  • Website:
  • Phone: 773 805 0704
  • Email:
  • Instagram: @myilava
  • Facebook: @myilava
  • Twitter: @myilava

Image Credit:

Nancy Gaby Valladolid

Getting in touch: VoyageChicago is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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