ALDE Entrepreneurs Inspire and Engage: Meet Rahel, Tootie, and Martha

July 2018

There is no doubt that there are diverse interests to be found among the 650-plus development, marketing, and communication professionals who are ALDE members. The three individuals profiled below have turned their passions into profitable sidelines, proving that there is no one-size-fits all vocation!

Rahel Mwitula-Williams - Founder & Lead Designer, ILAVA, a unique African-inspired lifestyle boutique

Donor Relations Manager, Global Church Sponsorship, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Chicago, Illinois
Profiled by Jessica Pelnar, Mission Advancement Coordinator, St. Marcus Lutheran School, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Our work provides “endless opportunities to connect with people and inspire change,” said changemaker Rahel Mwitula-Williams. Embracing her work in nonprofit ministry as a lifestyle more than a career, Rahel truly lives out the change she wants to see in the world.

Rahel reflects on her life with great affection. “I didn’t realize I was poor until I moved to Chicago at 12 years old,” said Rahel, who grew up in Tanzania. She calls her dad the “original go-getter.” She credits her family and community for showing her how to live for everyone, and not just herself.

Since 2016, Rahel has been the Manager for Donor Relations for Global Church Sponsorship at the ELCA. Attending IGNITE: Norfolk 2017, her first ALDE conference, she felt she was welcomed into a family of like-minded people who supported her ongoing education. Likewise, she works tirelessly to ensure all donors know they are part of a family, one that brings joy and the love of God to people all over the world. However, Rahel’s mission work does not end there.

In 2010, after engaging in a study abroad program in Kenya as part of her graduate degree in international public service, Rahel found herself working closely with a women's cooperative that changed her life. She strategized, formed a business plan, and launched ILAVA: It Can Be Done! A unique African- inspired lifestyle boutique, ILAVA “serves as a way to help women entrepreneurs in Kenya and Tanzania gain economic security.” ILAVA strives to engage African culture as a lifestyle and not simply a fashion trend, and was showcased at 2017 LA Fashion Week. The company’s nonprofit initiative, ILAVA Gives Back, empowers and provides academic, economic, and social resources to women and children in targeted African countries and operates programs providing school uniforms and bicycles.

Tootie Martin - Owner, Tootie’s Peanuts
Director of Development, Concordia University - St. Paul, St. Paul, Minnesota
Profiled by Bethany Krepela, Major Gifts Officer, Fraser, Minneapolis, Minnesota

While many of us in development might say we “work for peanuts,” one ALDE member can truly claim this as his side gig.

Tootie Martin, from Panama City, Florida, is now Director of Development at Concordia University in St. Paul, Minnesota. He also is the man behind Tootie’s Peanuts, which markets southern-style boiled and deep-fried peanuts. He sells peanuts at local farmers markets; at parties and events in the Twin Cities metro area; and ships peanuts across the country.

“When I was seven, I lived with my great aunt Annie Will in Enterprise, Alabama,” Tootie said. “She lived directly across the street from a large peanut farm. This is where I learned to harvest peanuts. I recall my aunt and I literally dragging peanuts from the soil into the house. We would roast them in the oven in-shell and out-shell blanched or not blanched.”

Starting Tootie's Peanuts was a learning experience, said Tootie. “All I had was an idea and tons of enthusiasm. I would yell at people, ‘Boiled peanuts, free samples!’ Potential customers would draw near with a weird look on their face and ask, ‘What are bald peanuts?’ I learned that I needed to change my southern drawl into something that most Minnesotans could understand!”

“My typical customer is a curious, semi-adventurous eater, willing to try almost anything — especially if there are free samples,” said Tootie, adding that he hopes to have Tootie's Peanuts at the Minnesota State Fair in August.

An ultimate goal of Tootie’s is to employ convicted felons. As he shared in a February interview with City Pages, “I want them to think, ‘If this guy can have a business doing peanuts, then I can use the gifts that I have.’ I want that to be the model for Tootie’s Peanuts.”

Tootie sees some parallels between hawking peanuts and his development work.  “I make an ‘ask’ for customers to buy Tootie's Peanuts. In my development role, I also make ‘asks’ — for financial gifts and volunteer support. In both scenarios, I am educating and informing individuals about a product or service I believe in.”

Martha Jeanne Dahlke (née Mitkos) - Culinary Artist, Cowboy Nosh Bait
Director, Campaigns & Special Initiatives, Mission Advancement, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, St. Louis, Missouri
Instagram: cowboy_nosh_bait
Profiled by Lori Solyom, Director of Development, Voice of Care, West Chicago, Illinois

As Director of Campaigns & Special Initiatives in the Mission Advancement office of the LCMS, Martha Dahlke is savvy about development. She first attended an ALDE conference in 2005, new to the field and just after a year of volunteer ministry in Germany through Youth Encounter.

“It was such an incredible experience to meet other professionals, both seasoned and new to the field, and garner knowledge that I still utilize and build on today,” said Martha. “A colleague once told me that I don’t want one year of experience 30 times. I want to look back and say I truly have 30 years of experience … ALDE is an excellent resource for professional development, mentoring, and life-long friendships. I look forward to the conference every year.” 

Martha produced red, white, and blue Texas-shaped frosted sugar cookies from Cowboy Nosh Bait, her creative and delicious culinary enterprise, to promote IGNITE: North Texas 2019 at the 2018 edition in Minneapolis. 

Since she was a little girl, Martha has loved cooking, baking, and creating in the kitchen. Her mother taught her basic cake decorating techniques when Martha was seven years old. When her first nephew was born 15 years ago, her baker’s artistry took a more serious turn:

“My sister, Ruth, said she was just going to BUY a cake for my nephew’s birthday. I was appalled! ‘You can’t just BUY a birthday cake,’ I told her. I began baking cakes for each of my nieces’ and nephews’ birthdays, eventually adding cookies and planning elaborate theme parties.”

Why Cowboy Nosh Bait? Martha said, “They always say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. I may be slightly obsessed with rodeos, boots, chaps, cowboy hats, horses, amazing athletes, and of course an adrenaline rush. I was bound and determined to ‘catch’ a cowboy. So, Cowboy Nosh Bait was born.” (Congratulations to Martha and Dan Dahlke on their May 2018 marriage — yeehaw!) Martha now bakes for weddings, baby showers, and exciting birthday parties, including a Bow Tie Blowout, Ice Cream Parlor, Circus Carnival, and Burger Bash.