Tabria Williford grew up in Boerne, where she spent a lot of time outdoors, playing soccer and going on adventures with kids in her neighborhood. The fun she had outside led her to visit Texas’ state parks in the summers to hike, climb, and kayak—activities she still enjoys today.
She recalls sometimes receiving odd looks, which made her examine the connection between race and outdoor recreation.
“[These outdoor activities] weren’t necessarily the immediate things my parents encouraged me to do, but due to the nature of who I was surrounded by—predominantly white individuals—those were their hobbies,” Williford says. “I was fortunately welcomed with open arms to try new things and to have these opportunities, but as I got older and understood why I was looked at certain ways, and really understanding the politics, racial justice, and inequality behind those things, I thought, What is my part in the puzzle?”
Her lifestyle brand Tawa Threads turned out to be the missing piece. Williford, now based in Austin, designs and sells outdoors-inspired bandanas and runners, and she donates 20% of proceeds to organizations that promote diversity and inclusion in outdoor spaces, including San Antonio-based Black Outside, Native Women’s Wilderness, and Outdoor Afro.
Williford started her business in 2019 because she needed a creative outlet while working at various start-ups. She started to sketch plants, silhouettes, and contours of the land when she was outdoors, and created narratives with her designs. She figured she would start by printing her drawings on bandanas since they were relatively inexpensive and versatile, and to donate a portion of the proceeds to McKinney Falls State Park in Austin, where she often volunteered.
She sold out at her first market, and quickly realized this venture might be more than a side hustle.
With the pandemic, she expanded her line of products to home décor, including runners and plant propagation stations, since most folks were spending more time indoors. She hopes to cater to the #vanlife community in the future with curtains or window shields for RVs and travel trailers, and she plans to build even more community with her consumers through group hikes and clean-ups at various parks.
Williford continues to think outside the box to give more people access to the outdoors. Beyond monetary donations, she wants to assist in getting a more diverse group of people hired in parks, gift outdoors equipment, and even effect policy changes.
“There is a social impact theme in my business, and I hope as my business grows it can be really felt,” Williford says. “I want people to see that product and that it stands for certain things.”