When did you last gather around a table with friends or family, undistracted, to share a meal? With a delicious plant-based food line, Asha Wheeldon seeks to change that! “Kula,” meaning “to eat” in Swahili, is the name of her community-focused, plant-based business that advocates for togetherness and Afro-Veganism.
The mission of Kula Foods is to bring folks together around food while delivering diversity to our culture one plate at a time, with the belief that plant-based nourishment is the future.
A Story of Inspiration
Asha’s career path has not been a direct journey, but every stop has contributed to the person she has become and the business she has founded. Passionate about music and movement, she initially aspired to be a dancer. She went to school for counselling, finding joy in conversation and connecting with people, which has served her in many aspects throughout her life. After that, she began in communications, progressed to sales, and finally to management – a valuable experience for an entrepreneur.
When she became a mother and moved to Vancouver in 2015, facing the challenge of cooking for her new family, Asha looked to her roots. Growing up in Kenya, Asha and her immediate extended family lived communally and nearly always shared meals.
She searched Vancouver’s grocery stores for food that reminded her of home but could not see herself in any offered foods. The result was Kula Foods. Asha enrolled in BCIT to become an entrepreneur, and through Kula Foods, she provides a new look at plant-based eating by creating space for diversity beyond the ‘ethnic aisle’ at the local grocers.
About Kula’s Products
A product’s journey begins in the most organic way possible: in Asha’s kitchen. She plays around with an idea before sharing it with a family member or friend, and if they like it, she brings it to her team at Kula Foods. Throughout the process, Asha continues asking, “Who are we serving? What problem is our product offering a solution to?”
Kula products are 100% vegan and free-from sugar, gluten, grain, and nuts, and made with whole ingredients.
The designs on their packaging speak to Afro inspirations, which not only stand out in the grocery aisle but are what the brand is inspired by. Dedicated to diversity in eating, Asha strives to maintain a connection to her roots while creating shared experiences within her community.
Let’s Talk to Asha!
How did you go about building a business around your core values and fostering a community that shared those values?
I started Kula because I was looking for community and spaces that felt like home. At this same time, I was a new mom and was adjusting my lifestyle. I was very inspired and encouraged by folks I was meeting in Vancouver. After the birth of my daughter, I knew what I was going to do will need to align with my values.
What obstacles did you face in starting KULA, and how did you overcome them?
One of the first obstacles was being new to the food industry in a new city. I needed to do research and be a student too. I was also a new mom so I needed to manage my time. My daughter was with me at farmers’ markets. I was the mom with the baby on her back haha. While it was wild, it was such an exciting time and I was learning so much. One of the ongoing obstacles we face as a vegan and Black-owned business in Canada we have faced in Canada is the resistance from some distributors and retailers to stock our products due to uncertainty of how well the products will sell. This is a barrier we have been focused on challenging, we keep trying and focus on our mission.
What advice would you give to another entrepreneur who wants to incorporate their culture into their new business?
I encourage anyone wanting to incorporate their identities and culture into their business to do it. More folks are looking for diverse options and stories. It also brings your passion and ambition forward since there is a more personal connection.
Let’s Check-Out Kula Foods!
G.O.A.T. (The Greatest of All Time) Curry
Spicy textured chunks stewed in a bold curry, this Afro-Caribbean classic has achieved Greatest of All Time status. The possibilities are endless- did somebody say vegan roti?
Smothered in our house-made Red Pepper BBQ Sauce, Ribz Bites work as a protein-packed addition or foundation for your next dish. Pre-marinated for your convenience, just heat, eat, and enjoy!
Mildly seasoned pea protein strips, our high protein Ginger Beef is a versatile powerhouse. Will you stretch your leftovers, create your own savoury recipes, or eat it right out of the box?
High protein shreds marinated in our sweet and smoky Red Pepper BBQ Sauce. Wraps, bowls, sandwiches, pizza toppings…the sky’s the limit.
About the Author: Lauren Driedger is a student at JCI Institute studying Fashion Business and Creative Arts. She is passionate about writing, collaborating with others, and making positive change in the world. Recently Lauren completed a practicum with the BC Society for the Museum of Original Costume and has launched her first business – Lauren Driedger Creative.
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