Kelewele: How Ghana’s Rachael Laryea’s Vegan Foods Is Thriving Amidst COVID-19 Challenges

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses worldwide have faced unprecedented challenges. From stay-at-home orders to social distancing measures, the impact has been felt across industries. Small businesses, in particular, have borne the brunt of these hardships. However, amidst the chaos, there are stories of resilience and adaptation.

Google’s recent announcement, reporting a staggering 260 percent increase in global search interest in coronavirus since the first week of February, underscores the profound effect the pandemic has had on society. With government-mandated closures and economic uncertainties, businesses have had to rethink their strategies to survive.

One such business navigating these challenges is Kelewele, a cultural lifestyle brand founded by Rachel Laryea, an African woman in the diaspora. Specializing in using plantains to create a variety of dishes appealing to vegans and vegetarians, Kelewele has found itself at the intersection of food and culture, relying heavily on restaurant partnerships within the hospitality industry.

However, as the pandemic disrupted traditional business models, Rachel Laryea found herself facing unexpected hurdles, especially in the realm of partnerships. Undeterred, she revisited Kelewele’s strategic business plans for the year’s first two quarters, seeking innovative methods to supplement the lag in business. Recognizing social media’s integral role in fostering a sense of community despite physical distance, Rachel redirected her focus towards integrating online tools into Kelewele’s business model. Through engaging videos and live sessions, she sought to create meaningful person-to-person interactions and educate people about Kelewele’s mission and service offerings in light of COVID-19.

One notable collaboration that emerged during this period was with BET International’s CultureVibes Home Sessions. Through this partnership, Kelewele found a platform to showcase its cultural heritage and culinary expertise to a wider audience, further solidifying its position as a leader in the plant-based food industry. Looking ahead, Rachel remains optimistic about Kelewele’s future. While the road ahead may still be uncertain, she believes that adaptability and innovation will continue to be the keys to success.

In a time of unprecedented challenges, Kelewele’s story serves as a testament to the power of resilience, innovation, and community. As businesses worldwide continue to adapt and evolve, Rachel Laryea and Kelewele stand as shining examples of perseverance in the face of adversity.

She has joint degree program in Anthropology and African American Studies. In 2016, she received a B.A., summa cum laude, in Social and Cultural Analysis from New York University. Prior to starting the program, Rachel was an analyst at Goldman Sachs & Co. in their Corporate Services & Real Estate Division, working within the firm’s Environmental, Social & Governance group.