Pandemic passion project brings Ghanaian cuisine to Windsor

Zule Ankamah, Owner and Founder of Zuleeats

A Windsor woman who turned in her gaming chips during the pandemic to start Ghanaian food business Zuleeats, is now opening a retail storefront. 

Located at 2760 Howard Ave. in Windsor, Zuleeats will host a grand opening on March 6 to coincide with Ghana’s Independence Day. The food retailer offers hot food items and frozen products to-go for walk-in and pre-order customers. Zuleeats features Ghanaian specialties including various meat, vegetarian and vegan hand pies, Jollof rice with chicken or mixed vegetables and sweets such as twisted donuts. There will also be monthly meal features such as fried plantains with beans, grilled fish and soups. 

Zuleeats homemade hand pies are also available at several small, independent retailers in Windsor-Essex. Owner Zule Ankamah said retail expansion plans are one of the reasons she opened the storefront. 

Zuleeats came about in 2020 when, due to the pandemic, Ankamah found herself laid off from her job of 26 years as a table game worker at Caesars Windsor. An immigrant who came to Windsor from Ghana 31 years ago, Ankamah had experience doing small catering orders for members of the Ghanaian community. But in the fall of 2020, with the encouragement of her four children, she decided to open Zuleeats. 

Ankamah connected with Windsor food incubator COOK-UP while looking for commercial kitchen space to rent. While at COOK-UP, she was also matched with a mentor to develop her business idea. But Zuleeats quickly outgrew the commercial kitchen that she shared with other entrepreneurs, so Ankamah moved production to the kitchen at Georgia Rae’s Hot Chicken in Tecumseh. In May 2021, Zuleeats also landed a vendor booth at the Downtown Windsor Farmers’ Market, giving wider exposure to her products. 

Having worked midnight shifts at Caesars Windsor for the last 18 years, Ankamah thought she could juggle both her job and new business. But she decided to quit her job after demand for her products grew. Ankamah says running her own business affords her more flexibility and time for her family. “This is a time for me to chase my goals, my dreams, because my first love has been cooking. So, I said, ‘ok, this is it.’” 

“This is a time for me to chase my goals, my dreams, because my first love has been cooking. So, I said, ‘ok, this is it.’” 

As her business grew, Ankamah immersed herself in the Windsor-Essex entrepreneurial community. “Luckily, I signed up with the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Centre where it was amazing. The one-week course (Starter Company PLUS) we did with Andrew (Patricio) was fantastic; I learned so much from him. And I have a mentor who I talk to on a daily basis,” she said of Surria Fadel, co-owner of Cedar Valley Selections. “It’s just been an amazing journey. And it has brought us here where, we finally found our first place.” 

Ankamah also received support from local small business Timber + Plumb Kitchens and Cabinetry. “In 2020, I won the Stay Golden Grant (from Timber + Plumb) and mentorship from (owner) Markie (Tucket) and that has been an ongoing relationship where I go to her for advice,” said Ankamah. 

Zuleeats has also collaborated with other local food businesses. “When Little Foot Foods put my beef and vegetarian filling in their perogies it sold. It did really, really well,” said Ankamah, who is also planning meat pie collaborations with Robbie’s Gourmet Sausage Co. and Georgia Rae’s Hot Chicken. 

“I’ve been fortunate enough to know a few people in the industry such as Little Foot Foods and Cedar Valley Selections. There is nobody that I’ve spoken to that hasn’t given me advice. Everyone has been willing to help. The small business community in Windsor, their arms are open, and they are so helpful. I’m so grateful for that.” 

The new storefront is only the beginning for Zuleeats, according to Ankamah. She is turning her attention to improving her product packaging and undergoing nutrition testing. With the storefront and expansion plans underway, Ankamah will be hiring employees to support her and her children who have so far been helping her run the business. Zuleeats will also be returning in April for another season at the Downtown Windsor Farmers’ Market. 

Ankamah is introducing frozen meals in her store and hopes to approach national retailers such as Sobeys and No Frills to carry Zuleeats products. “Our ultimate goal is to have Zuleeats pies in grocery stores, Windsor-Essex, Ontario, Canada-wide.”

Zuleeats is a client of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Centre and is receiving training, mentorship and funding through the Starter Company PLUS program.  You too, can receive support in launching or expanding your small business. Contact us for more information.