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Female Disruptors: “Do what you do best and farm out the rest.” with Shelby Taylor

Do what you do best and farm out the rest. I was actually taught this before starting the business and it has really served me well. The time and frustration spent on doing tasks that are not in my wheelhouse or skill set, is time I could be spending on doing what I do best […]

Image: Ellie Kistemaker
Image: Ellie Kistemaker

Do what you do best and farm out the rest. I was actually taught this before starting the business and it has really served me well. The time and frustration spent on doing tasks that are not in my wheelhouse or skill set, is time I could be spending on doing what I do best and growing the business. A lot of people think they can’t afford help, but often we can’t afford to not have help. I was actually taught this before starting the business and it has really served me well. The time and frustration spent on doing tasks that are not in my wheelhouse or skill set, is time I could be spending on doing what I do best and growing the business. A lot of people think they can’t afford help, but often we can’t afford to not have help.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Shelby Taylor. Her company officially launched in 2016 with a leading organic, specialty food distributor, Neal Brothers Foods. Less than a year later, Chickapea expanded into the US with its line of short pasta, which is currently sold in nearly 3,000 stores across North America. In 2018, Chickapea then broadened their offering with another healthified family staple: mac ’n’ cheese, which includes a vegan option. But commercial success isn’t enough for Shelby. Outside of Chickapea products being good for you (organic, non-GMO, gluten-free, high in protein, fiber and iron), Shelby wants her company to be a force for good. Inspired by her two little sons who “remind her everyday what is truly important in life,” Shelby believes it’s Chickapea’s duty to set a positive example for her community and the world. When it comes to manufacturing, that means supporting sustainable farming practices and meeting B Corp stipulations. For the community, that means investing in the right programs. Even in the early days, when they couldn’t afford a cash initiative, Chickapea donated stock options toward Upside Foundation. Now, they’re able to give a percentage of sales to WE Charity, which provides healthy school lunches to children in need, in addition to routinely donating to local food banks. Essentially, a product and company — led by one incredibly kind, inventive woman who never stops looking forward — that truly does good with every bite.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My background is in journalism and media studies. All I ever wanted to be growing up was a writer. While working as an editor at a home magazine, I developed a great passion for nutrition and started to study natural nutrition in my spare time. I left my job and took a government-funded business course, which provided financial assistance while I got a business off the ground and the idea was always to launch a nutritious product. However, I found myself pregnant with my first child once the course started and at 6-months pregnant I decided to purchase a local health shop as it seemed less risky than starting up something new at that point. I used the shop for market research and it became clear that people were struggling to find convenient and nutritious meal options that the whole family would eat and after many interviews, it was also clear that pasta was a family favorite, but it wasn’t seen as a healthy option. I thought why couldn’t pasta be more nutritious? And, that’s when the idea of Chickapea was born.

What is it about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

We’ve turned one of the world’s favorite comfort foods — pasta — into an incredibly nutritious meal that people can feel great about eating as much as they like. A pantry staple that lacks nutritional value, is now packed with protein, fiber, iron, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus and more, and still tastes, looks and cooks like regular pasta except it’s made from organic chickpeas and lentils. And we’re doing it in a way that’s not only good for our bodies, but for the planet and the people on it by always choosing organic, providing a plant-based protein that can replace animal proteins and by donating money from the sale of every package to feed nutritious lunches to children in need around the world.

We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors? Can you share how they made an impact?

I have had many mentors over the past few years and they’ve all brought something different to the table, but there are a couple that really stand out. My mum would be surprised to know this I think, but she has been such a mentor to me in always showing her unending and unquestioning support. I had a small health shop before Chickapea and she took over managing it while I pursued this dream because she believed in me. She put all the money she had into Chickapea and she works hard here at the office every day to build on this dream with me. She’s taught me the real value of believing in someone and knowing what it’s done for me, will help me to pass on that support to my kids and hopefully to other budding entrepreneurs.

On the flip side, the best mentors have pushed me so far outside my comfort zone, which is where I’ve really grown and succeeded in business. The three members of my board, which include my lawyer, an angel investor and a VC partner, are absolute pros at making me uncomfortable, forcing me to take on a new perspective and do things that I’ve never done before. They’ve helped me make some bold decisions and be accountable, and I’m so grateful to have them to learn from.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

1. Do what you do best and farm out the rest.

I was actually taught this before starting the business and it has really served me well. The time and frustration spent on doing tasks that are not in my wheelhouse or skill set, is time I could be spending on doing what I do best and growing the business. A lot of people think they can’t afford help, but often we can’t afford to not have help.

2. Unclear is unkind

This is a Brene Brown quote and it’s stuck with me because I’ve struggled to have the tough conversations that are necessary as a leader; it’s out of my comfort zone and something I’m really working on as I strive to continually grow in my position. I’ve learned that having the tough conversations, communicating expectations and holding others accountable is how to be a truly kind leader as it allows others to grow also.

3. Find your own balance

Balance is a word that people love to throw around and somewhere, somehow, it took on the meaning of perfectly compartmentalising work and personal life. For entrepreneurs and many professionals, the pressure to find balance in this sense is beyond stressful and damaging to our wellbeing. Balance looks different for different people and in different seasons of our lives. When I’m raising capital, the laundry may not get folded, but when it’s sunny out and there’s nothing pressing, I can take off early and enjoy the afternoon with my kids.

How are you going to shake things up next?

We’ve just launched our new Vegan Mac, which is different from anything on the market. We’ve paired our organic chickpea lentil pasta with a delicious, creamy, plant-based sauce made with sweet potato, pumpkin and cauliflower. It’s not an imitation cheese product, but a nutrient-dense meal that comes with all the comforts we find in traditional mac and cheese. We’re excited to grow this line and continue serving the growing need for healthy, plant-based foods.

Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?

I entered the world of podcasts about five months ago and I’m officially obsessed. I can’t seem to consume enough content on professional and personal development and I use my eight-minute drive to the office to cram as much into my brain as possible. In the morning I like really tangible advice like how to improve my email newsletter and be more intentional each day, and for this I turn to the podcasts RISE by Rachel Hollis, Goal Digger by Jenna Kutcher. In the evening, I love to get into deeper, more soulful content and have really enjoyed For the Love by Jen Hatmaker, Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert and Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations. I also like Taste Radio for industry-specific interviews and advice.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

There are so many important, world-changing movements in place right now that I’m proud to be a part of, like B Corp, which helps businesses be a force for good; SheEO, which brings women around the world together to support and fund women-lead ventures with a model of “radical generosity,” offering an alternative to the funding structures currently dominating the entrepreneurial space that were mostly built by and for men. There’s a lot of positive movement in these spaces, which I’m passionate about, but where I’d also like to see some movement and conversation is around support at home for women in business. For so many women, our “duties” at home hold us back from realizing our full potential. We have no problem getting help at work because that’s normal, but when it comes to getting help at home, it’s often seen as a luxury and also as a failure in some way, like we’re unable to manage our household and we have a deep-seeded belief that we need to do it all. The shame I feel over baskets of half-folded laundry is so ridiculous. Frankly, I want to be a good mom and a good business owner more than I want to be good at laundry and it’s mind-boggling how much laundry can get in the way of those things that are so important to me. I’d love to see more entrepreneurs talk about the value of help at home — more services tailored to these needs, which include housekeeping, grocery shopping, meal prep, dog walking — and ways to share these services with other entrepreneurial and professional families to make it more affordable. As simple as it seems, I truly think this could be the answer to many women taking their visions and their businesses to the next level, and more women in positions of influence is exactly what the world needs.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” — Dr. Seuss

I don’t come from a family of high achievers or privilege or education. Doing something big or extraordinary was never expected of me, but I’ve always had huge dreams for myself and as much as my experience taught me that I, as just one person with little means, couldn’t make an impact on the world, deep down I believed I could. And by caring an awful lot about making healthy eating a simple, convenient and enjoyable experience, I did just that. When I started this business I felt like such a fraud; like I was fooling people into believing in me, but I’ve come to realize that my past does not define my future and I can make just as big an impact as anyone.

Thank you for joining us!

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