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Homegrown woman makes million-dollar idea out of legumes

For this week’s What’s Up Wednesday we spoke with Shelby Taylor, owner of Chickapea Pasta
2019-05-27 Chickapea JO-001
Shelby Taylor, owner of Chickapea Pasta. Contributed photo by Ellie Kistemaker

Shelby Taylor took a guilty-pleasure food and transformed it into something healthy, which has made her millions.

While the idea for Chickapea Pasta first started in her small local health-food store, the Collingwood-born business owner says being an entrepreneur wasn’t something she ever considered to be within her means.

“More than anything, I dreamt of doing something that I loved – something that mattered to me and that made a difference,” said Taylor. “I don't come from a wealthy or entrepreneurial background so starting my own business seemed a bit out of reach, like a fantasy. But I've always been a dreamer, a risk taker and a hard worker, so it made sense for this to be my path.”

Taylor was born and raised in Collingwood, with her family having deep roots in the area.

“My mum moved here with her parents from Scotland when she was two years old and my dad grew up here,” she said. “My grandfather worked in the shipyards before becoming a boilermaker.”

After pursuing a degree in media studies and diploma in journalism, Taylor settled down back home in Collingwood as associate editor of Our Homes Magazine. When the opportunity presented itself for her to buy a small local health food shop, she jumped at the chance.

“I used the shop for market research, which ultimately lead to the creation of Chickapea,” she said.

Taylor says she’s always been interested in nutrition and the role food plays in both mental and physical health.

“I had a completely different product line in mind when I bought the shop, but it became very clear that what's missing from the market is truly nutritious foods that are familiar and convenient; foods that people already enjoy, but with more health benefits,” she said.

During her market research, Taylor found that pasta came up over and over again as a pantry staple that people saw as a guilty pleasure.

“I believe that people should be able to eat the food they love and feel good about it,” she said.

So Taylor set to work and created Chickapea Pasta.

Chickapea Pasta is made of only two ingredients: organic chickpeas and organic lentils. It’s gluten-free, vegan, organic, kosher and has 23 grams of protein and 11 grams of fibre per serving.

Taylor won the smOffice competition in Barrie in 2015, to which she attributes some of her success.

“It brought me into the fold of Barrie's entrepreneurial community and connected me with some amazing mentors who provided a lot of advice and assistance,” she said.

Taylor launched sales of Chickapea Pasta in July 2016 in Eastern Canada and has since grown in Canada and the U.S. Chickapea is now sold in about 3,500 stores across North America to both independent shops and major retailers like Sobeys, Loblaws, Fortinos, Longo's and Whole Foods, with seven products in their product line.

“A ton of credit goes to both my mum and my husband as my mum took over managing my shop so I could pursue Chickapea and she helped me develop the business every step of the way. My husband has stayed home with both our sons so I could continue to grow the business,” said Taylor. “We're now a multi-million dollar company.”

Along the way, Taylor says she has dealt with some challenges, but has taken them in stride as learning experiences.

“Being an entrepreneur is all about facing challenges, day in and day out. I have faced challenges with just about everything you can think of from setting up manufacturing and negotiating commodity pricing, costly packaging errors, bad hires, discontinuing an entire product line, losing key accounts,” she said. “It's not about the challenges you face, but how you face them and what you learn from them.”

Taylor still lives in Collingwood with her husband and two sons. She says she’s currently working at expanding Chickapea Pasta overseas.

For more information on Chickapea Pasta, click here.