NPC program helps pasta maker expand US presence

Chickapea is one of the latest recipients of NPC’s Executive Talent Program, a unique source of funding that fills critical gaps in the leadership teams of high-potential Canadian companies.

A series of fortunate events

Shelby Taylor, founder and CEO, Chickapea

Shelby Taylor of Chickapea, the chickpea pasta company from Collingwood, Ontario, had been thinking about the need for a senior salesperson for a while. Like most entrepreneurs, a lot of Taylor’s time was focused on sales, which meant less time for other parts of the business. And vice versa, when other parts of the business needed her attention, sales would drop.

“I took an inventory of my time,” says Taylor. “And I knew we needed someone else.”

So it was a bit fortuitous when she received an NPC newsletter mentioning the Executive Talent Program that supports salaries for new senior level hires.

“I asked my CFO to look into it and see if there were other programs available,” says Taylor. “There was nothing else like it.”

But then things really came together when she received a resume just days later from a perfect candidate, John Durkin, formerly of Manitoba Harvest, where he helped grow sales from $36M to $99M.

“I knew someone with his background and experience and relationships was exactly what we needed,” says Taylor. “And I knew he wasn’t going to be available for long.”

Fast forward a few weeks and Chickapea had a signed contract with NPC, and a new VP of Sales on board to build their US presence. The company is already feeling the impact with new accounts, and some introductions to big retailers.

Big, scary decisions

“I’m super appreciative to NPC,” says Taylor. “Hiring a senior level person is expensive and scary, but we knew it was what we needed to get to the next level. Having this program gave us the financial ability to do it.”

Chickapea pasta’s 2-ingredient formula (chickpeas and lentils) meets today’s demand for plant-based protein and clean, natural ingredients.

Chickapea launched in the US in 2017, just seven months after launching in Canada. And while they’ve done well in the US, it’s still ripe with growth opportunity due to its massive size.

“The food business in the US is very different from Canada,” says Taylor. “It varies by region, and the systems and process of working with distributors and brokers is very nuanced. It takes a lot of time on the ground to understand those differences and use them to your advantage.”

Taylor advises companies who are thinking about entering the US market to take a regional approach so they can test products and marketing approaches region by region. She gets a lot of that advice herself from other entrepreneurs, including her Board, which boasts none other than Arlene Dickinson from District Ventures (famous figure on the Dragon’s Den), Alex Chamberlain from InvestEco and Jerome Briere from EDC.

“I feel like they’ve done a lot to really help me develop as a CEO,” says Taylor. “People have been really generous with their time.”

Doing well. Doing good.

Aside from the business potential (they had 3-year growth of 800% in December 2020), one of the reasons people are eager to help might be due to Chickapea’s commitment to having a social impact with their work. They give two percent of revenues (not profit) to charities each year – three cents from every package to programs focused on feeding nutritious meals to children in need, as well as thousands of pounds of product donations to food banks.

Chickapea’s dedication to the social values of their business has placed them in the top 10% of all B Corps worldwide.

This dedication to something beyond the bottom line has not gone unnoticed. Chickapea was named one of KeHe’s five CARETrade partners for 2021, placed 96 on the 2021 Real Leaders Impact Awards, and in 2019 ranked in the top 10% of all B Corps worldwide. 

“It’s one of my favourite things to talk about,” says Taylor. “It feels great that so many people are making this a priority in their purchasing and business decisions now.”

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NPC helps five Canadian companies pursue growth plans during COVID-19

Businesses create natural products to address a range of challenges including health and animal health and bioplastics

Natural Products Canada (NPC) is pleased to announce the latest recipients of its Commercialization Programs designed to help Canadian companies overcome key challenges on their path to success.

“We’re proud to be able to support these innovative companies in their growth initiatives,” says Shelley King, CEO, Natural Products Canada. “We are particularly happy to help companies maintain and increase their teams during a time of so much economic uncertainty.”

The Commercialization Programs address common obstacles for emerging innovation companies, including executive leadership, product/technology validation, and access to capital. Details and application guidelines can be found online.

“The successful applicants are using these funds to pursue strategic developments including new facilities and e-commerce platforms to help them compete during the pandemic and in the future,” says King.

The latest Commercialization Program recipients represent naturally-derived products from diverse industries including human health and wellness, animal health, and bioplastics.

  • Genecis produces biodegradable plastic from organic waste. They received funds through the Executive Talent Program to hire a Director of Engineering to oversee the design and commissioning of their new demonstration facility.
  • Healthy Cow has developed a probiotic product, ProPreg, to promote reproductive health in dairy cows. They received funds through the Fast Track to Financing Program to complete strategies for their IP, marketing, and financing.
  • Maskwiomin is a start-up founded by two researchers from Cape Breton University to leverage the traditional medicinal properties of birch bark-oil in a cosmetic and natural health product. They received funds from the Fast Track to Financing Program to develop a regulatory strategy and business plan.
  • Novagevity has developed an organic, plant-based meal replacement beverage, Sperri, targeting the medical nutrition market. They received funds through the Fast Track to Financing Program to develop their e-commerce platform.
  • Staterra has developed a nootropic, Mindgain, to enhance brain function and cognitive health. They received funds through the Fast Track to Financing Program to complete their digital media plan and platform.

The five companies join previous recipients, Partake Brewing, DoseBiome, Entomo Farms, Oberland Agriscience, Crazy D’s All Natural Lab and Bosk Bioproducts. 

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