Meet Erica Gilmour, co-founder of Hummingbird Chocolate, an ethical and sustainable bean-to-bar brand.
She’s a former international aid-worker turned award-winning chocolatier.
Erica Gilmour is the co-founder and President of Hummingbird Chocolate, a bean-to-bar chocolate maker based in the small town of Almonte, Ontario. With a background in International Aid and Development, Erica was a teacher and librarian in the Peace Corps in Zimbabwe and traveled extensively working for non-profits to improve livelihoods in places like Lebanon, Uzbekistan, and Afghanistan. Her love of eating chocolate and interest in assisting farmers to access markets led to the founding of Hummingbird Chocolate with her husband, Drew. Since launching in 2012, they’ve won over 85 international chocolate awards for their products — all made from cacao sourced directly from farmers at better than Fair Trade prices, grown sustainably, and farmed ethically and humanely.
My first job ever was… as a cashier at a grocery store.
I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I saw an opportunity to be involved in something that I knew I would love and that could make a difference for cacao farmers. Hummingbird is one of just a handful of craft chocolate makers in Canada, ethically sourcing cacao beans from small farms and co-operatives and going through a 10-step process to craft fine chocolate bars.
I founded Hummingbird Chocolate because… it’s a very delicious way to make a difference. We source fine flavour cacao beans from small farms and co-operatives, paying higher than fair trade prices. And I’ll never get tired of watching people try their first bite of craft chocolate and realizing that the mass-produced stuff they’ve been eating all of these years is a pale comparison.
I’m passionate about craft chocolate because… it makes people happy and brings joy. I work with an amazing team of creative and passionate people. I feel that we can make an impact on how we all view the value of food and agriculture.
My proudest accomplishment is… growing this business from just myself and my husband making chocolate in our basement to a team of 17+ people who care as much as we do. And winning the top honours from the Academy of Chocolate in the UK — the Golden Bean award — was pretty amazing too.
“I founded Hummingbird Chocolate because it’s a very delicious way to make a difference. We source fine flavour cacao beans from small farms and co-operatives, paying higher than fair trade prices.”
My biggest setback was… being an early entrant into the craft chocolate world and needing to introduce the concept to our customers. The idea of bean to bar chocolate is still not commonly understood so there’s been a lot of education on our part to explain how we’re different, why people should care, and why our products are a bit more expensive than what they’re used to (and why it’s worth it).
I overcame it by… providing samples at every opportunity and having as many conversations as possible with customers.
My advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is… do your research, but don’t be too focused on a specific plan or path. Be open to evolving circumstances and opportunities as they come.
The one piece of advice I give that I have trouble following myself is… to not be so busy working in the business that I don’t have time to work on the business. Sometimes it’s hard to get out of the weeds and look out on the vista.
The thing I love most about what I do is… dreaming up new product ideas and bringing them to reality.
If I were to pick one thing that has helped me succeed, it would be… flexibility and, apparently, a pretty good palate for chocolate.
I stay inspired by… interacting with our customers in our store and on social media. Hearing their ideas, impressions and feedback motivates me to try to continue to improve.
The future excites me because… we’re soon moving into our new, larger facility where we’ll have a larger retail store and café and more equipment to expand our offerings. I’m excited that we’ll be able to source more fine cacao beans from our partners and create new, delicious offerings!