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She's So Suite: The Drummer turned Co-Founder and CEO of Hummingbirds

Updated: Apr 3



  • Embrace Criticism: Utilize internal criticism as motivation; success possible despite obstacles.

  • Fundraising Feat: Non-tech female founder secured VC in Iowa, overcoming gender and regional barriers.

  • Community Building: Evolved from marketing agency to expanding Hummingbirds across cities, creating local influence. 

  • Brand Connection: Developed a marketplace platform for brands to drive local behavior through influencers. 

  • Self-Advice: Trust your unique strengths, don't aspire to be someone else, optimize for who you are. 

  • Tech Leadership: Takes pride in crafting a supportive, thriving team in a remote-first environment. 

  • Empower Women: Founded events to financially help and inspire female entrepreneurs, emphasizing community strength. 

  • Stay Grounded: Despite tech success, emphasizes continuous connection with the small business community served. 

  • Life Balance: Balances demanding leadership roles with personal life through self-care and a trustful team. 

  • Fulfillment Journey: Ventured on personal travels and challenging experiences, enhancing life purpose and direction.

Thank you to our Sponsors: ClientSuccess and Wednesday Women

Produced by: Manali Bhat

Listen to the She's So Suite Podcast:

Podcast Episode Overview:

Welcome to another empowering episode of the She's So Suite podcast. In today’s episode join us as we sit down with the indomitable Emily Steele, a non-technical founder who smashed through barriers to shape her innovative startup, Hummingbirds. Starting from a local marketing agency in Iowa to raising venture capital in an industry where women secure a mere sliver of funding, Emily's journey is nothing short of awe-inspiring.

Hummingbirds, her brainchild, is revolutionizing the way brands connect with local influencers to boost awareness and drive consumer behavior. With their sights set on expansion, Emily and her company have already left footprints across 15 cities, aiming to double that number soon.

Today, Emily will unfold her story: from managing a remote-first thriving team and fostering a growing women's network in an unlikely city, to mentoring aspiring female leaders and hosting pitch events to break financial barriers for women entrepreneurs. She will share her strategies for work-life harmony and how her adventurous spirit, evident in cycling across the country, fueled her entrepreneurial endeavors. So prepare to be captivated and motivated as Emily shares wisdom on following your curiosity, staying true to oneself, and the exciting evolution of Hummingbirds. Whether you're a start-up hopeful or a seasoned professional, there's a wealth of inspiration in Emily's narrative — all here, on She's So Suite.

About Emily Steele:

Emily Steele is CEO & cofounder of Hummingbirds, a venture-backed marketing platform that connects place-based brands with community-minded content creators. Her expertise in facilitating authentic partnership experiences across channels drives revenue, increases relevancy, and maximizes relationships.

Emily believes the future of retail revolves around real people exploring opportunities and sharing what they love. She built Hummingbirds to highlight the impact a group of enthusiasts can make for ‘mom & pop’ shops, emerging businesses, and established brands alike. Empowering a “charm” of advocates to champion products and services encourages growth and promotes vibrancy—just like small but mighty pollinators that give her company its name.

Raised in a small Iowa community celebrated for its thriving town square, Emily’s life is steeped in the magic of shopping local. Early in her career as a marketing strategist, she saw social media’s potential to convert curious consumers into relatable brand advocates. Past projects like POP UP YOGA DSM, Flourish pitch competition, and FemCity Des Moines all thrive thanks to the power of collaboration. By fostering community around creating valuable content, Hummingbird campaigns become about so much more than influencing buying behavior. It’s participating in a collective effort to help the local economy thrive.

Emily has always looked for ways to lift-up entrepreneurs, and Hummingbirds brings that vision to scale. Now serving more than a dozen cities across the Midwest (and counting!), Hummingbirds is on-track for exponential growth. Offline, you can find Emily traveling with her family, biking around the city, or hunkering down at a coffee shop with an oat milk latte.


0:00 - Preview

1:13 - Meet Emily & get to know Hummingbirds

7:20 - childhood aspirations of becoming a drummer

9:30 - Growing up under academic pressure and discovering the Enneagram

12:12 - Valuing social impact over financial success

13:12 - Mind over matter all the time

16:38 - Struggling with internal criticism at workplace

18:59 - Raising venture capital funding as women entrepreneurs

20:10 - ClientSuccess

21:10 - Building a remote team

22:30 - Establishing a women's networking group

24:24 - Women's pitch event supporting small businesses

29:55 - Prioritize time for balance 

32:32 - Long trip with the family

34:24 - Embracing your superpowers

35:35 - Emily's aspirations for the future

37:32 - Follow the breadcrumbs of your curiosity

39:03 - Wednesday Women

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