Des Moines-based platform Hummingbirds pollinates social ‘goodness’

Emily Steele stands for a photo in Des Moines' East Village on Sept. 2.

If Emily Steele were a bird, she’d be a hummingbird. 

“You flit around and spread all your energy all over the place. And you’re like zipping everywhere,” Steele’s father-in-law, a bird aficionado, once affectionately told her over family dinner at Malo

Steele readily agrees the winged animal fits her personality. But more important, it now serves as the inspiration behind her company’s namesake, Hummingbirds, Inc. 

Hummingbirds is a platform that matches a community of hyper-local content creators — known as “hummingbirds” — with small businesses in Des Moines to drive brand awareness and sales. Through the business, Steele has connected more than 500 local social media influencers with more than 100 brands, including Hy-Vee, the Des Moines Botanical Garden, and most recently, a new Cookies & Dreams location in Ankeny. 

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Launched in 2018, Steele says her company — an intersection of economic development, small business marketing and content creation — was shaped by her childhood and years of work in the nonprofit and marketing industry. 

Emily Steele stands for a photo in Des Moines' East Village on Sept. 2.

With a shortage of large retailers in her hometown of Pella, Steele said she grew up relying on local businesses, visiting Des Moines malls only once or twice a year. Today, uptown shops like Jaarsma Bakery and Smokey Row Coffee Co. hold a special place. 

“There’s something in me that just fell in love with the small business world,” she said. “And I feel like it’s been there my whole life when I look at my roots in Pella.”