Day in the Life of a CEO: Kicking Horse Coffee

Haskayne student, Mansi Calapatti shares her CEOx1Day journey

University of Calgary student Mansi Calapatti at Kicking Horse Coffee


By: Mansi Calapatti, Haskayne undergraduate student

In September 2017, I stumbled upon a Facebook post from Odgers Berndtson which called for students to apply to their CEOx1Day program. The program pairs undergraduate students with a high-profile Chief Executive Officer for an entire day. I instantly became intrigued and visited the organization’s website for more information, and shortly after, submitted my application into the program.  

The application process was rigorous but exciting. There were many steps to me being selected including written questions, an online leadership assessment, a phone interview and lastly, a half-day in-person event (speed interviews and case analysis) at the Odgers Berndtson office.

Prior to attending the last stage of the process, I consulted with Kimberley Dart, Manager of the Haskayne Career Centre. Kimberley graciously connected me with a previous semi-finalist from Haskayne who offered me invaluable tips and advice. Having the support of Kimberley and the Haskayne Career Centre made a world of difference, and I’m so grateful for the guidance they provided.

With the extra added trip to Invermere, my experience in this program differed slightly from the other seventeen finalists across Canada. Upon entering this small town nestled in the mountains of British Columbia, I immediately noticed the large factory-like building belonging to Kicking Horse Coffee, which somewhat resembles Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory in a fictionally-similar small town.

I arrived at the Kicking Horse Coffee facility at 7:40 a.m. on February 8, 2018 entering through the café entrance for a much-deserved morning coffee. Upon mentioning that my name is Mansi to the friendly baristas, I was greeted with a loud, “Oh, you’re our CEO for a day! Welcome to our facility!”

Smiling from that little encounter, I was giddy for what the rest of the day had in store for me. Not too long after, CEO Elana Rosenfeld walked into the café and introduced herself to me with a warm hug. Over breakfast, we spoke about the origins of the company, the beautiful design of the café (seriously, it was amazing!) and what I hoped to receive from my experience at Kicking Horse.

I had the chance to meet with employees at many levels of the organization including the senior leadership team (vice presidents, directors and other corporate executives). It was so fascinating to learn more about their roles within the company and why they enjoy their positions.

The senior leadership meeting that I attended commenced in a more unconventional manner, with Elana guiding us all through a three-minute meditation. Everyone was asked to connect to their deeper self and ensure that their personal health remains at the top of their priorities, as it affects every other aspect of their being. And, with that, the meeting took off with numbers, charts and graphs about the company’s financial projection in 2018 and the ways in which its acquirer, Lavazza, will play a part in the projected sales figures.

This portion was especially interesting to me as each representative tried to relate the information back to their home department: marketing, finance or coffee and quality assurance. It was also remarkable how Elana, in her power, responded to the concerns being mentioned from all departments, and how she plans on addressing each of these concerns over the next upcoming weeks.

I was then invited to take a facility tour and witnessed the blending, roasting and packaging of the coffee beans and ground-up coffee right in front of my eyes. Prior to this experience, I had very limited knowledge on how coffee was grown and later achieved its flavour and colour combination. This is where I also learned more about Kicking Horse Coffee’s mission in only sourcing coffee beans that fall into their fair-trade and organic mandate, and why this goal is so important to the company.

Although there was so much to learn from the morning events, the afternoon one-on-one portion with Elana was my favourite part of the day. I asked her questions about her business, what her thought-process was when she decided to move from Toronto to a small town, her hardest battles and also her greatest success. I also asked her how she blends her personal life with her professional life, if there were challenges in raising her children while simultaneously raising her “third child” (Kicking Horse) and any difficulties she faced as a female in a senior leadership position. Elana was extremely sincere and offered great insight into all these different areas, providing me with a greater understanding on her business, as well as her love for conducting operations with the right morals and ethics.

Whether it was during her impromptu decision to deliver flowers to the finance team to alleviate their stress, or her generous gift-bag filled with Kicking Horse goodies to me at the end of the day, her kind demeanor was so prevalent throughout the day. It’s something I won’t soon forget.

In this cold town of Invermere, British Columbia sits a warm and welcoming café adjacent to a fully-functioning factory which spits out hundreds of Kicking Horse Coffee packages per day. With the help of her colleagues, Elana Rosenfeld offers Canadians a coffee brand they can be proud of, with a strong mission and an even stronger taste. I feel genuinely fortunate to have taken part in this program and learn from her successes and pitfalls in hopes of one day starting my own business. As a full-time Chief Executive Officer, colleague and mom, I believe she is doing a wonderful job in providing for her community and beyond. I will cherish these memories forever, and use them to fuel my own entrepreneurial spirit. In the words of Elana herself, “Travel lots. You’ll learn much more than you can envision when you open yourself to the outside world, its cultures and its peoples.”

With this, I’d like to thank the team at Kicking Horse Coffee once again for being fantastic hosts, the Haskayne Career Centre for their continuous support throughout the process, and to Odgers Berndtson Canada for providing me with this incredible opportunity.

Originally published by the University of Calgary - Haskayne News