It is hard to have a bad day selling chocolate, according to Kelsea Ferrato. She’s the director of marketing at Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, where she started her journey in marketing and sales as a social media intern.
Born and raised in Durango, she participated in a youth exchange program in high school that ignited her interest in traveling, but after attending college in Santa Barbara, California, she missed the seasons. Ferrato returned to Colorado and earned her bachelor’s degree.
“I had come home for Christmas to see my mom, and she knew somebody who worked here at Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory,” she said. “They were looking for an intern of sorts to help with social media policy.”
In 2010, Ferrato was one of the first waves of people with access to Facebook. Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing Ed Dudley said the company wanted to invest in this tool, but they were not sure how to get the franchise owners on board.
“Social media was relatively new,” Dudley said. “We brought Kelsea in as an intern with the idea that she would help us understand it, so that we could use it. We weren’t completely convinced that we could get everybody to participate.”
Ferrato developed an online brand strategy and social media policy for more than 300 Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory stores including the co-branded locations with U-Swirl and Cold Stone Creamery. She was quickly promoted to marketing coordinator, then to marketing manager, where she began packaging information and photos for franchise owners to use on sites like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
“We are creating content and programs that are easily deployable in small communities for our stores,” Ferrato said. “We are still a small business. Our corporate staff is not very large. We don’t have the resources to be able to directly manage social media for all the stores. So we have had to get kind of creative.”
After earning her master’s degree, Ferrato was responsible for product development and online sales as brand manager. Following flavor trends and attending trade shows are some of her favorite parts of product development, but the greatest satisfaction comes from seeing it fly off the shelves.
“I can see very clearly how much of a given product we are selling out of the factory,” Ferrato said. “It’s a little more difficult for me to see what that sell-through rate from the store to the customer is.” She communicates with field support team members that act as liaisons for franchise owners to help her fill in those blanks.
Her age and inexperience in a competitive field have been some of her greatest obstacles.
“When I came into the business, I was really young,” she said. “I’ve been with the company nine years. One of the biggest challenges was getting knocked down and learning to be a little bit more humble.”
Now, as director of marketing, she manages seven staff members. She also implemented a mentoring program to help employees find fulfilling positions and build relationships within the company. Dudley said the program has been successful.
“It allowed us to work across departments and at all different levels of the organization,” he said. “What we learned in those mentoring pairs is both people grew.”
For Ferrato, success is finding a way to steer the brand and company the right way, with founder and CEO Frank Crail’s dream in mind.
“For me, success means staying true to that brand, while still innovating and bringing the company forward,” she said. “So continuing to create opportunity for people, because that is what Frank really wanted (when he began the company) —a place to raise a family in a small town. There just aren’t that many opportunities like that in Durango. So as long as we continue to grow and prosper, we create a lot of opportunities for people in the community, too.”