Natalia (Calderon) Hofman
Year of Graduation: 2008
Majors: Communication & Spanish
Current Position: Director of US Sales, Kicking Horse Coffee, Los Angeles, CA
Please give a brief description of your current position. I have the pleasure of managing the U.S. Sales for Kicking Horse Coffee, which is the #1 Fair Trade and Organic Coffee Company in Canada. The brand was officially introduced to the U.S. market 3 years ago and my main role is to introduce and grow the supermarket distribution throughout the United States. I manage a team of fantastic people and together we are building the brand to eventually become a premium-coffee staple in the U.S.
What path did you follow to get to your current position? My first job after graduating from CSB was in the business of selling food and I loved it so much that I have stayed in the food industry ever since. I first went to work for WhiteWave Foods (selling Silk Soymilk and Horizon Organic Milk) and in fact, my first boss was Kevin Fitzgerald, an SJU alum! I learned so much about supermarket retail, sales strategies and buyer presentations under the direction of Kevin and I'm forever grateful for that Johnnie Bennie network. After 4 years with WhiteWave Foods, I went to work for LALA Foods, a Mexican food manufacturer. From LALA Foods, I went to work for Kicking Horse Coffee and have loved the journey that has brought me to where I am today.
What advice/suggestions would you have for students who might be interested in your career? Be open! My first job out of college with WhiteWave Foods was based in San Francisco. I had never been there before but it seemed like the right time to take a leap of faith and be open to a new experience in a new place. I was open to all the learning and experience my first boss, Kevin, taught me and still continue to have him as a close mentor and friend in my career. Which brings me to my second piece of advice: facilitate mentorship throughout your career. We have so much to learn from folks who have been "in the business" for a long time, so make time to connect with people who have a lot to teach and who are willing to share. Hopefully someday, you can pay it forward to the next generation.
What skills are important in your field? Communication is key. Sales and marketing skills are learned along the way and are extremely important as well. Also, I find myself tapping into the skill of '"thinking outside the box," which is something I learned to do with the liberal arts education at CSBSJU.
What is the most satisfying/rewarding part of your position? I am most satisfied knowing that I represent a brand and company that is promoting fair and sustainable wages to the farmers who grow and harvest the Fair Trade and Organic certified coffee. I'm also proud of the company values at Kicking Horse Coffee and the fact that the company was started by a female entrepreneur who still runs the company 20 years later is pretty awesome as well. Lastly, I love that sales is still a person-to-person process, so it allows me the opportunity to connect with people on daily basis.
Most challenging? Building a brand in the U.S. definitely has its challenges, given that many people are programmed to buying what they know and are not yet familiar with this new, cheeky coffee brand from Canada. That being said, the challenges and personal mistakes made along the way are welcomed, as they bring lots of learning and growth along with them.
What activities/experiences were helpful at CSB/SJU (and elsewhere) in preparation for this career? I was fortunate to study abroad to both Chile and Spain and learned a lot about myself during those semesters abroad. I learned that it's important for me to be a conscious consumer and responsible global citizen in all that I do. I also learned how to handle change and the unknown, which is often times encountered in the working world. Lastly, I appreciated the network of people at CSB/SJU who guided me to understanding my strengths, weaknesses and areas where I thrived, which ultimately brought me to this career that I love.