Kicking Horse Coffee - Elana Rosenfeld

Life Lessons: Elana Rosenfeld, Kicking Horse Coffee


Develop a good filter to stay focused
By Jen St. Denis

Elana Rosenfeld started Kicking Horse Coffee with her husband, Leo Johnson, in 1996. As recent university grads from Montreal, the pair dreamed of living in a small mountain town. They found the lifestyle they were looking for in the East Kootenay town of Invermere.

The pair started out owning a coffee shop, then branched out into coffee roasting and distribution.

“We kept the focus local, selling in our town and in our valley and then we landed our first grocery store account,” Rosenfeld said.

Today Kicking Horse Coffee can be found in grocery stores across B.C., Canada and in the United States. The company employs 80 people and is committed to staying in the small town of 3,000 people.

While the company tried selling other products early in its history, such as tea and chocolate, Rosenfeld said it soon became apparent that that strategy was “scattering our resources.”

The company now focuses on doing one thing very well.

“As you grow and become successful, a lot of opportunities come your way and you can go in different directions,” Rosenfeld said. “I think some of the key lessons I’ve had … have been around staying focused and disciplined, because there’s only so many resources and so much time.”

To hone that focus, the company develops clear goals and objectives, Rosenfeld said. This year, Kicking Horse formalized the process for the first time by hiring a strategic planner and setting aside time to work on the plan.

It’s also important all employees understand and are aligned with the company’s vision.

“I have my team members call me on it,” Rosenfeld said. “We hold each other accountable … because I can get as equally distracted as anybody else. And I use that as a filter when opportunities come our way.”

On finding good employees in a small labour market | “We have the most amazing staff. … The level of quality of people [is high] because people choose to live here, and there’s a high level of passion and commitment. To be able to be here and have a great job is a big win.” 

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