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CU Denver alum has a poppin’ career

Rodriguez’s first post-grad opportunity comes with Oogie’s.
Photo: Erica Barillari· The Sentry

Ernesto Rodriguez markets for local popcorn company

Six months after graduating from CU Denver with a business marketing degree, Ernesto Rodriguez found himself in the aisles of a grocery store looking for a snack. It was then where he stumbled upon a brand called Oogie’s—a local gourmet popcorn company.

After getting in contact with their representatives, Rodriguez landed a position in sales and marketing. After the opportunistic application, Rodriguez believes he has a promising career with the start-up company. 

Oogie’s Gourmet Popcorn is a local company based in Denver that carries its brand through the persona of late 60s rock legend “Oogie.” It creates non-GMO, vegan, gluten-free popcorn with flavors from classic kettle corn to spicy nacho cheese. 

“I wasn’t really expecting anything. I was expecting a drought of just nothing going on after I graduated,” Rodriguez said. “But I knew I wanted to go into sales and marketing and work for a local company.” While at CU Denver, Rodriguez also worked with The Sentry as web editor. “What we did at The Sentry was a lot of pitching and getting our ideas out there, and that is something I carried into this job,” Rodriguez said. “A lot of [advertising] is thinking of ways to get your ideas out there. Working for the paper, how did we advertise that? It was a lot of putting articles online and reaching out through digital media. That ended up translating to how do we advertise this flavor of popcorn and where can consumers get it.” 

While Rodriguez was quick in finding a career that suits him, it hasn’t been without some challenges. “When I started, I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do and asked myself if I was doing my job right. The biggest struggle for me is sales. The product is amazing but getting people on board is difficult. There’s a lot of competition, and I can’t just say we’re a local company. They want to see numbers, and that’s hard for a small company.” 

Rodriguez calls himself a “go-getter” and continues to strive for growth and wants to learn more from Oogie’s. While he works from home, he utilizes his time to plan his schedule weeks beforehand. “Sometimes I go to stores, do demos, work with grocery managers—that could be one week. The next week is reaching out, giving out free products and samples, and keeping owners updated with our products,” Rodriguez said. He likes the challenge of sales and likes the creative ways in which he can sell popcorn. “What I love about Oogie’s the most is the flexibility where I can take control of my own projects without being dictated. They gave me the tools I need to grow and help me out.” 

While Rodriguez considers himself a kettle corn kind of guy, he encourages everyone to try out all of Oogie’s creative flavors. And for those who are graduating, unsure of what comes next, Rodriguez advises students not to look at the first place that pops up and to reach out to companies they want to be a part of.

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