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Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory moves on from CEO

Board chairman says company wants to focus more on its franchising system
Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory announced that Starlette Johnson will be the new interim CEO on Monday. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory announced Monday it’s going in a different direction with its CEO position.

The company said Starlette Johnson will replace CEO Rob Sarlls, who had been at the helm since 2022. According to news release from the company, Johnson has been a member of the RMCF board since March.

“Starlette is an industry renowned business leader and strategist,” RMC Board Chairman Jeff Geygan said in the release. “Her results-oriented leadership style and expertise with franchise brands make her an ideal fit to lead RMC as the Board conducts its search for a permanent CEO.”

In an interview Monday, Geygan said the company decided to move on from Sarlls based on the results the board wanted to see.

“The results that we produced publicly had been less than what the company had expected. And that’s why we’ve made some changes,” he said. “We felt that what we had set out to accomplish strategically wasn’t being accomplished in a way or at a pace that we thought was acceptable as a board and the board made the decision to make these changes.”

Geygan thanked Sarlls for his services in the news release, citing several milestones he achieved including the sale of the frozen yogurt company U-Swirl, plus the relocation of consumer packaging products to Salt Lake City.

The RMCF board of directors still has not determined who will fulfill the position long-term or what it is looking for.

The company has made a number of moves over the last two years in order to transition the company into better standing, including cutting low performing products and relocating packaging services.

However, Geygan indicated the board would like for the company to remain focused on supporting its franchise system.

“We want to get back to supporting our franchise system, first and foremost,” he said. “So I think that’s really important for everybody to understand and the community as well.”

Johnson said she’s confident in the brand Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory had built and looks to continue growing the business.

“I think we’ve got a wonderful opportunity to continue growing this brand, and the great support and great friend franchisees that we have, and continuing to really make sure that they have everything that they need to continue to be successful,” Johnson said.

Attempts to contact Sarlls on Monday were not immediately successful.

“I am honored to be entrusted by the Board during this transitionary period,” Johnson said. “The broader leadership team has been meticulously constructed to align with the needs of RMC’s Strategic Transformation Plan. Their collective wisdom will be an invaluable asset as we maintain a strong presence in the city of Durango and work to return Rocky Mountain Chocolate to growth and profitability in Fiscal 2025.”

Johnson said her first priority will be to listen to those working at the company and tending to their needs.

Johnson began her hospitality career as director of finance at PepsiCo’s KFC division, and later held leadership positions with global brands, including president and COO of Dave & Buster’s Entertainment and later executive vice president and CSO at Brinker International. She has also served on the Board of Directors for numerous companies, including Bojangles, Chuy’s and SusieCakes.

Johnson received a Master’s in Business Administration from Duke University and a bachelor’s degree in finance from Virginia Tech.

The company continues its attempts to engage with Durango residents, despite moving packaging operations to Salt Lake City. Geygan said no one was terminated from factory operations when the company made that decision.

The company says it is committed to having a long-term presence in Durango and still seeks additional local employees to build its workforce.

The company will also again host its annual stockholder meeting at the factory in August.


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