Leadership Team

“Why are we here if we’re not trying to make a difference?”
– CEO Charlie Nelson

Our leadership team is comprised of some of the top talent in the industry. Inspiring and challenging each member of our team to grow into the best version of themselves is their top priority. Many of our leaders have been long-time residents of the Perham community and have seen the positive impact our companies have had near and far. Others have joined our growing family and have firsthand knowledge on the inner workings of our family of brands.

We Challenge. We Grow. We Insipre.
Charlie Nelson

Charlie Nelson
Chief Executive Officer
How long have you been at KLN and what was your first role?

I have been at KLN going on twenty-two years. I joined the company shortly after we made the decision to purchase back Tuffy’s Pet Foods, which was originally started by my dad and grandpa. My first job was as a regional sales manager focusing on the independent pet food retailers.

What is a quote that’s influenced the type of leader you are today?

I am inspired by many quotes but the two that have influenced the type of leader that I try to be today is “If serving is beneath you, leadership is beyond you” and “There can be no greater gift than that of giving one’s time and energy to helping others without expecting anything in return.” To me, the first quote means that if you want to be a leader, you need to want to be there for your team, no matter what they need. It also speaks to your willingness to do any job that is asked of you no matter who you are or what your title is. I never saw my dad ask someone to do something that he either hadn’t done or wouldn’t be willing to do himself. I have also watched many people climb the ladder with us because of the same mentality. I want to continue trying to lead in that manner. The second quote regarding there being no greater gift, is a quote from Nelson Mandela. I want to continue working at making sure that I am there for people in time of need and it’s important to me that it’s understood that there is nothing expected in return.

What is your favorite sport and what has it taught you about life?

I can’t say baseball is still my favorite sport, but it was the sport that I put the most time into the first 30 years of my life. I also can’t say that I learned as many lessons from baseball as I could have while playing, but in looking back, I still take quite a few lessons away from the game. Baseball is a game of failure and making adjustments. It’s a great reminder that if you are done developing as a player or as a team, you are done. How you adjust to challenging days is what can assist a player and a team in being better tomorrow than today. That goes for a business organization as well. It also taught me that the best leaders weren’t always the best players. The best leaders were the players that came out and played hard every day trying to get a little better every day. The best leaders are there for their teammates on the field, in the dugout, and in the locker room. Not just when the bright lights are on.

Leadership: Chase Rasmussen

Chase Rasmussen
President
How long have you been at KLN and what was your first role?

I’ve been fortunate to work for KLN for the past fourteen years. My first position was that of a regional sales manager covering the state of Wisconsin and the upper peninsula of Michigan. I worked closely with our direct store delivery network selling salty snacks from our former Barrel O’ Fun division, as well as, Wiley Wallaby for Kenny’s Candy. Additionally, I had the opportunity to work with a wide variety of our Tuffy’s Pet Food customers to grow our NutriSource brand in the region.

What is a quote that’s influenced the type of leader you are today?

“Leadership starts with you, but it’s not about you.”

As a former educator, what tools from the classroom help you in your current role?

Upon leaving life as an educator I was convinced that there would be very little transfer between the tools needed in the classroom or athletic fields and those needed in the world of business. I quickly learned there were many similarities, two of the most basic that I still find beneficial in my current role are active listening and emotional intelligence. Simply listening for understanding and being aware of how emotions, both our own and others, are critical tools for developing positive relationships and a best in class culture.

Leadership: Darren Fujii

Darren Fujii
Chief Business Officer
How long have you been at KLN and what was your first role?

Five years. Originally joined as Chief Growth Officer for Tuffy’s.

What is a quote that’s influenced the type of leader you are today?

“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” – Charles Darwin
“Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.” – Albert Schweitzer

What is your favorite golf course to spend an afternoon?

Other than Perham Lakeside, Medinah Country Club in Chicago.

Leadership: Darren Fujii

Kevin Keil
Vice President / Chief Operating Officer
How long have you been at KLN and what was your first role?

Actually started my career at Barrel O’ Fun in 1985 fresh out of college and even though my degree was in Accounting, I accepted the Sanitation Manager position which was the one that was open at that time. My wife and I knew we wanted to raise our family in Perham and getting a start at a fairly new, growing company gave us that opportunity. Since then I have been lucky enough to be involved in a few other areas within KLN.

What is a quote that’s influenced the type of leader you are today?

Not sure I could limit it to one, here are a few that come to mind that are probably more personal than they are about leadership, but who you are as a person influences your leadership style.

  • “I know we can’t, but how can we?” – There always seems to be a way if you get the right team looking at it.
  • “There is a choice that you must make in everything you do, the thing to note, is in the end, the choice you make, makes you.” – John Maxwell
    Life is about choices, make good ones.

And a more recent one I really like:

  • “Whatever you do, do it with the confidence of a 4-year old in a Batman T-shirt.” – Posted on LinkedIn
    Don’t lose the confidence you had when you were young, you are still that person with unlimited potential.
What is the significance of the little notebook in your back pocket?

Ha, that’s kind of a long story. I actually write quotes in it. It is amazing if you really think about some of the comments people make or thoughts they share and I wanted to have a place to record them. My quote tracking actually started back in the 90’s. I had an office that had a sliding patio door in it, no it wasn’t to go outside it just opened to the hallway, and one day I had the door closed when a co-worker walked right into it. Not sure who was more surprised, her or me, but I thought I better hang something on it so people would realize it was closed. So I typed up a quote I had recently read and taped it on the door. Changed them out on a regular basis, even had people stop by just to read them. Still have them in a box somewhere, but have written many of them in my book.

Leadership: Darren Fujii

Randy Johnson
Executive Vice President of Sales & Marketing
How long have you been at KLN and what was your first role?

I have been back with KLN since April 2023. I initially started at Barrel O’ Fun in October 1978 doing odd jobs after school, cleaning up, loading trucks, and generally any odd jobs that needed to be done.

What is a quote that’s influenced the type of leader you are today?

“Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.” – Babe Ruth
“Don’t give up, don’t ever give up.” – Jim Valvano

What is your favorite thing about calling Lakes Country “home”?

I enjoy the change of seasons. I wish the winter season wouldn’t be so long, but I enjoy the different activities we can enjoy in each of the seasons.

Leadership: Abby Huebsch

Abby Huebsch

Chief Growth Officer
Tuffy’s Pet Foods

Leadership: Dustin Parker

Dustin Parker

Chief Growth Officer
Kenny’s Candy & Confections

Leadership: Jon Ebeling

Jon Ebeling

General Manager
Tuffy’s Pet Foods

Leadership: Andy Peeters

Andy Peeters

General Manager
Kenny’s Candy & Confections

Leadership: Brian Garlick

Brian Garlick

General Manager
Tuffy’s Treat Company