Alumni-Founded Snack and Pet Food Company

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The KLN Story

As told by U of M alumnus Charlie Nelson

KLN CharlieI wasn’t sure I would ever get involved in our family business. Not until the decision was made by my Dad to have KLN Family Brands buy back Tuffy’s Pets Foods in 2001 did I have much interest in following both my Dad and Grandpa’s footsteps into our business. The previous ownership was planning on closing the doors on the plant and my Dad didn’t want that to happen to the people of our hometown of Perham, MN. His decision lit a fire in me. Third-generation family-owned companies don’t always work. But with great people anything can be accomplished.

I grew up in Perham where our company is based. I knew KLN had an amazing workforce who supported the company and our family. That was true over 15 years ago when I joined our business and that is still the case today. We have a group of people who roll-up their sleeves, put on whatever hat they are being asked to wear for the day and get the job done.

KLN Wiley Wallaby I heard many stories about the wonderful things my Grandpa, Tuffy Nelson, did for people along the way. My Dad treats people the same way and it was he who taught me that our business wouldn’t work if it didn’t have good people who cared.

If there is one thing that I focus on more than anything, it’s making sure we do everything we can to have the right people on the right seat of the bus and to remind them as often as I can just how lucky we are to have them on the ride with us.

As hard as I try, I will never be able to thank them enough.

How the University of Minnesota impacted Charlie Nelson

KLN Dog Food KLN Sweet Chaos I continue to remind myself how fortunate I am to have had the opportunity to attend and graduate from the University of Minnesota as a student-athlete. I’m so grateful to have played for Coach John Anderson. While I don’t always have his calm demeanor, I learned from him that it’s important to treat everyone as an important part of the team, whatever their role might be. John was there for me, particularly early on in my career at the U of M, when I needed it the most. That was also the time I realized I wasn’t offering much back to the program. John is a guy who is committed to every member of his program. His leadership helped me to grow into a senior captain and key member of our program.

I take his leadership lessons along with me into my day to day approach with our people at KLN. Every member of our team deserves time, attention and my best effort. Everyone deserves the opportunity to be heard and to be valued. If you show people you genuinely care about them, they’ll care about you too.


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