Leadership biographies

Dawn Sherman, CEO

Dawn Sherman manages the financial and business office for Native American Natural Foods and is a tribally enrolled member of the Shawnee and Delaware Tribes. She has worked more than 12 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles -- most recently in the accounting department.

Ms. Sherman made the Dean's List and President's List while studying applied science applied management at National American University in Rapid City, SD. In her career in the automotive industry, she increased dealership portfolios as well as assisted in developing policies and procedures to stream line sales and finance efficiency.

Her skills in customer service, marketing and financial analysis bring an array of expertise to the company.

Karlene Hunter, Co-Founder

Karlene Hunter is a co-founder of Native American Natural Foods. A member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, Ms. Hunter has more than 25 years of experience working on educational and economic development on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, where Native American Natural Foods is based. The Kyle, S.D., company, founded with her longtime business partner Mark Tilsen, is the second business Ms. Hunter has started on the reservation.

In 1996, Ms. Hunter and Mr. Tilsen created Lakota Express, a direct marketing and customer care management company. Focused primarily on fund-raising for non-profit organizations, Ms. Hunter has led the direct marketing campaign for Oglala Lakota College for more than 21 years. More than $25 million has been raised under Ms. Hunter's leadership, including raising the funds for the establishment of the first library on the reservation and the creation of new college centers in each of the nine districts on Pine Ridge.

Well-known throughout the Native American community for her local and national service record, Ms. Hunter serves on the Board of Directors of the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development. She has also served on the Board of Directors for the Native American Rights Fund; the National Indian Business Association; and the Pine Ridge Area Chamber of Commerce.

Ms. Hunter, who holds an MBA from Oglala Lakota College, has received numerous awards, including the 2012 Vision Leadership Award from the Specialty Food Association, the 2011 Social Venture Network Innovation Award, the Natural Foods Industry's prestigious 2010 Cliff Adler 'Heart in Business' Award, and the 2007 SBA Small Business Woman of the Year for South Dakota. Recognized in 2003 as one of the 100 Best Minority Suppliers by the Minority Business Network, Ms. Hunter received the National Director's Pioneer Award in 2006 from then-Department of Commerce Secretary Ronald Langston. She has also been awarded the President Harry S. Truman Foundation Scholarship; Indian Business Woman of the Year from the National Indian Business Association; and the Rising Star Award from the Business Women's Network and Diversity Best Practices.

Mark A. Tilsen, President

Mark Tilsen is President and co-founder of Native American Natural Foods and a longtime business partner with Karlene Hunter in Lakota Express,
Inc., a direct marketing and customer care management company. Mr. Tilsen has more than 25 years of experience in nonprofit fundraising, marketing community development, and 18 years
in special events marketing and productions.

A recipient of numerous marketing awards, most recently Mr. Tilsen received the 2016 Specialty Food Association Leadership Award for Citizenship and the 2011 Social Venture Network Innovation Award for his efforts with Native American Natural Foods.

A lifelong supporter of Native American causes, Mr. Tilsen began working as a volunteer in 1973 for the Wounded Knee Defense Offense Committee, which his parents co-founded. Since that time, he has honed his skills coordinating award-winning, database-driven direct marketing campaigns that have raised more than million for Native American educational and environmental organizations.

Mr. Tilsen has co-founded several successful community organizations and businesses, including:

  • KILI Radio, the largest indigenous community-owned radio station in North America.
  • The Black Hills Alliance. a coalition of Native and non-Native Americans that had a major impact on changing the environmental policies and practices in the Black Hills.
  • Direct Expressions, the company that launched the first direct marketing campaigns for the late Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., and Oglala Lakota College.
  • Direct Events, now the largest independent music promotions group in Austin, Texas.
  • Manager of Indigenous, the first Native American musical group to have a Top 10 hit on radio since the '70s.
  • Lakotamall.com, a web portal providing Internet market access to small businesses and non-profit organizations serving Indian Country.
  • Lakota Express Inc., the only reservation-based Native American-owned direct marketing firm in the nation.
  • Maz, Inc., a talent management group based in Minnesota.

Jon and Stephanie Frohling, Meat Artisans

Jon and Stephanie Frohling have operated Frohling Meats for more than 10 years. The meat trade is in Jon's genes (his father was a butcher),
so it was only natural that he should continue in
the family tradition. However, Jon and Stephanie have grown their business into a nationally recognized design firm of artisanal meat products.
It is this attention to artistic detail that led to their collaboration with Native American Natural Foods.

Specializing in specialty smoked meat products, including sausages, hams and jerky, the Frohlings have won more than 30 national awards in the past five years and hundreds of state and regional awards since they started their business. In 2007 alone, Frohling Meats won four top American Cured Meat Championship Awards from the American Association of Meat Processors. The award categories were: Specialty Game Meats, Smoked/Cooked Sausage, Ham, and Luncheon Meat. The awards are given annually in conjunction with the American Convention of Meat Processors. The products are evaluated by judges who are meat scientists and specialists in the meat industry.

Jon Frohling, who serves as a Director-At-Large for the American Association of Meat Processors, trained as an emergency medical technician and serves as third in command at the Hecla Volunteer Fire Department. He also volunteers with the department's ambulance service. Stephanie Frohling plays organ at their church and volunteers in school activities.

Parents of four active children -- Devin, Maddison, Kyle, and Tyson -- the Frohlings enjoy hunting, camping, being outdoors, and spending time with family.

Kevin Western, Manufacturing Partner

Kevin Western, owner of the family-based
business Western's Smokehouse in Greentop, MO, is an integral partner in keeping our manufacturing and packaging process seamless and efficient.

Together, he and his father, Sam, have continued
to perfect award-winning family recipes for Jerky, Sausage, and Barbecue Sauces and smokehouse processes. In 2006, Western's launched a unique Smokehouse Meat Snack Product that is distributed nationally today.

Today, Western's Smokehouse operates a modern 15,000 square foot federally approved production facility inspected by the United States Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS). A federal USDA inspector maintains an office in the plant and reviews the production procedures, food safety records and plant facilities on a daily basis.