Nov. 162021

Shelly & Ralph Stayer

Ralph C. Stayer is the owner of Johnsonville, LLC.  Ralph joined his parents’ family business after earning a finance degree from the University of Notre Dame in 1965. He led the company from 1968-on, retiring as CEO in 2015. He served as Chairman of the Board until 2020, when his wife Shelly assumed the role. Under his leadership, Johnsonville expanded from a small butcher shop to a thriving global brand.

During his four decades as leader of the company, Ralph grew Johnsonville from a local Wisconsin brand, to an international leader in the food industry. The strong relationships he cultivated with customers, distributors and partners around the globe led to increased sales and an extensive presence worldwide. Today, Johnsonville is the No. 1 national sausage brand and is enjoyed by consumers in more than 40 countries.

Ralph’s accomplishments extend well beyond the company’s sales and financial success. His business operations method has been lauded for its “people-first” focus, blending teamwork and individual accountability, thus developing exceptional talent at all levels. In 1982, Ralph developed “The Johnsonville Way,” a unique and highly regarded company culture focused on growth, accountability and developing one’s God-given talents. More than 40 years later, “The Johnsonville Way” continues to guide how the organization and its members operate.

In 1990, Ralph established the Leadership Dynamics consulting firm, which specialized in coaching leaders of large organizations on strategy and execution through people.  He wrote “How I Learned to Let My Workers Lead,” which was published in the Harvard Business Review – one of their top 100 most reprinted articles.  He also co-authored the business best-seller, Flight of the Buffalo, published by Warner Books.  His current book, Love Your Neighbor, will be in bookstores in Fall 2023. Ralph also writes two monthly book reviews for Gulfshore Life magazine.

Ralph was named CEO of the Year by Tom Peters in 1988 and was a finalist in the Ernst & Young National Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2000.

Ralph is a First Tee Trustee and a Trustee of Boys and Girls Clubs in the Midwest Region. He has served on the Board of Directors of Brunswick Corporation, was Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Marian University and was on the Boston College Board of Trustees. Ralph also served on the Board of Advisors for the Notre Dame Executive Education Department and on the Board of


Shelly Stayer is co-owner and Chairman of the Board of Johnsonville, LLC, the nation’s No. 1 sausage brand that has grown from a small butcher shop into a billion dollar global operation.

Beyond business, her true passion is philanthropy. She founded the Shelly Stayer Shelter for Human Trafficking Victims in 2018. Located in Immokalee, Florida, the 15,000-square-foot shelter in Collier County provides a safe haven for victims of human trafficking and domestic violence.

In addition to Shelly’s philanthropic efforts, she has also co-authored The Weight of a Father’s Shadow.

Shelly has chaired some of the highest profile fundraising endeavors in the states of Florida and Wisconsin.  Her work spans national and local political campaigns, philanthropic endeavors and non-profit organizations.  Shelly’s involvement in community relations in Naples, Florida and the State of Wisconsin has helped countless children and families in-need as is evidenced by her many affiliations, which include:

  • 2013: Artis-Naples Event Chair, raised $1.2M
  • 2013: Gulf Shore Life Florida Women of Distinction Award
  • 2012: Shelter for Women of Abuse, raised $1.3M with 1,000 person luncheon
  • 2012: Chairperson, Gentlemen Against Domestic Violence Tailgate
  • 2010: Chairperson, YMCA Capital Campaign, Fond du Lac, WI
  • 2009: Co-Chair, United Way Campaign, Sheboygan County, WI
  • 2009: Chairperson, Boys and Girls Club Capital Campaign, Fond du Lac, WI
  • Board of Directors, Shelter for Women of Abuse, Naples, FL



  • Board of Directors, Edgewood College, WI
  • Board of Directors, Marian University, WI
  • Board of Directors, John Michael Kohler Arts Center, WI
  • Board of Directors, Children’s Museum, Naples, FL
  • Board of Directors, ARTIS-Naples Philharmonic, Naples, FL
  • Board of Directors, Naples Botanical Garden
  • Board of Directors, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI
  • Board of Directors, Boston College

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