WIA Profile: Helen Clyne
Each month, industry news media organization XBIZ spotlights the career accomplishments and outstanding contributions of Women in Adult. WIA profiles offer an intimate look at the professional lives of the industry's most influential female executives. Women like Helen Clyne, founder and managing director of A2Z Services.
Helen Clyne, the founder and managing director of A2Z Services, studied biochemistry and teaching before venturing into the world of adult entertainment.
Born in England and based in Germany, Clyne told XBIZ her company has turned into an intercontinental enterprise since she started it in 2004.
“Our business is almost 100 percent import of U.S.-bought goods,” said Clyne, who handles Penthouse Toys in Europe as well as works with several U.S.-based movie studios on distribution abroad.
Clyne works with her European clients by day and coordinates with her U.S. partners in the late-afternoon and evening hours. The former managing director of Hustler Europe GmbH juggles many different roles with A2Z, including traveling to the States every year to see her clients at trade shows such as XBIZ 360, but she continues to bring the same passion and attention to detail to every new task.
In this exclusive interview, Clyne discusses her background, her path into adult and her biggest challenge.
XBIZ: Where were you born and raised?
Helen Clyne: I was born and raised in the beautiful city of Chester in Northwest England.
XBIZ: What city are you based out of now?
Clyne: Krefeld, Germany.
XBIZ: What part of Germany, near a large city?
Clyne: Krefeld is 30 minutes from Düsseldorf, 45 minutes to Cologne, 20 minutes to the Dutch border, two hours to Amsterdam and two hours to Brüssels! Europe is so small compared to the U.S.
XBIZ: How did you gravitate from Chester, England to Germany?
Clyne: Bit of a fluke really. I met five German girls from Stuttgart whilst attending a E.U. exchange program in Lyon, France and got on with them like a house on fire. I just intended to pop over to Stuttgart short-term — over 30 years later I am still living in Germany!
XBIZ: Are you fluent in German too?
Clyne: I had German at school, which certainly helped me to acclimatize faster. Yes, I am now fluent.
XBIZ: What's your professional background?
Clyne: Degrees in biochemistry and teaching.
XBIZ: How do your degrees in biochemistry and teaching help you in your line of work in adult?
Clyne: I have retained my systematic approach to tackling tasks and also my passion.
XBIZ: What are some previous jobs you've had?
Clyne: Freelance Industrial TEFL Trainer and Managing Director of Hustler Europe GmbH, a subsidiary of LFP.
XBIZ: What is an Industrial TEFL Trainer?
Clyne: Teaching English as a Foreign Language. So for example, after the [Berlin] Wall fell separating West and East Germany, I remember teaching East German software engineers to speak English. I didn’t have to teach them to read or write English — they could already do that. It was a question of breaking down their inhibitions and actually proving to themselves that they could actually speak English too, enabling them to take part in company meetings, negotiations, etc. This time helped me a lot to improve my own people skills.
XBIZ: How did you get started in the adult industry?
Clyne: Bought an off-base, U.S. Military video store in Stuttgart, Germany.
XBIZ: When did you purchase the off-base U.S. Military video store?
Clyne: It was at the start of the American troops drawn back in Germany, must’ve been mid-80s.
XBIZ: How does that lead into adult industry work and what inspired you to buy the store?
Clyne: My husband and I at the time were both movie buffs, so we turned a hobby into a business. We quickly realized that the few square meters of shelf space which we had renting NTSC adult videos in those days was far more lucrative than the renting of the mainstream videos.
XBIZ: How did you transition from buying that store to what you're doing now?
Clyne: NTSC video led first to Laserdisc (remember them?) and then to DVD.
XBIZ: How long had you been Managing Director of Hustler Europe?
Clyne: From Jan 2007 to May 2009. The company was then liquidated.
XBIZ: What's a typical workday like for you at A2Z?
Clyne: It is normally a long one. Dealing with our European business during the day and from about 5 p.m. our time being a liaison with our USA partners and suppliers.
XBIZ: What tasks do you accomplish on any given day?
Clyne: It goes from ordering products in the U.S. to selling them throughout Europe. Our business is almost 100 percent import of U.S. bought goods.
XBIZ: When you liaison with your U.S. partners, what does that involve?
Clyne: From price negotiations to joint decision-making as to how we are going to represent their brands at trade shows, exhibitions, etc.
XBIZ: How many hours do you normally spend in the office?
Clyne: Well let’s say it is not 9 to 5!
XBIZ: What's the biggest challenge about your job?
Clyne: Trying to curb my own enthusiasm.
XBIZ: What's the most gratifying part of your job?
Clyne: Working with a group of people who have also become my friends.
XBIZ: What current projects are you or your company focusing on?
Clyne: Penthousestore.eu; a B2B platform to facilitate our European sales of Topco products and DVDs; Amazon sales; Groupon sales; and integration of classic erotica products into our European distribution range.
XBIZ: Out of your various current projects, which ones require the majority of your focus?
XBIZ: Where are you at with Penthousestore.eu?
Clyne: We have had the license for approximately 12 months now. It is going well, but is definitely a work in progress. I have been so lucky in my adult career to be able to work very closely with two of the most iconic brands in the world.
XBIZ: If you weren't doing this for a living, what do you think you'd want to do?
Clyne: I always wanted to become a vet.
XBIZ: What are your hobbies or interests outside of work?
Clyne: Friends and family.
XBIZ: How would you describe the state of adult biz in Germany?
Clyne: Survival of the fittest! I enjoy attending the XBIZ 360 every January. This show and the California weather certainly recharge my batteries and I return to Germany almost rejuvenated with new energy and ideas.