On Holiday

Ariana Rodriguez
Holiday Products Vice President Ken Sahn tiptoed his way into the adult world in the ‘80s with five trendy, risqué retail locations in major malls, which he coowned in suburban Detroit. With retailer experience and natural people skills, Sahn’s career in wholesale distribution burgeoned as a jack-of-alltrades during a 19-year stint at adult novelty distributor Nalpac. Now as an executive at Holiday Products, Sahn employs his wealth of knowledge and industry relationships to methodically rebrand and rebuild the company as a solid distribution channel for retail stores, Internet sites and home party planners.

Sahn obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology and a minor in business from Wayne State University before entering the retail business.

“[I graduated] never realizing that my psychology degree would be more valuable to me in business than the business degree,” Sahn said. “Even in this technological age, people are still the number one resource for businesses. Managing them properly can be the key to success or failure.”

Sahn recalls another event, in which a software company CEO spoke at a seminar on the importance of human resources that further validated his belief that business relationships are key.

“Managing employees and relationships can be very trying and difficult at times,” Sahn said. “However, it can also be extremely rewarding. Anyone can read management books and regurgitate proper ‘techniques.’ To be successful you have to execute those strategies. I am lucky because it actually comes easy to me. You have to be a really good listener, have tremendous patience, treat your coworkers and employees with respect, be honest, to the point, don’t play games and most importantly lead by example through action and integrity.”

Sahn began his 19-year run at Nalpac, a Michigan-based adult distributor, in 1990, where he served as division manager and vice president of sales and marketing. He said he was given the freedom to decide which route to take in moving the company forward after legalities restricted Nalpac’s sale of smoking accessories.

“Quite simply, I took a look at our product mix and just started adding more and more product to each category,” Sahn said. “We carried sunglasses, mugs, T-shirts, Zippo lighters, some risqué novelties and a small line of adult items. Our timing was perfect and we rode the wave of the adult industry growth. At one time we had three catalogs: adult, risqué and gift. Our sales motto was ‘adulting the gift world and gifting the adult world’ and the combination worked.”

After having established a strategy, Sahn said the company grew significantly, moving from a 30,000 square-foot warehouse to one that was 100,000 square feet.

“We more than tripled our sales,” he said. “Originally I was hired as not the sales manager. This was the owners little joke basically meaning I was not only the sales manager of Nalpac but also was made general manager of the company, which included two other divisions.

“I did this while always playing the role of sales and marketing manager. As we brought in more people, my role as sales and marketing manager never changed but my ‘other’ titles seemed to change daily.”

In 2009, a friendship that began as a business relationship led to an opportunity for Sahn at Holiday Products, based in Chatsworth, Calif.

“At the International Lingerie Shows [Holiday Products President] Moe Levy’s booth was always near ours and we immediately had a great, fun relationship,” Sahn said. “At some point we started talking much more. I had a lot of respect for him and what he had created with Holiday and Classic Erotica but our personal friendship and camaraderie became even stronger than the business. Eventually, our wives got involved and that just solidified the relationship. I had also become very close with his son Loren who is vice president of Classic Erotica. So when we seriously talked about joining Holiday Products, it was very quick and easy to make the deal.”

While spearheading the restructuring and growth of Holiday Products, Sahn said it feels like déjà vu.

“Although the times and challenges are different, this is exactly what I did at Nalpac,” he said. “ I came into a company with a nice foundation but I was brought here to improve on what we have. In six months we have already made great strides in many areas but still have a long way to go to get to where I want to be. Ultimately, I am responsible for everything that happens with Holiday Products. Specifically, I oversee the sales, purchasing and graphic arts departments. I have very competent people working with me and every day is new and fun for me.”

With responsibilities at Holiday Products that are “eerily similar” to his previous post, Sahn sees a different support system among his current colleagues.

“Suffice to say that I am still very close with almost all of my former colleagues and employees and I have the utmost respect for them,” he said. “However, at Holiday, the ownership mentality and teamwork concept at the management level is much more in line with my business and personal philosophies, which makes it a much better atmosphere for me to be a part of.”