Born and raised in the Bronx, N.Y., as an only child, Moe Levy learned to become business savvy at an early age from his parents. Even more importantly, Levy says his parents instilled in him their people-oriented values — which decades later, continues to be a key tenet of Levy’s business philosophy.
In 1985, Levy became a pioneer of the adult home party industry when he founded Holiday Products. As a home party distributor, the company grew rapidly, enlisting consultants in droves and manufacturing pheromone-infused sensual body care and sexual enhancement products under its Classic Erotica banner. The company today, with Levy’s son Loren at the helm, is a leader in its category.
In 2009, Moe Levy tapped Ken Sahn, an industry vet, to take on the role of president at Holiday Products and bring the company to its current, modern reinvention. Today, Holiday Products — which celebrated its 30th anniversary last year — is much more than a home party distributor with retail customers spread across several platforms and the reputation of being a reliable, customer service-oriented supplier of high-quality products.
This month Levy celebrates his 80th birthday alongside his friends and family. In this exclusive Q&A, XBIZ Premiere honors Levy as he reflects on his background, career highlights and continued legacy.
XBIZ: Tell me some background information about yourself. Where were you raised?
Moe Levy: I was born in 1936 and raised in the Bronx of New York City. I was an only child and lived in the Bronx with my Mom and Dad until I was 14 years old. We moved to Southern California in 1950. As an only child, I was very, very close with my mom and dad. My dad owned a store where he sold cigars, cigarettes and candy. It was from my experience watching and working with my dad that I learned business and how to sell. More importantly, I learned from my dad and my mom (who was a very sweet, kind woman) how to treat people.
XBIZ: What were you doing before establishing Holiday Products?
Levy: I was in the restaurant business in various capacities. I worked for Pioneer Chicken in purchasing, sales and more. I eventually opened my own Pioneer Chicken retail store. It was during this time that I slowly but surely moved into our industry.
XBIZ: How did you get into the industry? What inspired you to launch Holiday Products? What was your vision for the company?
Levy: Back in 1981 buying sex-related toys required going into a “dirty bookstore” that usually had peep show booths. This was extremely intimidating for most women and many men. That year I saw an interview on the Phil Donahue show with a woman from New York City. She was doing “home parties” showing sex toys and more for women in their homes, which was a very comfortable, safe setting. I thought “what a wonderful idea!”
Using my business and sales background, I put together a line of adult products. I worked with my girlfriend to prepare a “presentation” for home parties. We searched among our friends to see if someone would allow us to do a sales presentation for her friends in their home. It was too embarrassing for most women. Fortunately, we found a gutsy lady that would allow it. The “party” was a success! We then started receiving calls from many strong women that wanted us to do party presentations in their homes. It was interesting to see how little women knew about their own bodies.
I continued to hone my skills in this industry and worked only part-time for the next few years until I moved into my own business full-time and in 1985 Holiday Products was born!
XBIZ: Holiday Products celebrated its 30th anniversary last year — how has the company evolved?
Levy: In the beginning, I had to train “love consultants” to do the presentations since we couldn’t keep up with the requests locally and from other areas of the country. The consultants were sold “kits” and given a discount when they bought merchandise to fulfill their party orders. We had a bull by the tail and the phone was ringing off the hook. Within a year, we had over a hundred consultants working for us. The company was evolving, and I had found my niche.
The industry was growing. The manufacturers started making more colorful and better quality products for women. I was still running the business with my girlfriend. I did purchasing, order filling, training, accounting and answering the phone. She continued doing the presentations. I had to get help and move to a bigger place to continue growing the business. I always believed that finding a need and filling it with good product and service was extremely valuable to my growth.
XBIZ: What were some of the challenges that you faced in the beginning?
Levy: As I grew, we found that there were many roadblocks concerning our “business.” The banks requested that we take our business elsewhere. We had huge issues accepting credit cards, our insurance was cancelled when they found out the nature of our business and printers were reluctant to do our jobs. I had to overcome all of that, besides the normal business challenges, in order to continue to grow. Fast-forward to today and they are begging for our business.
XBIZ: How has the industry evolved?
Levy: The industry has grown and changed so much since I started it would take too long to cover it all. Simple things like the acceptance and mainstreaming of our industry has had a profoundly positive effect. However, not all of the growth and change is positive. The supply chain model is all but gone. There are too many importer/manufacturers going after the same product. There are too many distributors going after the same customers. Add to that the “Amazon” model and you’ve got an industry in flux.
XBIZ: Tell me about Holiday Products and how it is unique compared to other distributors?
Levy: Well, our corporate name is W.T.F.N. but we do business as Holiday Products and Classic Erotica. The two companies are run separately with separate staff, sales departments and leadership. Classic Erotica is the leading manufacturer of pheromone-infused sensual body care and sexual enhancement products in the U.S. Back in 1985 we began producing our own product. We came up with Coochy Shave Cream and Body Dew After Bath Oil along with many other items that continue to be among the best sellers in that category.
The president of Classic Erotica is Loren Levy, my son. He has done everything on this side of the business. He knows it inside and out and has been a great, innovative leader. He is also a brilliant brand ambassador and face of our company. We have worked together for 18 years and we have enjoyed every minute of that. We highly respect each other.
Holiday Products was mainly a home party distributor. In 2009 I brought in Ken Sahn as president of Holiday Products. With his background, industry experience and knowledge we set out to reinvent Holiday Products. It is now seven years later and we have succeeded beyond all of our expectations. We have become a much larger, stronger and diverse distribution force with brick and mortar, internet and of course, home party.
So why are we unique? I know there are so many stock answers to this question but our success and strength is truly in our people. We literally have dozens of employees who have been with us for many, many years. And, as we grow, our new hires do not leave. Our staff is amazingly diverse and we treat each other in a professional and respectful manner, which always translates to our customers.
XBIZ: How involved are you with the company currently?
Levy: I’ve started to cut back over the last several years. I still come to the office three to four days a week. I have regular weekly lunch meetings with Loren and Kenny and one to two corporate meetings with our CFO as well. It’s been a great run and I hope I can share with others the benefit of what I have learned over the last 30 years. The reality is that turning 80… I am slowing down. But as we continue to grow beyond my expectations I have great comfort in the knowledgeable and wonderful people that treat our business as their own.
XBIZ: Tell me about a hobby you have or activity that you enjoy outside of work?
Levy: I love going to movies and playing cards but my real passion is traveling. My wife and I take a lot of cruises and travel pretty extensively. This year in honor of my 80th I took my entire family of children and grandchildren (25 of us) on a beautiful cruise — that is a memory I will always cherish.