Kevin Sauder receives AHFA Distinguished Service Award

Third-generation executive of family business recognized for his innovative, steady and forward thinking and for being a builder of business strategies

HIGH POINT — Kevin Sauder, president and chief executive officer of third-generation manufacturer Sauder Woodworking, has received the Distinguished Service Award from the American Home Furnishings Alliance.

The AHFA presented the award — its highest honor — to Sauder on Nov. 4 during its Annual Meeting and CEO Conference at the Hermitage Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee. The organization presents the award each year to an industry executive who has been recognized for his or her contributions to the furniture industry, the AHFA and their local community, which in this case is Archbold, Ohio, where Sauder Woodworking is based.

The AHFA said that Sauder is the 56th recipient of the award, which was first presented in 1966.

Farooq Kathwari, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Ethan Allen, presented the award and described Sauder as a “builder of innovative business strategies.”

“Innovative, steady and forward-thinking, (Kevin) is constantly looking for ways to improve his company’s product assortment and manufacturing methods by studying what buyers and consumers want,” Kathwari told the AHFA gathering, adding that his “personal drive is the engine advancing the company to broader distribution channels and dramatically expanded core businesses.”

The company was founded in 1934 by Kevin Sauder’s grandfather, Erie Sauder, who was inducted into the American Home Furnishings Hall of Fame at the October High Point Market. Over the years,  the company has grown to become the largest manufacturer of RTA furniture in the United States, according to the AHFA.

Its Archbold manufacturing facilities include 4 million square feet of space and utilize some of the most technologically advanced equipment in the world, the AHFA noted. Sauder’s companies and divisions employ more than 2,300 workers.

Having received his bachelor’s degree from Miami (Ohio) University and his MBA from Duke University, Kevin Sauder joined the family-owned business in 1988, having previously worked at Northern Telecom (Nortel Networks) in Raleigh, North Carolina, starting in 1985, where he was involved in marketing and business systems.

He joined the family business three years later as marketing and sales director for the company’s newly formed office products division. In that position, he directed a national sales force that built the company’s office superstore business. In 1992, he was promoted to vice president of marketing and in this role initiated a major brand awareness effort including national advertising and public relations campaigns. He also led the development of new upscale product lines for residential and commercial office use.

For a period of five years in the 1990s, Kevin Sauder was one of three generations running the family business: Erie Sauder was chairman of the board — remaining in the role until his death in 1997 — and Kevin’s father Maynard was president and CEO.  

In 1999, Maynard Sauder transferred operating responsibility for the company’s RTA furniture business to Kevin, and two years later he became president and CEO of the company.

Kevin Sauder “takes tremendous pride in the community that his burgeoning employee workforce calls home,” Kathwari said. “He is additionally respectful of his responsibilities to the beloved furniture industry that has served two generations before him.”

The AHFA added that the company has developed a long-standing commitment to both product safety and sustainable operations.

“Founded on the principles of stewardship and servanthood, Sauder Woodworking continues honoring these values with continuous advancements in water and energy conservation, greenhouse gas reduction, and waste and recycling efforts,” the AHFA said, noting that Sauder-branded product and its packaging is made from 97% recycled material and also noted that residual sawdust from the production process is converted into electricity with the company’s own co-generation plant.

The AHFA noted that Sauder is also “committed to transparency and the advancement of best practices throughout the industry, evidenced by the company’s public sustainability report published annually since 2013.”

In 2011, Sauder received one of only five annual Sage Awards for Environmental Excellence presented by AHFA.

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