It takes dedication, hard work and drive to build and grow an automotive specialty-equipment business. Even more so to grow an entire industry. Yet to help its members succeed and prosper, SEMA relies on individuals from every industry segment to step forward and bring their own vision and initiative. Consequently, it seems only fitting once a year to celebrate an individual whose contributions best embody this SEMA mission. For 2015, that individual is Kathryn Reinhardt of MagnaFlow, who found herself named SEMA Person of the Year at the recent 2015 SEMA Show Industry Banquet in Las Vegas.
The award is among the trade association’s highest honors and recognizes the recipient’s outstanding contributions to the specialty-equipment industry over a yearlong period. For consideration, an honoree must work in a SEMA-member company and exhibit professionalism, service and integrity as well as an ethic that helps propel the industry forward.
“If you want to better yourself, you have to better your surroundings, and that’s how I feel about the industry,” reflected Reinhardt after receiving the award. “I can’t grow unless I help the industry grow, too. Being an advocate for this industry is easy because it’s something I love dearly. It’s a part of me that I can’t tune out.
“Honestly, I am so honored and humbled. I know this award isn’t given out lightly. There are so many amazing, powerful, hardworking, dynamic people in this industry who deserve this award. For me to be considered, and now a recipient? That is truly something I cherish.”
“SEMA is proud to honor Kathryn Reinhardt as our 2015 Person of the Year,” said SEMA President and CEO Chris Kersting. “Through her tireless volunteerism and advocacy for so many industry causes, she exemplifies the passion at the heart of our industry. The energy, leadership, professionalism and sheer enthusiasm she has brought to numerous SEMA councils and their initiatives is a model for how to make both our association and our industry stronger. She is a true inspiration within the aftermarket.”
As with so many others, it was personal fervor that first attracted Reinhardt to the specialty-equipment industry, starting with showcasing her own vehicle modifications at local car events in her native Georgia.
“It seems like forever ago, but I remember hanging out in parking lots on the weekends back in Atlanta showing off what new mods I had made to my Honda Civic Si,” she said. “I didn’t actually know back then that I could make a career out of the aftermarket industry. I was just having fun with the hobby.”
Then, 13 years ago, she attended the annual SEMA Show in Las Vegas as a first-time builder—and suddenly, something clicked.
“I realized then that if I had any chance of working in the industry, I needed to seriously consider moving from Atlanta to California and leave everything I had behind,” she said. “I moved two months after that Show and landed my first industry job at CEC Wheels. I was hooked.”
After her stint at CEC Wheels, Reinhardt went on to specialize in marketing for Spectre Performance, Advanstar Communications and GoRhino. She currently holds the position of marketing communications manager at MagnaFlow.
“Today, I am excited and proud to work in an industry that evolves and changes daily,” Reinhardt said. “I love going to events and seeing new vehicles, meeting new people and creating new products. I love that we are expanding into international markets and pushing new distribution globally, sharing our hobby with people everywhere.”
As for her volunteerism on behalf of SEMA, Reinhardt currently serves as the chair-elect of the Light Truck Accessory Alliance (LTAA) and is a highly involved member of both the Young Executives Network (YEN) and the SEMA Businesswomen’s Network (SBN). This past year, she was further honored with the YEN Vanguard Award and was a recipient of the LTAA Chairman’s Award in 2014, along with the SBN Athena Woman of the Year award.
Over the last year, Reinhardt also visited the United Arab Emirates as part of a SEMA international team, and she participated in numerous other SEMA open houses and events. She credits her husband Craig and her family for their encouragement and support of her many activities, not to mention MagnaFlow President Dan Paolone and the entire team at the company, which prides itself on industry involvement.
For these and her many other leadership qualities, Reinhardt was applauded by more than 3,000 attendees at the 2015 SEMA Show Industry Banquet. Afterward, she confessed to “complete shock” as she heard Dave McClelland, the voice of SEMA, announce her name as Person of the Year and invite her to the stage, where she thanked family, friends, mentors and colleagues who have supported her professional zeal.
“I’m just glad I didn’t trip or pass out!” she quipped.
Reflecting back on 2015, Reinhardt said, “It’s been a full year of non-stop go. I’ve had people tell me I need to slow down and that I can’t last at this pace. I think about them when I’m having a hard day and use that as motivation to push myself further. My favorite challenge is when someone tells me ‘no.’ To me, no means maybe, maybe means yes, and yes means I shouldn’t have bothered to ask.”
Nor does she have any plans to slow down in the coming year, as she strives to help build an industry that continues to attract young enthusiasts.
“Being a second-time new mom this year, I see more now than ever how important it is to propel youth into the aftermarket industry,” she observed. “The industry needs engineers, sales, marketing, accounting and data people who share our hobby. I think there is still a lot of cultivating that needs to happen with this next generation. I would like to work closely with some of the high schools, colleges and career programs to motivate youth and advise them that this industry is worth pursuing. I want to tell them that you can actually make a living with your hobby.
“I was told a long time ago that if you do something you love for your job, you’ll never work a day in your life. That’s the people in our industry.”