We recently caught up with Matthew Davis to discuss his participation in the 2015 YEN Power Tour. A SEMA program that sends ten YEN members on the Hot Rod Magazine Power Tour, a seven day road trip across America with over three thousand custom and classic cars. This year the tour took the group from Madison, WI to Baton Rouge, LA.
YEN Member Insights
Being part of SEMA is truly amazing because the organization provides its members with a number of opportunities to network. This comes in the form of traditional networking mixers, the SEMA Show itself and many of the membership programs aimed to connect us all together. I highly recommend that everyone put themselves out there and meet their fellow SEMA members because it will truly help them engage within the community.
With all of the opportunity to connect, I have seen one common mistake repeatedly made by those new to networking. It probably will surprise you—you may even disagree with me—but from my experience, I can tell you that if you can accept this one philosophy, your ability to network will grow exponentially.
Networking is not about what people can do for you.
Let’s think about this for a moment and really try to gain a deeper understanding, as I am sure the basic motivation for many people in networking is to meet others who can help them with their business.
Neil Tjin is the president of Tjin Edition and the automotive marketing director at Vortech Engineering in Channel Islands, California.
How did you get into the industry?
I started tinkering with cars in 1996. It started out as a hobby and I was able to turn it into a profession in the early 2000's. I started out as the marketing director at Toucan Industries, and then I became the executive editor at Hot Compact and Imports magazine and B/Scene Magazine in 2003. In 2010, I became the automotive marketing director at Vortech Engineering. And, we started the Tjin Edition Road Show in 2004.
When did you start Tjin Edition and what is it all about?
Tjin Edition started out as a car club/business in 2003, when we did our first OEM build for Scion. In 2004, we expanded the Tjin Edition brand into the Tjin Edition Road Show, and this is year will be our 11th year on the road.
At the 2012 SEMA Show Awards Banquet, Michael Chapin and Eric Coomer sat down for dinner at the YEN member table. Focused on their respective ventures, the two like-minded gasoline junkies stayed in contact for another year and found several more overlapping likes and interests. Fast forward to 2014, when an opportunity arose to collaborate in a new business launch—RxSpeed.com—a search engine for aftermarket parts.
What kind of SEMA resources have you found to be valuable?
Chapin: Besides the obvious fact that we met while networking with YEN, Eric and I use SEMA’s market reports and resources to convey to the outside world the scale and dynamic of this marketplace. For most non-car people, it’s an industry that hides in plain sight. Few expect to hear that 24 million Americans spend $33 billion annually. The market segmentation reports draw clear lines in the sand to help people understand who buys parts for necessity and who buys them for fun.
Coomer: The background and education SEMA provides on the industry’s data revolution, and more specifically the SEMA Data Co-op, have by far been the most helpful in educating myself and others about the need for standardized product data. It wasn’t very long ago that every small business was told they needed a website in order to survive, and now in 2014, getting your products seen and sold online carries that same message. Clear business communication doesn’t end with conversation, but continues with every file and piece of data you exchange.
Describe yourself in your own words.
My name is Nicholas Gramelspacher, and I am vice president, sales and marketing, at Meyer Distributing, and a member of the SEMA Board of Directors. I have a wife, April, and son, Ajay.
What type of education do you have?
I have a degree in business management.
Did you choose the aftermarket or did the aftermarket choose you?
I chose the aftermarket-I was tinkering on and fixing up trucks in early high school and fell in love with it. We have a family business in the furniture industry, but I wanted to plow my own path to do what I love and love what I do: cars, trucks and Jeeps. That, along with working for a great company like Meyer, which has had tremendous growth, and having a hardworking team made it a great decision 16 years ago.
What has your career path looked like?
I started with Meyer in the shipping department and worked there for about six months before moving into sales. We were a single location, 25,000-sq.-ft. company back then, selling about 40 lines.
Justin Hartenstein, founder and president of Oracle Lighting, was a true automotive enthusiast from the beginning.
When Hartenstein began selling automotive parts in his eBay store in 1999, it was primarily items that he had installed but later taken off his own rides. He later started making items on his own and posting project pictures on online forums. Others began requesting parts, asking to buy what Hartenstein had made for himself. While he maintained his eBay store, Hartenstein was also going to school at the University of New Orleans and working full time.
It wasn’t until Hurricane Katrina in 2005 that Oracle Lighting became the top priority for Hartenstein. His previous employer was greatly affected by Katrina. After the Hurricane, Hartenstein moved for a short period, and his own business was what he relied on. This was his turning point.
“When I moved back, I didn’t have any distractions, and it’s all I’ve done since then,” he said.
Oracle Lighting has been a SEMA member since 2003 and began exhibiting at the Show in 2009.
Alain Eboli is a graduate of Southern Polytechnic State University in Atlanta, Georgia. He is a father to a 4-year-old son who also shares a strong interest in cars and trucks. Alain's role is Engineering Manager for Omix-ADA/Rugged Ridge/Alloy USA, the largest independent manufacturer of Jeep replacement parts and accessories.
How long have you been in the automotive aftermarket? What other industries have you worked in?
I have been with Omix-ADA/Rugged Ridge/Alloy USA for about 5 years with a brief period of about 6 months where I worked for Newell Rubbermaid's Graco Childrens Products brand. I returned to Omix in August of 2012 to fill the role of Engineering Manager. Prior to my initial employment with Omix, I worked as a Design Engineer designing LED billboard structures and other signage solutions for outdoor applications, stadiums and arenas.
What does it take to create innovative products?
It's much easier to invent than it is to innovate. Creating innovative products starts with understanding the consumer and the problems they face.
It is customary
for the YEN Member Spotlight to showcase the life and career of a young, up and
coming YEN member but let’s face it, we work in and industry that thrives on
breaking norms and thinking outside the box. With that in mind, this YEN Member
Spotlight focusses on Derrick Johnstone of Alliance Sales, who’s odometer has
rolled over the 40 year limit for YEN. All joking aside, Derrick continues to
stay involved through Manufacturer’s Representative Network (MRN) where he is a
current Select Committee Member. I had an opportunity to talk with him at the
2012 SEMA Show and find out what this former YEN member is all about.
Whenever I ask somebody how they got involved in the industry there is usually a
pretty interesting backstory and Derrick’s is no different. He was pretty much
born into it as his father, Dave Johnstone, was an instrumental in the Vancouver
drag racing scene and is an inductee of the Greater Vancouver Motorsports
Pioneer Society (2012) as a racer, car builder and car show producer.
Sales Manager, Al’s Liners
With a formal background in architecture, Dana has extensive experience in architectural design, environmental consulting, automotive restoration equipment, and DIY truck accessories. Admittedly an "amateur restorer and automotive guy", Dana feels fortunate to be in the automotive industry where he is able to employ his personality working for a company like Al's Liner.
Tell us a little about your diverse professional background and how each of your experiences has benefited you in the position you hold today?
After school and working in a couple of odd jobs I began in Environmental Consulting, focusing on Remediation Project Management and Program Management for Asbestos, Lead and Indoor Air Quality. Working mostly with public and private school corporations I was responsible for maintaining federally mandated programs and educating maintenance staff on handling and maintaining potential hazardous materials.
Brandy Morrow on Winning Respect in a Male Dominated Industry
Spectre Performance, YEN Member
Growing up, Brandy Morrow didn’t envision herself behind the wheel of a race car or working on cars in the hot summer sun. Growing up with a father who was a professional motorcycle racer that transitioned into sales and marketing in the performance industry, the car hobby was never forced on Brandy. In fact, while pursuing martial arts and other mainstream pursuits she didn’t even get her driver’s license until she was 17. Her father Mike then taught her basic vehicle maintenance and enrolled her in a defensive driving course. A year later, looking to learn a little more about vehicle control (after wrecking her first car – a Saturn), Brandy enrolled in an all-women’s autocross school at El Toro Airbase in Orange County with her Honda Del Sol.