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SEMA Council & Network News: Truck and Off-Road Alliance to Attend Dallas Truck & Jeep Fest

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No matter what niche you're in—rods, restoration, racing, restyling, reps, trucks or wheels and tires—there's a SEMA council or professional network that's right for your company. SEMA councils and networks offer members a variety of market-specific programs and activities designed to provide educational and networking opportunities while promoting their particular industry segment.

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TORA at the Dallas Truck & Jeep Fest

Truck and Off-Road Alliance (TORA) leadership will attend this year’s Dallas Truck & Jeep Fest at the Dallas Market Hall. While the event takes place May 14–15, TORA leadership will meet at the event site Friday, May 13, to hold a Long-Range Planning (LRP) meeting to give the council an opportunity to dive into the light-truck market and plan initiatives that will aid members throughout the year. During setup, council leadership will deliver lunch to exhibitors and introduce themselves.

In addition to the LRP meeting, TORA leadership will meet with council members throughout the show and facilitate networking between members. The select committee will represent the council in communicating the latest initiatives and provide TORA tools to assist manufacturers in reaching new buyers. Council leadership will also look to gain feedback from the general membership on the current challenges their companies are facing and how TORA can help.

For questions, contact Allan Keefe, senior manager of councils, at or 909-978-6696.

Measuring Sessions Hosted at SEMA Garage

TORA Members: the SEMA Garage has announced upcoming light-truck measuring sessions. Be sure to take advantage of getting your hands on these vehicles.

’17 Ford F-Series Super Duty

The all-new ’17 Ford F-Series Super Duty is coming to the SEMA Garage in Diamond Bar, California, for a SoCal measuring session. This event will be a follow-up to the Dearborn, Michigan, measuring session, which will take place at Ford Motor Co. on April 27. This measuring session will feature the ’17 Ford Super Duty F-250 Lariat 4x4 Super Cab with the 6.7L 4-valve Power Stroke V8 diesel engine. Scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, May 17–18 at the SEMA Garage, this event is open exclusively to SEMA members. Don't miss your opportunity to get hands-on with the ’17 Super Duty and jumpstart your product development efforts. Ford staff will be on hand to offer technical support and access to CAD files for Tech Transfer participants. The Garage has specialty tools available, including spring measuring equipment, corner weight scales and a CMM machine (FaroArm must be operated by SEMA staff).

RSVP now!

’17 Nissan Titan and Titan XD

Just weeks following their global reveal at the 2016 New York Auto Show, the SEMA Garage has announced the arrival of two exciting all-new trucks from Nissan—the ’17 Titan half-ton pickup and its big brother, the ’17 Titan XD. As an alternative the Titan XD’s 5.0L Cummins turbodiesel powerplant, both of these trucks share Nissan’s new 390hp 5.6L naturally aspirated Endurance V8 gasoline engine. But that’s where the similarities end, as the Titan is built on a completely separate chassis from Titan XD, and is nearly 15 in. shorter in overall length.

Both trucks will be production-spec ’17-MY crew cab 4x4 trucks. Nissan staff will be on-site to help answer any technical questions. Don't miss your opportunity to get hands-on with the all-new Titan and Titan XD to jumpstart your product development before these trucks reach showroom floors in mid-summer. As an added benefit, this measuring session is scheduled for May 19–20, immediately following the ’17 Ford Super Duty measuring session. For those traveling, ensure you’re scheduled to access both of these events in a single trip.

RSVP now!

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SEMA Career Center Aligns with HRIA Futures in Hot Rodding Initiative

Futures in Hot Rodding continues to be a priority initiative for the Hot Rod Industry Alliance (HRIA). At its core, this program was built to promote and connect the industry’s next generation with hot-rodding careers. The automotive industry and this segment in particular, are driven by passion, community and camaraderie, and can be an exciting career opportunity for young people. The challenge with Futures in Hot Rodding has been the ability to connect the dots from interest to employment on a broad scale.

SEMA has recently introduced a new Career Center and Job Board that will help bridge the gap and create a talent pipeline into hot rodding. The SEMA Career Center will serve to address industry employment challenges, and through SEMA’s growing network of school contacts, create a direct link for young people looking to enter the automotive workforce.

HRIA is excited about this opportunity and encourages its membership to take advantage of this resource for your own business. As a community of hot rodders with a shared interest in promoting the hobby, we can effect change by sharing our respective job postings through social channels with a common tagline:  “another Futures in Hot Rodding job opening,” and then linking/sharing the actual job posting from the SEMA Career Center.  This will help to promote your own businesses, increase application views and create awareness for the hot-rodding industry as whole.

Be sure to check out SEMA’s Career Center. If you have a job opening to post, make it “another Futures in Hot Rodding job opening.”

For questions about the Career Center, contact SEMA’s Director of Education Zane Clark. For questions about HRIA, contact Council Director Jim Skelly.

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James Snoddy and his family.

Young Executives Network (YEN) Member of the Month: James Snoddy, Jammock

Tell us about yourself.

I’m originally from Rochester, New York. I am an alumnus of the University of Maryland, College Park, with a degree in English literature and of the Johns Hopkins University, with a masters in writing. I’m the inventor of the Jammock (it’s a hammock for your Jeep or truck). I own and run the company. Jammock does more than $200,000 in sales each year worldwide.

I’m a former U.S. Army infantry officer, following seven years of enlisted service as a military policeman. I served as a stryker platoon leader for 16 months in Iraq and led more than 480 combat patrols and raids, finishing my tour with zero U.S. casualties under my command, which I regard as my greatest achievement. I’ve served the United States in every major theater of the Global War on Terror, including as a military policeman guarding the Pentagon crash site following 9-11; a prison guard at Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; an infantry officer in Mosul, Baghdad, and Hamam al-Alil, Iraq; and (very briefly) as a cooperative biological engagement program project manager in Kabul, Afghanistan.

I led a project reducing biological threats in Afghanistan for the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. I’m a member of the Truman National Security Project’s Defense Council. I’ve previously served in the Department of State’s Bureau of Counterterrorism as a regional affairs officer for the Maghreb. I am a former Presidential Management Fellow. I also served as an intern at the White House and for the New York State Attorney General.

I am a recipient of the Bronze Star Medal and the Combat Infantryman’s Badge among other decorations, and I'm an Eagle Scout. I am currently serving the United States overseas.

Who/what are your major influences?

Comfort! I was influenced to create the Jammock because I like Jeeps, chilling and reading. The Jammock allows me to do all three. My stepfather, Jerry Erban, was a salesman all his life. I’ve been in the Army and in government. I don’t have an MBA or any sales experience, except for selling Boy Scout Christmas wreaths. My stepdad was there as a consultant and confidant to help me focus my efforts and gain confidence. He’s old-school sales. He’s snailmail to 150 Jeep dealers in Florida old-school. He’s a coffee-mug-with-no-lid-on-the-dash-of-the-Oldsmobile-to-make-a-sales-call old school. He taught me when to take a deal, leave a deal and make a deal. He gave me confidence in my product and ideas during the dark times. Between he and my wife, they’re the reason the company exists.

What is Jammock? How does it work?

It’s a hammock for your Jeep (or truck bed). It’s a very simple invention that improves on another (as so many great inventions do). We took the 1,000-year-old design of the hammock and engineered it to fit into the space over a Jeep and in a truck bed. Once installed, it does not have to be removed. It is six products in one: a Jammock, load-bearing soft-top, windjammer, lounge chair, overhead storage, and sling-seat off the vehicle. The Jammock will hold more than 350 lbs., and will not interfere with OEM tops.

What was the hardest part of bringing your product to market?

The color. Can you believe it? The color almost sunk me. When I first started, I ordered 100 Jammocks in “Sahara Tan” because that’s the color my Jeep was. No one—let me repeat that—no one wanted to buy a tan Jammock. Everyone kept saying they’d buy one if it was black. I was more of the Henry Ford mold at that time. “They can have any color Jammock they want as long as it’s tan!” I wasn’t willing to budge because I’d sunk a few thousand dollars into the Sahara Tan production run. Eventually, the market budged me, but the real push—and the saving grace of Jammock as a concept and as a company—was my genius wife, Nadia, suggesting that I do a pre-order round to finance the next production run of our newly created Jammock Black. When pre-orders opened, we sold a ton the first day and paid off the factory. Sales have increased substantially since then.  

On the eve of launch, after months of R&D followed by testing and evaluating the Jammock, I had a nightmare: will it fit in a JK (the current Jeep Wrangler model)? I had the previous-generation model (TJ), and that was where I’d conducted all the testing, including fitment. I went to a Jeep dealer and told him that I was interested in buying a new Jeep, but only if it would fit my awesome Jammock. We got the Jammock installed only to find that the TJ had a lot more room up top than the JK. I had to cut 3 in. off the width of the Jammock to make it a universal fit.

For the JammockTruck, I had to build a replica of a truck bed in my basement to check size, fit and installation since I didn’t own a truck. We fit several people at once on the Jammock during human testing. I conducted further testing after I sold my house, but I still didn’t own a truck, so I had to rent a Zip Car (cars and trucks by the hour) near the Pentagon. The truck never left the parking spot. I was there conducting tests; it was a pain.  

Having the time was also difficult. I have a day job. I have a wife. I have a kid. I have to run. I have other interests. There’s lots of demands on the time of the small businessman. But you chip away at it and get it done when you find time. You end up becoming very efficient in everything you do in order to finish everything. You have to be or you will not survive in this business.

How has social media and the Internet changed how you get your product to the end consumer?

I hired Erica Taylor as the voice of Jammock. She runs the Twitter feed and handles all the press, blogs, ad infinitum. Erica has been with Jammock for almost a year and my sales have doubled since then. The Internet hasn’t changed how I get Jammocks to Jeepers because I never had a business model without it. The website is my main vehicle for sales, both retail and wholesale. There are some brick-and-mortars, but it’s mostly Internet. I would not be in business without it—too much overhead to lease a store. My fulfillment company is fully integrated into the website and they take care of filling orders. I’m at the point now where I can commit my time to thinking strategy.  

What is the marketing technique that you find most effective when reaching your audience?

Getting butts in Jammocks. It’s old-fashioned and labor intensive, but it is pound for pound the best way to make a sale. The Jammock does not look all that comfortable. It’s tough to see how heavy duty it is, how well built and how high quality all the components are. People who sit in it tend to love it forever.

What should we look for from Jammock in the future? Any new products you are working on?

The JammockTruck is still in the nascent stage. But it’s going to revolutionize the motel and taxi industry. What?! The JammockTruck, either in good weather or with a truck bed cap will enable you to sleep in your truck. Driving cross country and don’t want to spring for a motel? Sleep in your truck. At the bar and had one too many? Save money in legal fees and sleep in your truck.  

After building your own business, what advice would you give to someone chasing a new idea?

Take advice but make your own decisions. You are in command and thus are responsible for everything your unit does or fails to do. You’re the one who will pay or profit based on the decisions you make, so own them. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, but own them as well, learn from them and move on. Model your business off of other successful businesses. There’s no need to reinvent anything. Tried and true are tried and true for a reason. Don’t be afraid to spend money—but don’t buy into the sunk cost fallacy either. Most of all is this: procrastinators and liars do not last long as entrepreneurs. You will live and die by good customer service. A lie may save you a few grand in the short run, but it’ll burn you in the long run. You have got to get off your butt and execute or your idea will remain just that.

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