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SEMA Council & Network News: Aaron Aldrich Discusses Launch Pad Experience

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Aaron Aldrich of Any Level Lift was named the 2016 SEMA Launch Pad winner, with his all-adjustable suspension system for trucks and off-road vehicles.

Aaron Aldrich Discusses Launch Pad Experience

Aaron Aldrich of Any Level Lift was named the 2016 SEMA Launch Pad winner with his all-adjustable suspension system for trucks and off-road vehicles. Presented by the Young Executives Network (YEN), the winner was determined by a panel of industry judges after each contestant pitched their products or services to the panel in front of a live audience Wednesday, November 2, during the 2016 SEMA Show.

Each contestant was an automotive industry entrepreneur under the age of 40 looking to launch his or her business to the next level. Applications were accepted in the spring of 2016 with a record number of applications turned in from young entrepreneurs nationwide. A task force narrowed down the contest to 13 semi-finalists who were flown out to Las Vegas during the SEMA Exhibitor Summit last summer to film their pitch videos, which the public would vote on for the final top 10 contestants. The top 10 finalists included:

  • Aaron Aldrich, Any Level Lift
  • Richard Baverstock, Mogol Inc.
  • Matt Corish,
  • John Paul Guswelle, Metal Conditioner2
  • Amanda Holbert, PlasmaGlide LLC
  • Bryce Hudson, Grip Clean
  • Wesley Jurica, Gigabit Games
  • Kevin Patrick, Exomotive
  • Sarah Powell, Turnberry Innovations
  • Irina Slavina, Hudway LLC

Meet the Winner!

Aldrich is new to the automotive aftermarket industry, establishing Any Level Lift LLC earlier this year. He developed a passion for lifted trucks growing up in a small town in New York, and graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a mechanical engineering degree. He normally designs servicing equipment for the U.S. Navy’s submarines and aircraft carriers; however, after building and testing a prototype of the Any Level Lift and issuing three related patents, he decided to take a leave of absence to bring the Any Level Lift to market.

The patented Any Level Lift is the industry’s first all-adjustable suspension system, offering 16 in. of ride height adjustment without impact to ride quality, steering alignment or axle positioning. The Any Level Lift bridges the gap between work and play.

As the winner, Aldrich received the grand-prize package consisting of a one-year complimentary SEMA membership; multiple features in SEMA media and news outlets; exhibit space at the 2017 SEMA Show; access and discounted rates on SEMA services, such as the photography studio and SEMA Data Co-op; and finally industry sponsorship packages.

SEMA News: How do you think the SEMA Launch Pad prize package will benefit your business?

Aaron Aldrich: The SEMA Launch Pad prize package has so many elements that will benefit my new business. There is a good reason the competition is entitled “Launch Pad,” because the prize package is certainly tailored to provide one. The free booth at next year’s Show is huge. As a first-time exhibitor with my own booth at this year’s Show, I know first-hand how much money and effort goes into setting up a booth at SEMA. Not having to worry about that will help me focus on product development. Also, Any Level Lift is a new name in the industry; the exposure from the news and magazine articles will help get our name out there, showcase our technology and build our brand.

SN: What does it mean to you to be named the winner of the 2016 SEMA Launch Pad?

AA: My first reaction to this question was that winning the 2016 SEMA Launch Pad Competition means validation of my product, and it means that if you have a dream, a plan and determination, you can make anything happen. However, when I step back and really think about how I feel about winning, winning means I’ve got a huge weight on my shoulders. I am indebted to all the folks who believe in me, the people who voted, my family and friends who helped build our prototypes and came to the Show to man the booth, the judges who chose me and my product over the other outstanding competitors, and the people who can’t wait to buy a kit. I owe it to these folks to keep grinding and deliver a suspension system that is going to change the game. What I thought was hard work before was really just the beginning. The hard part is ahead, and that is turning this dream into a profitable business.

SN: Talk about the SEMA Launch Pad competition—what was your experience as a competitor?

AA: I didn’t know about SEMA Launch Pad until a few days before the application was due. I had recently signed on as a SEMA member and read an article in SEMA News about a competition for young entrepreneurs and innovators. I couldn’t help but think it was written for me. I spent a couple hours thinking about some of the responses to the questions in the application and submitted. It wasn’t long until I found out I was a semi-finalist and was flying out to Vegas to attend the Exhibitor Summit, which was a huge help to me as a first-time exhibitor and a great way to meet the other competitors and start building some lasting friendships.

While at the Summit, we were filmed for the video that was posted on Facebook for voting over the summer. I had never been interviewed on camera so I was nervous going in, but I love to talk about the Any Level Lift, so it turned out to be pretty fun. The Facebook voting competition was set up to give us some marketing experience. The competition was tight with things changing each week. Luckily, the timing was right when we debuted our second prototype, and that helped get us some votes and solidify my spot in the top 10.

Fast forward to the SEMA Show…after countless hours working on the ’17 Super Duty we had on display in our booth, I had very little time to prep for my SEMA Launch Pad pitch. I found myself in the back of the room 30 minutes before taking the stage going over in my head all the things I wanted to say and trying to think through responses to some of the questions I would get from the judges. Two minutes isn’t much time, so I focused on two things: illustrating the problems with lifted trucks and a quick video showing the solution. After fielding a few questions from the judges, I left the stage feeling relieved because that stage certainly wasn’t my comfort zone. After everyone had finished their pitches and the judges returned from deliberation, I remember standing back up on that stage with everyone waiting to hear the outcome and thinking about how great the rest of the competitors did, and how proud I was to be standing beside such innovative, driven and talented folks. The judges provided each of us some constructive feedback before Clarence Barnes, our host, announced the winner…“Aaron Aldrich, Any Level Lift.” What an amazing moment and an awesome experience. Put your applications in next year!

SN: What’s next for you and Any Level Lift?

AA: I was so focused on getting to the SEMA Show and building the Show truck that I had very little time to formulate a go-forward plan coming out of the Show. Exhibiting at the SEMA Show and the exposure from the SEMA Launch Pad competition has resulted in several industry connections presenting a few different directions that we could head. For now, I am going to focus on refining a couple things on the latest design to streamline manufacturing and installation, work through the legal and administrative side of things and set up a system to take pre-orders. Hopefully at next year’s SEMA Show you will see several trucks rockin’ the Any Level Lift!

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