By Ashley Reyes
The SEMA Businesswomen’s Network (SBN) named Mercedes Lilienthal, a freelance journalist and PR/marketing consultant at Crankshaft Consulting, as the newest #SheIsSEMA spotlight member.
Lilienthal started her career in the automotive aftermarket three-and-a half years ago after spending 15 years as a commercial interior designer and project manager. Her first job in the automotive industry was writing articles for a variety of automotive publications.
Learn about Lilienthal’s career in her interview with SEMA below.
SEMA: What is most challenging part of running your business or job?
ML: As a full-time freelancer, the most challenging part of my job is continually keeping all the balls in the air and making sure nothing drops out of my sight.
SEMA: What are three qualities that got you to where you are today?
ML: 1. Perseverance: not letting “no” or no answer from people get the best of me. 2. Striving for top quality: creating the best content or partnerships I’m capable of (my name is associated with everything I do). 3. Willingness to try something new and not being afraid to fail.
SEMA: Being a woman in the industry, what have been your biggest challenges and accomplishments? Do you have a specific situation that comes to mind?
ML: Challenges: Men account for the majority of automotive journalists. When at automotive shows, trail runs, or even off-roading/overlanding events, I sometimes get the “invisible” attitude that I’m a woman who doesn’t know anything auto-related, especially when it comes to the off-roading or supporting aftermarket segments (my specialty). I need to prove myself before being taken seriously.
Accomplishments: Being extremely proud to be one of a few women that regularly writes for notable publications, like The New York Times’ “Wheels” column, Car and Driver, Forbes Wheels, Autoblog and so on. The majority of content comes from men and to break down those barriers and be recognized is humbling.
I’ve also received journalism and photography awards from the Texas Auto Writer's Association and Motor Press Guild, among so many extremely talented peers.
SEMA: Who are your role models or mentors in the industry? How have they helped you along the way?
ML: Jessi Combs: Her dedication to her craft, willingness to help others, fierce drive and humble personality are traits I strive for. Sue Mead: her talent as a journalist and automotive racer is what I aspire to, her dear friendship and mentorship mean the world to me and have helped me grow exponentially.
For his support and guidance, my husband, Andy Lilienthal, as I switched careers and gave freelancing a go. His dedication to help me succeed, love to keep me going and mad editing skills to help hone my articles are some of the many reasons I love him so. He supports me in ways I didn't even know I needed.
SEMA: What is the best career advice you have received? How has this advice helped you either professionally or personally?
ML: If you believe in yourself and want something bad enough, you’ll find a way to make it happen.
SEMA: Have you always wanted to work in the automotive industry? What keeps you here?
ML: Yes. The people, vehicles and evolution of everything keep me here.
Do you know, or are you, a woman with a career in the automotive industry? Fill out a #SheIsSEMA spotlight form to submit a self-nomination or nominate a colleague and highlight how you or she is contributing to the specialty-equipment industry. Selected candidates are automatically eligible to be considered for SBN’s #SheIsSEMA Woman of the Year award, featured on SBN’s social media, SEMA eNews and recognized on the www.sema.org/she-is-sema website.