SheIsSEMA Spotlight: Jenna Sage of THADS Foundation

Jenna SageBy Ashley Reyes

The SEMA Businesswomen's Network (SBN) has named Jenna Sage, president of the THADS Foundation, as the network's newest #SheIsSEMA spotlight member.  

Get to know Sage in her interview with SEMA News below. 

SEMA News: What do you enjoy most about working at your current company?  

Jenna Sage: I started THADS Foundation this past year, 2022, in honor and memory of my grandpa, who was a World War II veteran and spent his career working for Buick Motor, Co. 

Before our non-profit, my husband and I ran several successful restoration, collision and custom car shops. What I enjoy most about starting this non-profit is learning the ways that veterans and their families can support and transition to successful careers in the automotive industry. I love knowing that future generations will keep the trades and skills alive!

SN: What is the most challenging part of your business or job? 

JS: Balance. Running a non-profit business, working full-time and caring for family can be time-consuming, so I try to find ways to create balance. Not of time, that's impossible. In energy. When do I know I'll have the best energy to accomplish this task, or when do I know I need a break to relax? It can feel like we have to keep going, but to be our best, we need balance.

SN: How many years have you been in the industry, and what was your first industry job? 

JS: You could kind of say I was born into the industry. My family is from Flint, Michigan, auto-city U.S.A. My path was a bit different than most of my car-career family, as I became an educator. But cars were never far away. Then I met my husband and I was swept into the car world for life. We owned several businesses in Michigan before moving to Florida in 2005. We eventually owned several collision repair shops in Florida and now my husband is retired, working on our project cars, and I started our non-profit. In one way or another, I've always been engrained with autos.

SN: What three qualities got you to where you are today?   

JS: Tenacity. I don't always fit into every circumstance but I'm always willing to learn and grow. 

Belief. I hardcore believe that if it is meant to be, the universe and you will make it happen. I believe in setting a goal and chasing it. 

Love. It may seem cheesy, but passion and love go a long way when times are tough, or work is stressful. Leaning into the people and projects that you love can make the difference. 

Tenacity, belief and love have created the life that I want to live every day, where we get to work on cool cars, build cool [things] and meet awesome people. It's totally worth all the headaches and stresses!

SN: Being a woman in the industry, what have been your biggest challenges and accomplishments?

JS: My biggest challenge has been making breakthroughs across the industry. We insisted on being female-friendly at our shops to create an environment where 'non-car' customers, especially women could feel comfortable and confident. The industry doesn't always build that in, so myself and my husband work to create welcoming, inviting and inclusive auto environments!

I don't think my biggest accomplishment has happened yet! I want to see our love for cars combine with our care for the community and my passion for helping people find careers, so stay tuned!

SN: Who are your role models or mentors in the industry? 

JS: Certainly, my husband has helped teach me so many of the ins and outs. Being a business owner teaches you quickly. I tend to love fabricating and welding, I create metal art out of discarded and scrapped car parts, so I like watching Barbie the Welder create art with metal.

SN: What is the best career advice you have received?   

JS: The best advice I have received was from a mentor that I had during my graduate school (I have a doctorate in Special Education). My mentor at the time told me that the only way to thank her was to go out and be better than she was. It was a selfless act, a parental sentiment. I share it with mentees, apprentices and just the younger generations that come in and out of the shop. It has helped me remember that we aren't in this alone.

SN: Have you always wanted to work in the automotive industry?   

JS: Ha! I had zero idea ever that I'd be in the automotive industry in any way. My training and career have been in education and mental health. Being close to the car world has been an adventure but I wouldn't change it for anything! I have met amazing people, learned valuable skills and created lasting memories. I may not be swimming in the deep end of the automotive industry pool, but I'm thankful to be at the pool with everyone and to help others learn about the power and passion that cars can bring!

SN: Who was the most influential person on your career/goals? 

JS: I started this non-profit, with a mission to help veterans and their families build their "Mental Wealth" (through cars, community and careers). My grandfather's engineering mind, love for volunteering and care for cars have absolutely influenced our work. And of course, hanging with my hubby at the shop pushes me forward and further every single day!

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 News and recognized on the website.