Councils & Networks

Get Inspired: Why These Industry Pros Are SEMA Select Committee Volunteers

By Ashley Reyes

SEMA council and network select committee volunteers play a vital role in advancing the automotive specialty-equipment market as they work alongside SEMA staff to create valuable programs, events and education opportunities that propel the industry forward and lead SEMA's nine specialized market communities to success. (Applications to volunteer on a SEMA council or network select committee are open at 

SEMA Council and Network Select Committee

(left to right) Kirstin Backes of COBB Tuning, Rob Simons of Automotive Consulting Services and Hannah Coulter Neal of Automotion Customs share their experience as SEMA council and network select committee volunteers, including their impact and how industry members can make a difference, too. 

SEMA News has interviewed new and experienced volunteers to share their experience with the association, including their impact and how industry members--like you!--can make a difference, too. 

SEMA News: Can you share a memorable success story from your time volunteering with the Association?

Kirstin Backes (COBB Tuning): My first win came when I was with the Future Leaders Network (FLN), called the Young Executives Network (YEN) back in our day. I proposed a new event--an in-person Lunch and Learn at the SEMA headquarters in Diamond Bar--that focused on growing the skillset of our members. This event focused on digital marketing with the help of a professional digital marketing coach.

From the ideation to the final product, we drove the event to success with incredible attendance. Our members got the chance to have lunch with other aftermarket professionals and grow their network, too.

Rob Simons (Automotive Consulting Services): When I was chair-elect of the Emerging Trends & Technology Network (ETTN), the select committee commissioned a study to gauge the potential of engaging college students in the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) competition programs to come work in the aftermarket. That led us to partner with SAE to create the ETTN/SAE career fair program that connects future engineers with industry professionals and aftermarket companies. The event took place for the third time this year at both SEMA Garages, and we had 316 students from 36 schools participate! 

Hannah Coulter Neal (Automotion Customs): I remember attending a Professional Restylers Organization (PRO) restyler sales and installer training, and Josh Poulson (PRO chair) telling me "Your team has been accepted into the PRO Cup Challenge"--SEMA's competition for automotive restylers. Not only was that one of the most exciting feelings I ever had, but participating in the challenge was a dream! The accomplishment of having a car in the SEMA Show, and eventually winning the competition for our accessory package for the '22 Toyota Rav4 XLE is something I will never forget. 

SN: How has volunteering with SEMA contributed to your personal or professional growth? 

Backes: The impact of volunteering with the councils and networks is stamped all over my career. I've gotten jobs and moved across the country because of the connections and networks that I've made through my volunteering. I've made real friendships that have changed my life beyond measure, and certainly beyond professional impact.   

Simons: The contacts I've made and the network I've developed within the SEMA community has benefitted me in many ways. This includes accessing professional resources to help get my job done, career resources to help build my business, and life-long friendships. 

Coulter Neal: When I started at the company, I felt like it was us against the world and I very much had a "figure-it-out" mindset. Now, being a part of the PRO select committee, I've had the opportunity to connect and find people all across the country who are willing to help or just chat about situations that most of the world outside of our industry would not understand. 

For example, before joining SEMA PRO, I only knew a select few salespeople. I wanted to do some awesome Katzkin interior in the Rav4 we were putting in the PRO Cup Challenge. I did a quick search of PRO members and found that Ron Leslie was an active member. After a quick phone call, I was in contact with the lead designer of Katzkin, who was helping me with colors, designs, logos and everything else. It was such an awesome experience to see how willing everyone was to help me.

SN: Would you recommend volunteering on a select committee to others and why?  

Backes: I would always recommend industry volunteerism, specifically within a select committee that fits your goals, your life, and your job (or the job you want). It's as time-intensive as you choose to make it, and as an invested member, the connections you will make will grow not just your business, but the aftermarket as a whole, and have the power to change your life.  

Simons: Absolutely, 100%. Success in business is predicated on having a powerful network that you can leverage to help you succeed. There is no better way to build that network within your industry than through SEMA volunteerism.

Coulter Neal: Volunteering has given me the opportunity to learn something new every day and has given me a family in the industry. Every time I am in a meeting or with this group of people, I come back to the shop with new ideas that need to be implemented into our business model. It's also a great way to help propel the industry forward and give back to the industry that has given us all so much. 

Applications to volunteer on a SEMA council and network select committee close Friday, April 19. Learn more and apply at