SEMA News—February 2019


By Mike Imlay

Melanie White: SEMA Person of the Year

Melanie White
Melanie White, who was recently named the first woman president of Hellwig Products, received the SEMA 2018 Person of the Year award at the recent SEMA Show Industry Awards Banquet. The award honors exceptional volunteerism and leadership on behalf of the specialty-equipment industry.

Among the several distinguished honors bestowed at the annual SEMA Show Industry Awards Banquet, the Person of the Year award stands as perhaps the most prestigious. More than their own personal or career achievements, individuals who have received the award were selected in recognition of their tremendous service and contributions to the industry in advancing the success of the entire marketplace. At the recent 2018 SEMA Show ceremonies held in Las Vegas on Thursday night, November 1, the association named Melanie White of Hellwig Products as its 2018 Person of the Year.

White is known throughout the aftermarket as a proven leader for both her own business accomplishments and her dedication to the industry. Hailing from a founding SEMA-member company that has exhibited since the very first SEMA Show in 1967 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, she represents the fourth generation to join the family business established by her great-grandfather in 1946.

White started in Hellwig’s sales and marketing department 13 years ago, working her way up to vice president before ultimately becoming the company’s first female president last year. Even while tackling those considerable company responsibilities, she has always been an equally enthusiastic SEMA volunteer.

In fact, White’s involvement with the association has included membership in six SEMA councils and networks. In addition to earning several service awards from her council groups, she was among SEMA News’ first roster of “35 Under 35” young and rising talents in 2012. White also served as chair of the Truck and Off-Road Alliance (TORA) and has been an outspoken industry advocate, participating in Washington, D.C., Rallies and joining other SEMA members on international business-development trips. Her combination of experience and character made her a natural choice for the chair position of SEMA Cares, the association’s charity outreach—a role she stepped into last summer.

Melanie White
After receiving her Person of the Year award, White was congratulated backstage by SEMA Chairman of the Board Wade Kawasaki (right) and SEMA President and CEO Chris Kersting.

“SEMA is proud to recognize Melanie White as our 2018 Person of the Year,” said SEMA President and CEO Chris Kersting. “The goal of our association is to ensure that all member businesses succeed and prosper. Melanie’s dedication on behalf of SEMA is both exemplary and inspiring. She truly embodies the initiative, leadership and passion that are at the heart of the specialty-equipment aftermarket.”

For White, receiving the award was an incredible experience.

“Overall, I’ve just felt so lucky to be a part of SEMA and its volunteer network,” she said. “I love this industry so much. I love the people. I love the community and that we are all here for each other. I fell for the industry and what we could do together at my first TORA long-range planning meeting in Chicago. I remember the awe of just what is possible when we work together. SEMA is a place where you’re able to take your brand hat off and band together as an industry.”

White sees a number of challenges facing the aftermarket and is glad to be a member of a trade association working on effective solutions. She considers her work on behalf of SEMA Cares to be her greatest volunteer accomplishment to date.

“I’m especially proud to be a part of a team that raised more money than ever before for our SEMA Cares charities through our Pinewood racing event,” she said.

On a more personal note, White can’t express her appreciation enough for those who have helped propel her endeavors.

Melanie White
White, pictured here with SEMA Scholarship Committee Chair Kim Pendergast (right), CEO of Magnuson Products LLC, is now channeling her volunteerism into SEMA Cares, chairing the association’s philanthropic efforts.

“How many thank yous can I give?” she asked. “I have so many people I’m grateful for. My great-grandpa and grandpa for taking a risk and starting our company and growing it. My dad and mom for all of their support and encouragement through the years. And there are so many family members who have helped the company become what it is. I’ve also had amazing mentors and others in this industry who have become lifelong friends. Also, I wouldn’t be doing what I do without the support of my husband or the encouragement of my son, and I couldn’t do any of it without my amazing team at Hellwig.”

White hopes others, too, will avail themselves of the many education, networking and volunteer opportunities SEMA offers its members.

“I’d encourage folks to get more involved,” she said. “You give time but get so much back. It’s a great community in which to fight for what matters for our industry, and volunteering and being involved with SEMA is among the best things I’ve done. I’ve learned so much about the industry and how to get things accomplished.”

The presentation of Person of the Year honors to White was the culmination of numerous industry awards announced at the SEMA Show’s Thursday-night gala. Other award winners included Jon Pulli of Turn 14 Distribution, the Gen-III Innovator of the Year; Bob Cook Sales, the Manufacturer’s Rep Agency of the Year; Turn 14 Distribution, the Warehouse Distributor of the Year; and Aeromotive, the Manufacturer of the Year. SEMA’s most recent Hall of Fame inductees were also recognized, including Donnie Eatherly, Ed Pink and Chris Thomson.

“The SEMA Awards Banquet is always a highlight of the SEMA Show week,” Kersting said. “After several days of business at the Show, it’s a great time to switch gears and celebrate the passion that fuels the industry. Melanie and our several other award winners all stand out as special examples of the professionalism, passion and striving for excellence that we see throughout the Show. We’re honored to be able to recognize them.”

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