SEMA Person of the Year
Among the many honors announced each year at the SEMA Industry Awards Ceremony, the Person of the Year award is perhaps the most prestigious. Beyond any personal or professional achievements, the award recognizes an individual who embodies service and dedication to the specialty-equipment industry for the benefit of the entire aftermarket. For 2020, the association named DUB Magazine Co-founder Myles Kovacs recipient of this honor.
The Person of the Year Award typically is presented during the SEMA Week industry banquet in Las Vegas. However, 2020 being an unconventional year, the ceremonies moved online as part of the SEMA360 trade event, premiering on the SEMA YouTube Channel on Thursday evening, November 5. During the video production, Kovacs accepted the award from the DUB headquarters in Santa Fe Springs, California, surrounded by family, friends and team members.
“SEMA is proud to recognize Myles Kovacs as our 2020 Person of the Year,” said SEMA President and CEO Chris Kersting. “The goal of our association is to help SEMA businesses succeed and prosper, and Myles’ ongoing volunteerism on behalf of SEMA and our members has done much to accomplish that goal. His career within the industry, on the SEMA Board of Directors and in a variety of other roles has been one of passion and leadership. Just as importantly, he has been generous in giving back to others and sharing what he has learned while pursuing his dreams.”
Accepting the award, Kovacs was visibly moved.
“I’m proud of my team, proud of myself,” he said. “We’ve worked really hard and went through a lot to get here. It’s just a really humbling experience. I’m so honored and blessed.”
Since first arriving on the automotive scene nearly 30 years ago, Kovacs has forged an impressive list of accomplishments. In 2000, he and his business partners founded DUB Magazine, an automotive lifestyle publication named for the 20-plus-in. wheels then popular in the hip-hop scene. The magazine made an instant splash with its fusion of urban custom-car culture and celebrity rides. The publishing effort created a brand that spawned the nationwide DUB Magazine Custom Auto Show and Concert, touring 16 U.S. cities, along with Jada Toys’ DUB City die-cast and radio-controlled vehicles, a DUB Edition line of car accessories, the Rockstar Games’ Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition video game, and the DUB Online Network.
In 2010, Kovacs was elected to the SEMA Board of Directors, serving a three-year volunteer term. In addition to his Board service, Kovacs has worked on several industry task forces, including the SEMA Show Committee; the Gen-III Innovator of the Year Task Force, which he chaired; and the association’s Scholarships Committee, where he served as a judge. In addition, he has been recognized for his involvement with the SEMA Wheel & Tire Council and has been a frequent presenter for SEMA Education, in recent years hosting “The Stage” at the annual SEMA Show and SEMA360, where he interviews industry experts on a variety of business topics.
Ironically, Kovacs began his career feeling somewhat of an outsider. Growing up in a tough East Los Angeles neighborhood, he lacked a firm goal in life. In his senior year, he found himself kicked out of high school but fortunate enough to land a job delivering car rims. Soon he was learning everything he could about wheels. That ultimately led to him to start DUB Magazine when he was 24 with a $20,000 investment secured from his friend Clay York, who has since passed away.
“My first SEMA Show was when I was 17 years old,” he recalled. “I remember going through a hotel casino to a Show event, and I couldn’t even walk the floor. They had to make me stand in the aisle because I was too young. Just seeing that whole thing, I was like, this is larger than life, something I can never dream of.”
During DUB’s early years, Kovacs and his team set up rival events across from the SEMA Show and “suitcased” the Las Vegas Convention Center.
“We were public enemy number one for SEMA,” he said. “We were aggressive. It was really bad. It’s funny that now, I’m personally here.”
So what transformed him from an outsider to a dedicated SEMA volunteer? Kovacs credited coming into contact with association members who encouraged and mentored him, starting with former SEMA Chairman of the Board Wade Kawasaki, whom he met by chance during an automotive photo shoot. On the lengthy drive back from the shoot, he and Kawasaki got to talking.
“That was my first Business 101,” Kovacs said. “I remember Wade telling me you have to be less like a bull and more like a tiger. You’re still strong, but you have to kind of blend in with the bushes. You can’t just be doing everything because that’s what you want to do.”
That conversation helped nudge Kovacs toward deeper involvement with SEMA. The more he engaged with industry peers, the more he discovered camaraderie and support for his own growth as a young entrepreneur. He came to understand the business world and how he fit into that picture. His personal development in turn helped him deal with several challenges over the ensuing years, including two temporary incidents of blindness that ultimately required two separate cornea transplants to save his sight. Those experiences are behind his volunteerism on behalf of the industry and others today.
“If you actually get the proper tools, you’re going to excel greatly, so I’ve focused on dedicating my life to basically sharing tools,” he explained. “That’s how I look at it. I’m giving my time and basically saying my toolbox is pretty good because of all the experiences that I’ve gone through. I’m going to give people the right tools, teach people how to use them, and then it’s up to them to do it.”
Asked if he had anyone special to thank for his award, Kovacs expressed appreciation for a number of people, beginning with his wife, Cynthia, and their children, Andy and Michaela. Additionally, he thanked Kawasaki and his wife Rose; SEMA Chairman of the Board Tim Martin and his wife Kristen; and Kersting and his wife Lisa. (“They’ve been actually mentoring me and Cynthia for the last 20 years—you can’t do it alone,” he said.) Also high on his list were business partners Haythem Haddad, Haytham Elzayn and John Ramos as well as the entire DUB team, who, he added, “make me look really good and really make it all happen.”
“The SEMA Industry Awards Ceremony is always a high point of SEMA Week,” Kersting said. “This year, the awards took on special significance as the aftermarket rose to meet the unprecedented challenges of 2020. Myles and our other honorees stood out as examples of the unique sort of excellence, volunteerism and determination we find throughout our SEMA-member businesses. We again congratulate Myles and all our 2020 award recipients.”