SEMA News September

By SEMA News Editors

Meet Our 2022 Class of Next-Gen Talent

35 Under 35

Each year the industry eagerly steps up to nominate young people representing a broad range of disciplines. Engineers, product developers, builders, marketing and communications professionals, racers, sales people—you name the category, and there are young experts pushing our industry forward with fresh answers to traditional problems and novel (often high-tech) ways of reaching new heights. In fact, amid the explosion of technologies in a digital age, our “35’ers” aren’t much different from the industry’s early pioneers whose tinkering, experimenting and innovating laid the foundations of the aftermarket we know now. Today’s innovators may have exchanged mobile devices for slide rules, CAD data and lasers for pencils and sketches, and social media for print communications, but they’re no less enthusiastic about the automobile’s future than their predecessors were.

We wonder: In 40–50 years, who will be considered the industry icons? Whose names will become synonymous with the automotive lifestyle? Who will be the SEMA Hall of Fame inductees of the 2060s and 2070s? We suspect there are more than a few hints in this year’s “35 Under 35” roster.

In the following pages, we’re again pleased to present 35 trendsetters, age 35 and younger, drawn from a broad industry talent pool. In order to make our “35 Under 35” list, honorees must first be nominated by one or more industry peers. Poring through the nominations, SEMA News looks for candidates from a variety of backgrounds who are making significant contributions through their leadership within their organization or business. Entrepreneurship, commitment, insight, innovation, integrity, responsibility, and demonstrated skill, involvement and success within the marketplace weigh heavily in our decision-making.

It’s become a cliché in awards circles to say the selection process is never easy since every nominee is a winner. But with “35 Under 35” it’s actually true—winnowing a field of exceptional individuals down to a list of just 35 often involves some tough choices. Ultimately, however, choose we must, and we appreciate all this year’s candidates for their sizable industry contributions.

With that said, here is our 2022 class of honorees. We think you’ll agree that they’re an inspiring group of individuals with bright futures ahead. Given what they’ve already accomplished, we can’t wait to see what’s next for them—and our industry—in the years to come.

This year marks the tenth anniversary of our SEMA News “35 Under 35” program. When we first launched this annual feature in September 2012, the goals were simple: to identify and encourage rising industry talent and introduce that talent to the wider aftermarket. We had no idea how popular the feature would become.

Mallorie Anderson, 27
AndersonCustomer Service Manager
QA1 Precision Products

“My most cherished memories from childhood were cruising around, listening to classics in my dad’s ’70 Chevelle SS,” Mallorie Anderson says, and her lifelong love of the automotive lifestyle has carried over into her career at QA1, where she has built a talented team of customer-service professionals who regularly handle a record number of calls and customer orders while also providing technical support. “Our customers look to us for creative solutions and world-class support, and we take much pride in delivering that experience,” Anderson says.

That spirit of service continues away from the job. Anderson works as a volunteer with a local woman’s center, where she assists young women and mothers. She has also been involved with the SEMA Businesswomen’s Network (SBN), participating in the inaugural SBN Women’s Leadership Forum earlier this year. For the future, she plans to continue her career for QA1, “playing an integral part of the Business Development team.”

Which Influencers Do You Follow? “Melinda French Gates as a global businesswoman and advocate for womens’ empowerment.”

What’s on Your Playlist? “You name it, it’s most likely in my playlist. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Dire Straits, Jay-Z, Lil Wayne, Chevelle and Three Days Grace are just a few examples.”

 

Reza Arsham, 22

ArshamTechnical Engineer
Gogogear.com Racing Team

“Coming into the same industry as your family, it can be difficult to find your niche,” Reza Arsham admits, but he has managed to carve out an identity for himself at a young age.

A lifelong motorsports enthusiast (his involvement with Gogogear.com dates from age five), Arsham first established himself as a data analyst, extracting data from race cars and providing reports to help clients improve their building or racing skills. But his true love is getting out on the track: “I always get a thrill out of racing with others and going wheel to wheel,” he says, and he has been as quick to master the art of racing as the science of data analysis. Two years ago, he became the youngest-ever USTCC SP Class winner, piloting his Konig Wheels/Gogogear.com BMW M3 to victory at Buttonwillow Raceway at age 20.

Which Influencers Do You Follow? “I follow many influencers. I don’t do as much social media as I probably should, but I always try to make time to keep up with Adam LZ, Gears & Gasoline, Throttle House, WTF1, Engineering Explained and many more. I try to get inspiration from their channels and look at things in a new way.”

What’s on Your Playlist? “I usually listen to something upbeat with a fast tempo. Recently it has been a lot of EDM.”

Josh Beberg, 28
Content Production Manager
Driven Lighting Group

Beberg

A seven-year industry veteran, Beberg credits Hollywood for providing his entree into the automotive sphere. “Since the first Fast and Furious movie was released, I was hooked,” he confesses, and as a youngster he began producing videos of his own for fun.

Today, he has established himself as an industry leader in content creation at Driven Lighting Group, managing video production for Driven Lighting’s multiple companies. That translates into seven different YouTube channels, nine different Facebook pages, and three different TikTok accounts, and in the last 12 months alone, his content has been seen more than 30 million times. The variety of his assignments keeps him on the move. “From renting out racetracks to drifting on camera, from wild events to remote locations, the uniqueness of every video shoot is what excites me.”

Which Influencers Do You Follow? “Besides the influencers we have in our marketing department, Donut Media is the top influencer for us. Other good influencers would be the guys from Custom Offsets. How they create content is exactly what we shoot for.”

What’s on Your Playlist? “Donut Media, Bigger Pockets (Brandon Turner, David Greene) and Grant Cardone are always at the top when it comes to my personal playlist.”

Iori Arata, 25
Social Media Manager
Vivid Racing

Arata

Arata’s love for all things automotive started in her native Japan with a Gen 1 Miata she purchased for ¥100,000 (around $750). “I started repairing it, which led to modifying it, which led to racing, which led to my new passion,” she admits.

All that inspired her to relocate to the United States to pursue her dream full-time. “I was so unsure about leaving a safe, normal job and moving across the world with limited English skills to pursue a career in such a large and intimidating industry,” she says, but since arriving in the United States, first at HKS USA and then at Vivid Racing, she has made a mark in the industry by creating unique digital campaigns to promote Vivid’s presence across six proprietary branded companies. Down the road, she looks to return to racing: “My five-year plan is to continue to grow as a builder and fabricator, and I hope to have a pro license in both drifting and road racing disciplines.”

Which Influencers Do You Follow? “The most influential people I follow and interact with include Jimmy Oakes, Rich Rebuilds, Vin Anatra, Greddy Kenji and The Car Passion Channel.”

What’s on Your Playlist? “‘Glimpse of Us’ by Joji, ‘Reflex’ by SAINt JHN, ‘Commissary’ by Clever, ‘Legends’ by Juice World, and ‘Father Time’ by Kendrick Lamar.”

Meghan Bintz, 25
BintzGeneral Manager
RHR Brands, RHRSwag.com

An industry pro since age 14, when she joined her father’s aftermarket accessory company, Meghan Bintz oversees the operations of a rapidly growing e-commerce brand. With hands-on experience in customer service, accounting, marketing, business development and human resources, she’s managed every aspect of RHRSwag’s day-to-day operations, and under her guidance, annual revenues grew from zero to $10 million in the company’s first two years. “Our customers are trying to better their lives and their vehicles, and we’re just happy to help,” she says.

Bintz credits her father Scott for much of her success, admitting that at first “I never really knew what kind of career I wanted,” but now, “I forever see myself within the automotive industry—but I know I have so much more to learn.”

“The most challenging and exciting aspect of our business is that things are constantly changing,” she adds. “Vehicle styles, customer wants and needs, keeping an eye out for new vendors or products, and, of course, with the economy today, you have to constantly be reevaluating the market to stay present and competitive. It can be stressful, but it keeps you on your toes.”

Which Influencers Do You Follow? None.

What’s on Your Playlist? “‘1,2,3’ by Sofia Reyes and ‘Plain Jane’ by Hailey Whitters.”

Chad Boat, 30
BoatOwner
CB Industries

“I started racing as soon as I could at age five and have been involved—whether racing or owning—ever since,” Chad Boat says, and this son of a former IndyCar driver has a long list of racing accomplishments that would be sufficient to make him a worthy nominee: Nine USAC National Midget wins, a Belleville Midget Nationals Championship, a Chili Bowl Prelim Feature and a VIROC Race of Champions win.

But he’s also transitioned into a team owner and crew chief—with sponsors including TRD and NOS Energy Drink—who has added to his list of achievements on the track: 2020 USAC National Midget Championship, 2020 USAC Indiana Midget Week Championship (top two finishers), 2021 USAC BC39 Champion, 2021 Huset’s Nationals Feature winner (USAC), 2021 Eldora 4-Crown Nationals winner (USAC), multiple sprint car wins including a World of Outlaws title, and some 30 feature midget wins between the USAC and Powri series.

To top it off, he also holds a finance degree from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. For the future, he says, “I see myself continuing to grow CBI as a brand and bringing us into different areas of motorsports.”

Which Influencers Do You Follow? “Any racing media member to stay up with current news.”

What’s on Your Playlist? “Cole Swindell’s new album.”

Tara Bloch, 32
Director of Marketing
Diode Dynamics

Bloch“Before working at Diode Dynamics, I wouldn’t have considered myself an automotive enthusiast,” Tara Bloch admits, but while she’s only spent seven years in the industry, she has accomplished quite a lot.

In her first year, she single-handedly planned and executed Diode Dynamics’ first-ever SEMA Show booth. Since then, she has built an entire marketing department, now leading a staff of 12 with a seven-figure annual budget. She successfully created and launched an entirely new sub-brand in 2022 with more than $1 million marketing investment, and under her leadership, Diode Dynamics has grown by more than 30% every year.

Working in a business that strives to stay on the leading edge of technology gives Bloch a sense of pride and satisfaction.
“I appreciate being a part of a company that holds itself to such high standards and is continually raising the bar for what we can achieve,” she says.

Looking into the future, she see boundless opportunities: “It’s exciting to think about what new marketing tools will be available in five to 10 years to reach our audience!”

Which Influencers Do You Follow? “My favorite influencer is a St. Louis local, The Car Mom (@the_car_mom)!”

What’s on Your Playlist? “Thomas Rhett.”

Chris Cervenka, 30
Director of Marketing
Steeda

Cervenka

“My love for Mustangs began as far back as I can remember,” Chris Cervenka says, and working for Steeda “has allowed me to take this passion to an entirely new level.”

For starters, Cervenka and the Steeda team helped forge a partnership with Edelbrock that led to transforming their Steeda Silver Bullet drag car, the fastest naturally aspirated ’18+ Mustang on pump gas, to forced induction. Cervenka has spearheaded multiple vendor marketing programs, including a multi-channel campaign aimed at testing products and educating Mustang owners, and he was involved in designing and developing the track-focused 19-in. Trident wheel for ’05–’22 Mustangs.

More recently, Cervenka was selected to join the Business Advisory Board at Valdosta State University’s College of Business Administration. As for the future, he remains open-minded: “As long as I’m constantly learning and growing, then I can’t ask for much more.”

Which Influencers Do You Follow? “So many! For personal finance, I look to Dave Ramsey. Career and leadership: Craig Groeschel, Ken Coleman and Simon Sinek. I also enjoy following many photography and travel accounts on social media.”

What’s on Your Playlist? “While at the University of Maryland, I actually DJ’ed around the DC-Metro area. I still enjoy listening to electronic dance music today.”

Evan Cook, 30
CookCOO
Trim Illusion

“When Trim Illusion started 10 years ago,” Cook recalls, “I came on as an order picker, stocker, cleaner—whatever was needed at the time.” As the company grew, so did Cook’s work responsibilities, and at age 30, he’s now the company’s COO.

Colby McLaughlin, Trim Illusions president, says that “Evan has had a direct hand in the tremendous growth of Trim Illusion.” The industry has also taken notice; Cook participated in the SEMA Future Leaders Network’s (FLN) inaugural Carnegie Professional Development Program this past March, and Trim Illusion was named Manufacturer of the Year for 2021 by SEMA’s Professional Restylers Organization (PRO).

“It has been very fulfilling to be a part of this company from the beginning, and watching us grow to where we are now,” Cook concludes.

Which Influencers Do You Follow? “I get on social media a bit but mostly I connect with family and friends. I’ve been doing more reading lately, and enjoy anything I can learn from.”

What’s on Your Playlist? “I love to switch it up with my playlist. Country, rap, rock, pop—I like a little of everything. My go-to is probably classic rock, but my tops right now are Morgan Wallen, Post Malone, Dirty Honey, Russ and Lil Baby.”

Mike Danielli, 35
DanielliDirector
Outback Kitters (formerly SCD Performance)

“There was a growing demand for American pickup trucks to be imported to Australia and remanufactured to right-hand drive,” Brisbane native Mike Danielli says. Seeing a lack of aftermarket accessories for these trucks in his home country, he launched SCD Performance to import and accessorize the vehicles. He then started Outback Kitters to produce suspension, bullbars, bash plates, battery boxes, compressor boxes, roof racks and other components.

In only four years, the company has grown to a staff of 25 with $5 million in annual business. He has also exported products to the United States, Canada, Slovakia, Bosnia, Mexico, the United Kingdom and Germany. Looking ahead, he aims to start up a dealership program throughout the United States and Australia, and to diversify his product line to meet new consumer demands, as he explains: “With electric vehicles becoming increasingly popular, I’m excited to see how my team can design products for these vehicles and stay ahead of the market.”

Which Influencers Do You Follow? “I like crazy people and companies, like Ken Block, Hennessey Performance, Kibbetech and Matt from TheExploreLife (local Aussie).”

What’s on Your Playlist? “It starts with the kid’s playlist; anything from the ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ theme song to Kenny Loggins’ ‘Danger Zone.’ Then it’s classic ‘Dad Rock’!”

Nathan Espinosa, 31
Senior Account Executive
Kahn Media

EspinosaWhat first attracted Nathan Espinosa to the automotive industry? “The SEMA Show,” he says, and since joining Kahn Media as an intern, he’s racked up a string of successes managing the accounts of multiple major aftermarket players. Self-taught, he’s skilled in virtually every aspect of PR, media relations and social-media marketing, including influencer engagement, ad creation and marketing for sanctioning bodies.

Espinosa helped manage Aeromotive’s transition from multi-step distribution to direct-to-consumer sales, helping the company achieve record sales several years in a row, and he’s managed PR campaigns for Optima Batteries’ successful Optima Street Car Challenge at the 2021 SEMA Show. He has assisted in the launch of several new Nitto tires through successful PR campaigns as well.

Espinosa is described as a “hardcore car guy with everything from a ZL1 Camaro, to a square-body Chevy pickup project, to a tuned MINI Cooper.” Amid his successes, Espinosa remains unassuming, saying his proudest achievement has been “helping amazing brands find success in 2020 following the pandemic.”

Which Influencers Do You Follow? “Alex Taylor, Larry Chen, Christopher Polvoorde, Kyle Kuhnhausen, Matt Field, Emily Reeves, David Freiburger, David Patterson, Tj Hunt and Adam LZ.”

What’s on Your Playlist? “Anything ’80s and classic West Coast hip-hop.”

Arun Coumar, 27
Managing Director
Driven Performance Advisors

CoumarA CPA, MBA and lifelong car guy “stuck” in the world of management consulting, in 2020 Coumar quit his job and founded Driven Performance Advisors which specializes, in his words, in providing guidance to “business owners and executives who are frustrated with battling the roadblocks to growth and are ready to bring in a different perspective and extra set of hands to jump past those roadblocks.”

Coumar’s consultancy is results-driven: One client saw its sales triple within two months after implementing some of Driven Performance’s recommended policy changes. He is also a longtime volunteer who has served on the select committee of the SEMA Future Leaders Network (FLN).

Not content to rest on his accomplishments, Coumar is formally entering the field of private equity. Down the road, he envisions that “we’ll have a nine-figure investment fund capable of creating fast-acting change in automotive aftermarket companies that will build incredible value for car enthusiasts for generations to come.”

Which Influencers Do You Follow? “Charles Siritho, Cleetus McFarland, WhistlinDiesel, Andy Frisella and Sean Whalen.”

What’s on Your Playlist? “Metal! Bring Me the Horizon, Cane Hill, Northlane, Emmure, Aela, Wage War.”

Ryan Fuller, 27
FullerInternal Auditor
Standard Testing Labs (STL)

A fourth-generation automotive industry pro (his grandfather founded STL), Ryan Fuller has continued his family tradition with a big breakthrough, developing and launching a new company website in 2020.

“Creating an online presence for STL was a huge accomplishment for me,” he says. He has also reintroduced independent product testing into the sprint car world for tire and wheel components, and he led the integration and onboarding of ADP into STL’s accounting systems. He has developed an industry education class for local high schools, and he has served in the Army Reserve as combat engineer, where he received a Commander’s Award for his service in Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. He also serves on the SEMA Wheel & Tire Council’s (WTC) select committee.

Fuller ultimately aims for ownership of STL. “It’s a logical progression in my career, and one that I believe I will succeed with.”

Which Influencers Do You Follow? “I’m not really into influencers in a traditional sense. I do have some amazing mentors though. Some I work with at STL, others I have met through SEMA. These are folks I work daily with that I have looked up to.”

What’s on Your Playlist? “I’m a big fan of real country music. Anything released by Riley Green, Cody Johnson, Brooks & Dunn and Whiskey Myers.”

Carter Helch, 28
Owner
Shiftworks

HelchA veteran builder and fabricator—he created the first reproduction shifter for the ’68–’82 Corvette this year—Helch purchased Shiftworks in 2020 from the former owner who wanted to retire. Six months later, his mother was diagnosed with stage-4 cancer, and Helch was suddenly forced to juggle the responsibilities of running a new company and caring for an ailing parent.

“My world shifted like I had never thought possible,” he admits, but heeding his mother’s wishes, he persevered at the business, which grew by more than 30% in 2020 and 2021. “In her memory,” he concludes, “I strive to never let up and give my best to all I involve myself with.”

Which Influencers Do You Follow? “Top industry influencers I follow are Chip Foose, David Freiburger, Mike Finnegan, Garrea Mitchell (Cleetus McFarland), Jacob Davis (Sally’s Speed Shop), Derek Bieri (Vice Grip Garage), Alex Taylor Racing and last but not least my business mentor and close friend and Shiftworks founder Herb Gray.”

What’s on Your Playlist? “Typically, my top playlists range from ’80s rock and pop to modern country, ’90s hip-hop to ’00s alternative, big-hair bands to Run-DMC. It all depends on the road I’m driving on and what car or truck I’m in.”

Cecilia Herrell Rogers, 29
Head of Marketing
Renegade Race Fuels

Rogers“A car enthusiast through and through,” she says, Herrell Rogers first fell in love with the automotive world via her father, who spent his weekends working on a ’69 Z28 Camaro. That passion has translated into her career as well. Promoted to head of marketing after less than three years at Renegade Race Fuels, she works as a one-person marketing department.

“I do everything on the marketing side, from sponsorships, weekly newsletters, social media, graphic design, photography, videography and more,” Herrell Rogers says. She has also gained notice among her peers, and this year she was one of only 25 industry professionals who were nominated to attend the first SEMA Future Leaders Network (FLN) Professional Development Program. As one of SEMA News’ 35 Under 35 for 2022, she says, “I hope it will inspire other young females in the industry to continue pursuing their dreams in a male-dominated world.”

Which Influencers Do You Follow? “I don’t have a specific influencer I follow exactly. I just love seeing content from people who I have met that are truly nice and genuine people. That makes me like them even more!”

What’s on Your Playlist? “I love ’80s in general, but Hall and Oates are my favorite. I can listen to them anytime.”

Talena Handley, 34
HandleyFounder and CEO
Girlie Garage

Talena Handley’s introduction to the automotive world was unusual, to say the least. “When my car was stolen for the second time, I didn’t trust anyone to help me put it back together, so I put myself through automotive school,” she says.

Handley has certainly come a long way since then. A graduate of the Honda PACT program, she has worked for the Playboy Nissan 350z team at the GrandAm Rolex series, for the Ferrari F430 Challenge series, and for the North American Festival of Speed. After earning a degree in Business in 2018, she started Girlie Garage two years later. Fully monetized in 2022, her steadily growing YouTube channel has 1,600 subscribers. Handley credits her success to consistency: “It’s very difficult to stay consistent with a startup. Instagram and YouTube are a full-time job.”

Looking forward, she hopes “to help millions of people. I believe that is possible in the next five to 10 years. I personally would like to make a positive impact on the planet as well as influencing the next generation to do the things they are passionate about.”

Which Influencers Do You Follow? “@HondaProJason.”

What’s on Your Playlist? “My playlist is super eclectic. Some favorites: ‘Electricity,’ Dua Lipa; ‘Lucky Me,’ The Knocks; ‘My Own Prison,’ Creed.”

Cristina Jorge, 35
Vice President
Specialty Automotive Treatments

Jorge“My dad used to always say, ‘If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life,’ Cristina Jorge recalls, and she has taken his advice to heart. A 12-year industry veteran, she runs one of South Florida’s top restyling shops, one which took the People’s Choice award at the inaugural PRO Cup Challenge, a restyling competition presented by the SEMA Professional Restylers Organization (PRO) in 2019. Her company received even greater recognition in 2021 when Specialty Automotive Treatments was recognized as the SEMA PRO Restyler of The Year. “It was a special moment after navigating through such a challenging year in 2020,”
she says.

Jorge also serves on the PRO select committee. “I must say that without the support of everyone on our team at SAT, I would not be where I am today.” She adds that she aims to continue growing the business into the future, automating its sales and operating processes “to expand into new markets and territories.”

Which Influencers Do You Follow? “@_semapro, @supercarblondie, @sJnnalakota, @mikecrawat, @amyshorephotography, and @hallakedharvest because I love to cook!”

What’s on Your Playlist? “‘Cold Heart’ by Elton John and Dua Lipa (PNAU Remix), ‘Sugar’ by Maroon 5, ‘I Like You’ by Post Malone featuring Doja Cat, ‘Falling Back’ by Drake.”

Brennan Lieu, 19
Vice President of Product Development
AWA Forged Companies

LieuIt was the summer of 2019, and Brennan Lieu was working as an intern for the MOOG Aircraft Group. He was working on simulating the flight controls of the MQ-25 Stingray military drone when he was introduced through a mutual acquaintance to Bryan Gill, the CTO of AWA, a company that manufactures composite engine components. Impressed with his work, Gill hired Lieu as an unpaid summer intern before promoting him to the position of design and production applications specialist.

In May 2021, Lieu was promoted again to his current position as vice president of product development. Among other duties, he has worked on the invention of composite tappets/lifters, pushrods, pistons and wristpins, and is listed on their patent applications, and he has organized and managed a high-stakes production project with a $620,000 capital equipment investment. Oh, and he’s doing all this while studying engineering at Stanford.

Which Influencers Do You Follow? “I currently only follow one automotive influencer, and that is @americanmusclehd on Instagram. At the last PRI Trade Show, I was introduced to Garrett Reed, CEO/founder of americanmusclehd, and he awarded our composite lifters the Judge’s Pick award!”

What’s on Your Playlist? “My favorite songs are ‘Industry Baby’ by Lil Nas X and ‘Confident’ by Demi Lovato. My favorite artists are Lil Nas X, Demi Lovato, Ariana Grande and Kanye West.”

Love Lontoc, 32
LontocBrand Manager Associate
KW Automotive North America Inc.

Sometimes one’s career path takes an unexpected turn, as Love Lontoc can attest—and sometimes it works out for the best.

Originally planning a career as an auto technician, Lontoc shifted directions in her late 20s, and after a stint of working in retail, she managed to “get my foot in the door” with a position at KW Automotive. She hit the ground running and hasn’t stopped since. She’s been promoted three times in three short years, and since joining the company she has played an instrumental role in developing and managing new products for the KW, ST and Belltech brands. “It’s always exciting building something custom,” she says.

Lontoc has also served as a volunteer for the SEMA Businesswomen’s Network (SBN). Unfazed by her current success, Lontoc has plenty of future goals. “I see myself either climbing the corporate ladder or having my own business—maybe multiple businesses if things pan out well.”

Which Influencers Do You Follow? “A few influencers I follow are AutoEdits, Samatha Tan, Stephaniedrifts and Dustin Williams.”

What’s on Your Playlist? “Lately, I’ve been alternating between ‘Skyline’ by Khalid and ‘Misery Business’ by Paramore.”

Dan LaRou, 27
LaRouAccount Manager
Chrome Enhancements

Dan LaRou is a man on the move. In 2013, at age 18, he was a part of a start-up software company that helped car dealerships show aftermarket accessories to their customers via a visualizer tool. The company grew so quickly, it sold within a year. LaRou then started his work for Chrome Enhancements as an account manager, overseeing as many as 40 representatives across the U.S. and Canada.

But he didn’t stop there. He has been able to expand his product knowledge and expertise outside of his normal product set. With that knowledge he has been able to bring on more niche wholesale customers. At Chrome Enhancements, he manages all day-to-day operations of product ordering, sales and customer service.

“My greatest career accomplishment has been over the last four years I have been able to ensure that my sales representatives meet their sales expectations year over year and on track for year number five,” LaRou says. He serves on the Future Leaders Network (FLN) select committee, where he participates on the Professional Development Program, FLN Reception and Nominations subcommittees.

Which Influencers Do You Follow? “The top three influencers I follow the most are Cleetus McFarland, Kyle Loftis from 1320Video.com and Jock Willink.”

What’s on Your Playlist? “In my playlist, you will find rock covers of popular songs that have come out over the years.”

Robert McLogan, 34
Content and Partnerships Manager
Liqui Moly USA

McLoganRobert McLogan’s love of cars began at an early age. “My father was a mechanic, so I’ve always had a fascination with cars, truck and powersports,” he says, and he has channeled that passion into the ever-evolving world of digital marketing and content creation.

At Liqui Moly, McLogan has been responsible for increasing search by 50% and growing LM’s social-media accounts more than 30%; in a previous position at K&N, he posted similar numbers. Liqui Moly has seen significant growth in the powersports category as McLogan has focused his efforts on spotlighting new influencers and race teams to maximize LM’s visibility. He’s currently also studying for an MBA, and he sees the future as a bright one. “The sky’s the limit for the next five to 10 years.”

Which Influencers Do You Follow? “I follow Blake Wilkey, Brad Deberti, Sara Price and the Deegans. Those guys are all putting out amazing content and I love their delivery and incorporation of their partnered brands.”

What’s on Your Playlist? “Normally it’s either classic rock, hair metal or blues, but Midland has been putting out great albums, so they’re my go-to right now when I hop in the truck.”

Melissa Parker-Boudreaux, 31
National Sales Manager
Oracle Lighting

Parker-BoudreauxAn 11-year industry veteran, Melissa Parker-Boudreaux joined Oracle Lighting’s team at 18 (she was Oracle’s youngest-ever hire) and quickly worked her way through the company’s various departments, learning every part of the business until being promoted to national sales manager.

Currently Parker-Boudreaux oversees a team of dynamic sales professionals who have helped to grow the business some 90% over the past four years. Tiffanie Hartenstein, CEO of Oracle, says that Parker-Boudreaux played “a big part in our company receiving the SEMA Manufacturer of the Year award in 2021 as well as our continued SEMA Data Platinum status.” Parker-Boudreaux has also served on the SEMA Businesswomen’s Network (SBN) and has volunteered on several subcommittees.

Which Influencers Do You Follow? “I don’t follow influencers who are selling products or posting ads. I follow our customers on social media accounts such as Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. Following our core customer base allows me to see how consumers will influence our business and how we can grow their business together.”

What’s on Your Playlist? “My playlist for music is a mix of country, Kane Brown being a favorite, soft rock like Elton John, and I have a huge love for ’90s R&B artists like Usher and Nelly.”

Wesley Poole, 31
Founder and CEO
Forged Authority

PooleA former SEMA Launch Pad finalist, Wesley Poole founded Forged Authority while working as an engineer at John Deere, entering the truck accessories field despite “the challenge of competing against so many great companies.” His ingenuity paid off in the form of his patented MFR modular storage assembly.

“Being granted our patent is my proudest achievement thus far,” he says. “The amount of effort and process the patent required was reassuring that we’re on the right path.”

Poole has also volunteered as a task force member for the SEMA Future Leaders Network (FLN). Looking into the future, Poole isn’t standing still. “We are currently in the middle of purchasing a new facility that will extend our space by four times,” he says. “We still have a list of new products on the bench that we are testing, and we hope to push into new markets.”

Which Influencers Do You Follow? “I enjoy influencers such as Ian Lehn, and Jonny Mill. They give so much to the community and ask nothing in return. On a personal level, people like David Goggins inspire me to conquer new boundaries for myself.”

What’s on Your Playlist? “My playlist is a terrible shuffle! I enjoy everything from Of Mice and Men, Shinedown, to Griz, back to CCR and Brooks and Dunn. I enjoy songs with passion that set the tone for the moment.”

Rebeca Olavarrieta, 35
OlivarrietaCEO
Roco 4x4

An accomplished builder and businesswoman with locations in Miami and Honduras, Rebeca Olavarrieta has worked as a SEMA Show guest mechanic at the West Coast Customs Experience; was the official Jeep mechanic for the Discovery TV series “The Auto Firm With Alex Vega;” and has competed in SEMA’s Battle of the Builders. Her work has been featured on magazine covers such as Jeep Action Magazine, and she has hosted Roco Adventure Week, an international off-roading challenge. Olavarrieta has also served as communications chair for the SEMA Businesswomen’s Network (SBN) select committee, and at present, she’s planning to open another Roco 4x4 next year, this one in Madrid.

Which Influencers Do You Follow? “Gary V is my Instagram favorite, and Tim Ferriss wins my podcast choice any day! Faye Hadley is my favorite YouTuber, and Charlene Bower (Ladies Offroad Network on Facebook) is great. I wish there were more Spanish-speaking content creators in the automotive space—maybe I’ll have to take that plunge!”

What’s on Your Playlist? “My office playlists go from Jimmy Buffet, Elvis, Donna Summers, Barry White and Ray Charles to Shakira and Luis Miguel to satisfy my Latin roots. In the shop, my go-to music is Metallica, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Evanescence, Ozzy Osbourne, Radiohead and Rage Against the Machine.”

Sam Poradish, 29
Manager of Strategic Insights
Repairify

PordishI’ve always been fascinated by machines.” Sam Poradish says, and after building a Cobra kit car with his farther in college, he “fell in love with the craft” and took a job at a shop outside of Austin, where he completed his ASE master-tech certifications (for multiple OEs) within two years.

Fast forward six years, and he now leads a multi-million-dollar data insights group that covers more than 6.5 million vehicles per year. In his own words, Poradish “architected and implemented the analytics database that is the foundation of the asTech patented rules engine. It facilitates the real-time collection, standardization, and comparison of large volumes of diagnostic scan data to support our research and development efforts,” which he considers his greatest career accomplishment to date. (Tony Rimas, Repairify’s president, puts it succinctly: “Sam is literally a genius.”)

For the future, Poradish has set the goal to “deliver a data warehouse that will establish us as the premiere provider of standardized diagnostic data.”

Which Influencers Do You Follow? “Does Doug DeMuro count? He kicked off my obsession with 80-series Land Cruisers.”

What’s on Your Playlist? “At home: Khruangbin’s ‘Con Todo El Mundo.’ Writing Code: Daft Punk’s ‘Tron’ soundtrack. Turning Wrenches: Led Zeppelin’s ‘Houses of the Holy.’”

Tanner Russell, 29
Director of Sales
K&N Engineering

Russell“I’m not a car guy,” Tanner Russell confesses, but a truck he owned as a teenager ran a K&N filter, so when the company offered him a sales position, he jumped at “a great opportunity to learn another business model while still staying in e-commerce.”

Russell says that working for K&N posed some unique challenges: “With so many SKUs, catalog management alone takes a significant amount of time.” But over the past three years, he has proven to be a quick study, delivering consistent sales growth of more than 30% year over year while creating an online platform aimed at the DIY consumer.

“I love the challenge of breaking into a new segment,” he says, expressing his pride in “becoming a director at such a young age.” Over the next few years, he hopes to have ongoing leadership opportunities and responsibilities within K&N while “continuing to help expand businesses into new channels to drive additional opportunities and success.”

Which Influencers Do You Follow? “Kirk Herbstreit, Inky Johnson, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Bigger Pockets, The Wealth Dad.”

What’s on Your Playlist? “Anything by Morgan Wallen, Eric Church or Thomas Rhett.”

Spencer Rydman, 32
RydmanOwner/Operator
Rydman Ranch Co.

Initially introduced to the world of car-building in a high school shop class, Spencer Rydman worked in the off-road and hot-rod sectors before starting his own business from scratch at age 24. He now manufactures chassis and suspension components for ’47–’87 Chevrolet/GMC trucks in his Central Oregon-based shop for customers ranging from “the weekend DIY’er to the high-end truck builder.”

Rydman credits much of his company’s recent success to his decision to bring nearly all production in-house. “While every company was having supply-chain issues in recent years, we doubled down and brought it under our own roof,’ he says. “While this presented a steep learning curve, we now have the control over quality, cost and production time.”

This not only improved efficiency, but it also allowed Rydman to launch a sister company, RRCo Manufacturing, which offers a wide range of shop services, including CNC cutting, forming and machining. For the future, Rydman is looking at diversifying his company’s product lineup to include additional makes and models “with our sights set on full automation.”

Which Influencers Do You Follow? “@haas_automation, @amadaamericainc, @5thaxi.”

What’s on Your Playlist? “’80s Metallica.”

Gene Ritter, 32
RitterOwner/Builder
Kritter’s Garage LLC

While he loved cars from a young age, Gene Ritter’s passion for them only really blossomed around 10 years ago when he took a job in sales at Diversified Creations. Possessing an extensive knowledge of aftermarket parts, he quickly transitioned into the role of a fabricator. He was a member on the team that performed a first-ever Hellcat swap into Roadkill’s “General Mayhem” ’68 Charger. He worked as a team member on multiple award-winning builds, including a ’70 Dodge Charger Hellcat swap and a completely custom Dodge Rampage with a custom chassis to fit a Gen III Hemi. The Rampage build competed in the Optima Challenge.

Most recently, Ritter was the lead fabricator on “Zero,” a supercharged hydrogen-powered ’48 Chevy truck that exhibited at last year’s SEMA Show. His work has been viewed on “Roadkill,” Roadkill Nights, Hot Rod, the Hot Rod Power Tour and Autorama. Ritter has also now started his own business, Kritter’s Garage, to continue making unique builds and promote aftermarket parts. He hopes in the future to keep “building cars while contributing new ideas to the aftermarket parts world.”

Which Influencers Do You Follow? “Mike Copeland—my previous boss of nine years.”

What’s on Your Playlist? “’70s classic rock.”

Michael Salazar, 30
Owner
Colorado Custom

Salazar“I was kinda born into it—my mom worked in the automotive industry for a long time, and I followed her footsteps,” Michael Salazar recalls. Together, they purchased Colorado Custom 10 years ago and haven’t looked back, growing the business into a top-line manufacturer of high-end steering wheels, motorcycle wheels and car wheels.

“We are the master of all things billet,” he exclaims. While Salazar takes pride in building a business at a young age, he takes some of his greatest pleasures in “going to car shows and watching my clients win awards with their vehicles. You can see our wheels sparking like diamonds under the show lights. That’s a feeling that I will never get tired of.”

Which Influencers Do You Follow? “I follow my good friend and amazing builder Scott @sicchops, he usually picks us to do wheels for his builds and he is a SEMA veteran. I also follow @evod_industries; they have some pretty trick things. @sparc.industries has some nice-looking steering wheels. I love the builds from @hotrods_and_customstuff. And of course, I follow all of my clients who have worked with us.”

What’s on Your Playlist? “‘The Best One Yet’ podcast or ‘Better’ by Khalid are at the top of my list on Spotify.”

Emma Sauve, 28
Marketing Director
Mobsteel/Detroit Steel Wheel

SauveA standout in the community of young automotive content creators, Emma Sauve “grew up at Mobsteel working with my dad on his full-scale metal sculptures,” she recalls, before joining the company at age 20.

Working her way up through the ranks, she now operates a one-person media department with duties ranging from collecting content for social media to videography to writing press releases to supervising magazine photo shoots. Along the way, she taught herself photography and video editing to supplement her degree in advertising and specialization in graphic design. Her work has been featured in Motor Trend and Street Trucks, and she has won a Silver Addy award for excellence in advertising copywriting. She intends to continue running media production for both brands while advocating for “bringing manufacturing back to America.”

Which Influencers Do You Follow? “My boss Adam Genei—he’s the best person to reframe your mindset in a positive way. The incredible women of our industry like Bogi, Emily Reeves, Alex Taylor and Cristy Lee. And, of course, Garrett from American Muscle HD, and Solomon from the Ford Era, two dudes that I love kicking it and creating content with at shows.”

What’s on Your Playlist? “We talking music? Primus, Beastie Boys and RHCP all the time.”

Justin Steller, 30
Wholesale Manager
Diode Dynamics

Steller“Growing up, cars and hockey were all I knew,” Justin Steller recalls. “Since I stand 5'8", it only made sense to pursue a career in automotive.”

After working in sales at an auto dealership, Steller joined Diode Dynamics in 2015 as a customer service representative. He quickly moved up in the company, first to sales representative, then account manager, and finally wholesale manager two years ago. In his new role, he worked to create and build an entirely new wholesale program, which now generates eight figures of annual revenues and which has helped transform Diode Dynamics from a relative unknown to a major player in the off-road lighting aftermarket. He has also volunteered with the SEMA Future Leaders Network (FLN) and was recently selected to participate in the Dale Carnegie professional development program.

Which Influencers Do You Follow? “‘Is That Jake From FASS?’ Probably one of the fastest-growing social-media channels, FASS Diesel Fuel Systems. Jake is natural in front of the camera. He is driven by passion, it’s not forced, and it’s why his content is relatable to me. Plus, we hugged once.”

What’s on Your Playlist? “‘Rockstar’ by Nickelback if no one is around. ‘Story of the Year’ is my number one! Morgan Wallen if I am feeling country.”

JeanIvelise Sanchez-Pomainville, 29
Sanchez-PomainvilleAutomotive Specialist
Air Pro Diagnostics

A MINI Cooper service technician, JeanIvelise Sanchez-Pomainville was the first female to graduate as a technician from the J-Tech Automotive Institute in Jacksonville, Florida, and she has earned high marks for her work in collision and repair service. “The collision side of this industry has been a whole new experience that I enjoy, and over the years performing mechanic repairs has helped me,” she says.

Much of her job entails advising companies around the United States and Canada on best practices for working with new onboard technologies. “Vehicles have become so advanced with their ADAS capabilities that we at AirPro assist the bodyshops in knowing how to properly fix and handle these types of repairs,” she says. More plans are in the works for her; she is scheduled to be put in charge of Air Pro’s European team, and for herself, she intends to further her education. “I could see myself guiding future technicians, so I would love to earn all of my ASEs.”

While she’s accomplished much in collision and repair, her proudest achievement in the business thus far has been “performing my very first engine swap.”

Which Influencers Do You Follow? “Supercarblondie, Patrice Banks, Chris Forsberg, Jessi Combs.”

What’s on Your Playlist? “1975, Bad Bunny, The Midnight.”

Mark Sullivan, 33
Manufacturing Engineering Manager
QA1 Precision Products

Sullivan“I think initially that the scale of the automotive industry is what got me interested,” says Mark Sullivan, who joined QA1 six years ago. Since then, he’s made an impact on the company, overseeing a complete reconfiguration of QA1’s shock assembly line which enabled a doubling of daily output with no additional employees.

Sullivan has also worked on the specification and integration of custom machines that decrease operator fatigue and improve part quality, and he led the direction of a complex move of QA1 shock equipment to a new facility, which led to a smooth transition and rapid start-up: “This has been a really rewarding experience for me,” he says. He’s also active in his community as a mentor of a group of Lakeville [Minnesota] High School students who are exploring future careers in engineering through a senior-year capstone project. For the future, he hopes to continue growing the manufacturing engineering department at QA1.

Which Influencers Do You Follow? “I don’t spend much time on social media—sorry! I guess it would be mostly some pro cyclists in the mountain biking scene, not much in the automotive influencer sense.”

What’s on Your Playlist? “Depends on the mood! Avett Brothers, Surfaces, reggae, LOFI.”

Stewart Webb, 30
Vice President of Marketing
PRYNT Digital

Webb“In social media, the trends and platforms are always evolving,” Stewart Webb notes, “and staying on top of the trends and applying it to the auto world keeps me motivated.” That motivation has certainly shown throughout his career, where he has worked with names such as Holley, Carroll Shelby Wheel Co., FOX Factory, Drake Muscle and others to position their brands at forefront of their social-media niches.

“Many of our clients have incredible products and services, but they may not know how to communicate what they offer on their social media channels. We specialize in helping them with effective strategies,” noted Webb.

To cite just one example, he was able to grow Scott Drake’s social following from 2,000 to more than 230,000, all organically. For the future he looks “to continue to help as many people as possible navigate the waters of these ever-changing platforms.”

Which Influencers Do You Follow? “Garrett Reed at @americanmusclehd, Ken Johnson @classicsaily, Kris Horton @Holleyperformance, Cody James @OpenX, Patrick at @Keystoneautomotiveoperations, Jake Hopkins (Jake at FASS), Chris Cervenka at @Steedaautosports, Jeremy Headlee at @UTVsource, Casey at @Icemonkeygarage.”

What’s on Your Playlist? “Old-school country, followed by some solid rock like KISS, and whatever is trending on TikTok.”

John Tobias, 27
TobiasMarketing Manager
Driven Lighting Group

“I enjoy working on cars,” John Tobias admits, “but it wasn’t something that I wanted to do to make a living,” so at age 21 he joined Driven Lighting Group as a customer service representative.

Tobias was quickly promoted to social media manager, then to promotions and events manager, and then to marketing manager, where now he works with a multi-million-dollar advertising budget and content teams across the company. He manages a YouTube channel with more than 220,000 subscribers, and he has designed and built a sophisticated MAP-friendly promotional program for e-commerce parts retailers that allows them to stay competitive without sacrificing margin.

So what’s Tobias’ greatest career accomplishment? Being where he is today. “Coming into the industry, I had no experience outside of working on cars,” he explains. “I grew into my role by sheer determination, hard work and learning as much as possible.” For the future he hopes to continue his current trajectory, perhaps with an eye on starting his own company.

Which Influencers Do You Follow? “I really don’t follow any influencers. I’d rather support and follow the local people who are active within the automotive community.”

What’s on Your Playlist? “Post Malone.”

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