SEMA Member News—March/April 2013
The SEMA Businesswomen’s Network: Access to Success
By Marla Moore and Nan Gelhard
Since its inception, the SBN’s objective has been to provide a circuit to enhance professional growth and networking opportunities for women in a male-dominated industry. The much-needed committee established a way to open communications and give recognition to the women in the industry.
“When I first started in the aftermarket industry, there were very few women who held positions in sales and marketing,” said Amy Faulk, SBN founder, CEO of Hypertech and the 1979 NHRA Super Stock World Champion. “Most companies didn’t budget for women to attend the SEMA Show or staff the booths. The only option available to women was the SEMA Women’s League—a full day of off-site activities for spouses.
“I needed to network with other businesswomen and learn from their experiences. So I contacted George Elliott, chairman of the SEMA Board of Directors at the time, and asked about the possibility of creating a program specifically designed to meet the needs of businesswomen working in the aftermarket. He wasn’t sure if there were enough women who would be interested, but he gave me the names of several women that he felt would be key in the development and success of my project.
“I knew most of them only by reputation; I hadn’t actually worked with them or come in contact with them. I started my mission and, to my surprise, they were as enthusiastic as I was. It began to mushroom with more and more willing participants. I still had one person to contact: Charlie Van Cleve.
“I saved her for last because she was ‘the most powerful woman in the industry.’ And there were rumors about her, that she flew a broomstick to work. Well, that may be stretching the truth; but she did seem intimidating. [Van Cleve became chair of the SEMA Board of Directors in 2001.] With one phone call, we instantly clicked; both of us recognized that we shared the same passion for our industry, so she was all in!”
Other members of the original SBN Select Committee included Martha Doyle and Bernice Sanders, who were pros at marketing and recognized the strength of networking.
“Once we established the SBN, our first event included roundtable discussions,” said Sanders. “I actually led one on ‘selling yourself,’ which discussed selling techniques without being harsh or abrupt and finding your own strengths and capitalizing on them. The roundtable event was very successful. It was our first networking session!”
Since then, the SBN has continued to successfully organize networking events such as the annual Speed Networking Breakfast, Gear Up Girl and Café SEMA. These events give members face-to-face access to decision makers in the automotive industry.
The early SBN members also created the SEMA Silent Auction to support the SEMA Memorial Scholarship Fund and established the first scholarship to be awarded to a woman. Because of its accomplishments in furthering education, the SBN was the recipient of the prestigious 2003 Northwest University Automotive Aftermarket Management Education Award. In 2012, the SBN continued its pioneering spirit with The SEMA Mustang Build—Powered By Women.
“This history-making, all-women car build was a great way to underscore how passionate and involved women are in the automotive industry,” said Marla Moore, current SBN chairperson. “With more than 40 women volunteering their time and talents, it showcased an SBN talent pool that is deep and wide.”
The Mustang, dubbed High Gear, was successful in raising the awareness of a largely untapped talent pool and market: women enthusiasts. It was sold at auction, and the proceeds went to the SEMA Memorial Scholarship fund.
“When SBN started, great friendships blossomed,” Faulk said, “and most of all, the women who came after our little group have taken the SBN to levels that exceeded our wildest expectations.”
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the SEMA Businesswomen’s Network, the organization would like to share memories from industry professionals of the history of the SBN’s “Access to Success.” Please forward any stories, quotes or photos pertaining to the SEMA Women’s League, the League of Aftermarket Spouses, the SBN or an amazing woman in the industry to SEMA Senior Manager of Councils Bryan Harrison via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.