Tips for Success From Talented Young Builders

SEMA Member News—March/April 2015 

Tips for Success From Talented Young Builders

Randy Bolin’s ’68 Chevy C10 was featured in the SEMA Central displays at the 2014 SEMA Show.
Randy Bolin’s ’68 Chevy C10 was featured in the SEMA Central displays at the 2014 SEMA Show.

Members of the Hot Rod Industry Alliance (HRIA) often discuss how to engage the next generation, but sometimes a single individual can be the catalyst. A few up-and-coming builders recently reflected on the lessons they’ve learned so far and confirmed what HRIA members have been saying for years: community-building is a huge priority.

Randy Bolin is an independent builder from Jonesboro, Arkansas. His father, a metal fabricator, was the first to spark his interest in building vehicles, but many other mentors have also left their marks. By the time he was 10 years old, Bolin was learning to sand, weld, paint and wire. He can list all of the places he has worked since then and what he’s learned from each experience.

“I missed about four years out of my whole life when I did not mess with cars, but something about the smell just brings me back,” he said. “It’s truly a passion. I’m not trying to make millions or anything like that. I’m a small guy. I’m doing it for the cars. I enjoy seeing the cars go up and down the road.”

Bolin believes that the automotive industry offers excellent career paths to pursue because of its longevity and diversity. His best advice for staying on the cutting edge is to take initiative and reach out to representatives of established brands—utilize their catalogs as resources and ask questions at events.

For Skyler Smith, taking risks is another huge part of career success.

“The best way to learn is hands-on,” he said. “You’ve got to get out there and try and not be afraid to fail or be afraid to make mistakes. You learn from those. The biggest thing is you’ve got to try.”

Smith works at Little Shop MFG, a small manufacturing and fabricating/installation business in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee. Shop owner Eric Saliba’s interest in the automotive world began in high school, and his skills are self-taught.

“I learned to weld by getting a welder, learned to cut by getting a torch, and everything is kind of built on earlier experience,” he said.

From left: Eric Saliba, Alex Goins and Skyler Smith of Little Shop MFG.
From left: Eric Saliba, Alex Goins and Skyler Smith of Little Shop MFG.

Saliba began painting cars during breaks in college, so opening a shop after graduation was the natural next step. While being a small-business owner has its own set of challenges, Saliba said that hard work, patience and trying many different things have paid off—not the least of which was including quality people in the process.

“The shop has a lot of helpers,” he explained. “It goes from employees at some points to helpers and back to employees and friends. There’s nobody that’s worked for me that’s not a friend and a coworker.”

Alex Goins, one of these employees, is also a great example of where networking and initiative can take you. While he inherited a love of cars from his father, most of his skills are self-taught.

“I’d watch videos on YouTube on how to do stuff,” he said. “The knowledge is out there; you just have to apply yourself to find it and then to try to do it.”

As a college student, Goins saw a Facebook post that Little Shop was looking for workers. Though the business was about four hours away from his home, he took a risk and inquired. After seeing his work, Saliba offered him a job and a couch to sleep on for the summer.

From Smith’s perspective, being a self-starter is not only about learning new skills; the act of networking itself takes initiative.

“You’ve got to put yourself out there,” he said. “You’ve got to be willing to go up and say, ‘Hey, this is who I am, we’re into the same things.’”

For young people desiring to gain exposure and grow their networks, and for industry veterans in search of enthusiastic workers, council membership can help. HRIA provides several connection points throughout the year at general membership meetings, receptions and education days. For more information about the group, upcoming events or to join, visit