Can you tell me a little bit about yourself? What is your story? How did you get into this industry?
I’m a single Mom with two daughters, Shelby and Amanda and the Vice President of McLeod Racing. I grew up in my family’s garage, where my father Jack Chrisman built some of drag racing’s most famous race cars including Chrisman’s Comet, the first Nitro Blown Funny cars. In 1971, my father retired from racing and founded Jack Chrisman Enterprises. I had a front row seat watching my dad change the course of driveline engineering from OEM to high performance driveline components able to withstand the horsepower being created by aftermarket manufacturers across the country. I appreciate the development of high performance parts for many reason, one being that safely eliminate. My father was seriously injured when the rear-end broke in the front engine dragster he was driving, nearly ending his life. Because of that incident, he dedicated himself on making sure that it didn’t happen to another driver. That motivation and focus on safety that I witnessed watching my dad build and improve the parts that other racers depend on, continue to influence my own commitment to manufacturing parts without compromising the safety element.
Was the automotive industry always your passion?
The manufacturing of high performance products, being a part of the process from early development, testing, marketing to finish product is exciting. However, I didn’t expect that I was going to make it my career. I worked for Chrisman Driveline Components while in high school and my senior year my dad encourage me to partner with my brother Steve on the development of a business model he and I brainstormed while bike riding. With dad’s support, we create California Gear, a mail order parts company specializing in Gears and Differentials. Timing was right and the idea succeeded, but at this point I was attending college and id didn’t see the family business in my future. The experience of starting the new company and building its structure, working with our attorneys and accountants lead me to turn my focus in college to Business Law. My ambition was to help people restructure and build successful businesses.
How many years have you been in the industry?
I’ve been in the Automotive Aftermarket Industry for 33 years. I worked for Chrisman Driveline Components/California Gears for 23 years. In 2006, I was given the opportunity to work for John Force Racing, managing the JFR RaceStation, a retail and online store for JFR and NHRA merchandise. In 2012, Paul Lee reached out to me for an office manager interview. I was with McLeod for 6 months before being promoted to Vice President.
What are you most proud of? Your biggest achievement?
Personally, I’m most proud of my children. But professionally, is my time with McLeod Racing, the tremendous growth in the last 4 years is remarkable and I attribute that to our dedicated team and their personal commitment on providing the highest quality products to our clients. What is my biggest achievement? That’s a tough question because I’ve been blessed with so many incredible opportunities, but I would say California Gears was probably the most satisfying achievement because of the connection to my dad and his faith and belief in me. During my time with CalGear, I was met with daily challenges of being a female selling products typically sold by men. Numerous times, customers would request to speak with a man, only to have the phone turned back to me to close the sale. It took some time for clients to finally realize I really did know the parts and application.
What inspires you?
Achieving goals that appear beyond the reach. It’s so satisfying to face a challenge and push through it. It must be the competitive element of my DNA.
If you had one piece of advice to pass on, what would it be?
Don’t settle into a “job”; find a career or element of it that you can be passionate about. That passion will drive you to be successful.
What does SEMA/SBN/She Is mean to you? What level of involvement do you have in SEMA/SBN? What benefit do you receive that is valuable?
Until I became a SEMA member and joined the SBN, I never realized the reach that SEMA has and its dedication as an organization not only to serve and protect the interest of SEMA Member companies, but also to offer tools to build and strengthen our industry. The SBN in particular provides women in our industry an opportunity to network including receive mentoring and support. We have an amazing industry, which historically has been male dominated and women traditionally held equally important roles in accounting and marketing. The SBN gives women like myself a venue to stand together and work towards solutions to empower the next generation of women, to encourage them to become engineers, technicians, fabricators, etc. The She Is… campaign, sponsored by the SBN, takes it a step further, reaching out to women behind the scenes and recognizing that everyone has an important role and they share in our industries success and future. I strongly encourage others working for a SEMA Member company to get more involved and volunteer, I guarantee you will be pleasantly surprised as I was to recognize the value of SEMA and its specialized councils.