Applications for the 2015 SEMA Launch Pad, Presented by YEN will be accepted through July 3, 2015. For more information, and to apply, visit www.sema.org/launch-pad.
SEMA’s Launch Pad competition, now entering its third year, is designed to give automotive innovators, inventors and entrepreneurs under the age of 40 an industry platform for their budding businesses. Applicants from SEMA’s Young Executives Network (YEN) first submit a video introduction to their product or service. A task force of peers carefully evaluates each submission to narrow down the top 10, who advance to a social media voting round. Ultimately, the final five pitch their business plans at the SEMA Show, where a judging panel selects the winner of a comprehensive prize package.
Shawn Chartier participated in the 2014 competition and took his business into the top 10. Custom Offsets LLC is an online gallery of vehicle photos, showcasing custom-wheel installation options for different makes and models.
“People can come out to our website and add their vehicle, but they’ve got to add all of the specs of the wheel sizes, the tire sizes, the suspension information, if they did any modifications as far as trimming and all of that,” Chartier explained. “And we made it so that people can very quickly use filters and search that entire gallery.”
Nearly a year ago, when Chartier applied for Launch Pad, the website included about 2,000 vehicles. He recalls that the site averaged 1,000 views per day. Users also had the option to purchase the wheels and tires through the website, which netted about $100,000 each month. Today, Custom Offsets has greatly increased all of those numbers: 5,000 vehicles, 10,000 daily site visits and $500,000 in sales each month.
Chartier attributes much of this growth and credibility to the Launch Pad competition. In the early days, he saw online chatter questioning if the company was real or not.
“We put the SEMA logo on our website immediately when we became members because we were just really proud to get to the point where we could show that we were a legitimate business, and that we were here to stay. And putting that in front of people, we started to see those questions go away because it just helped establish that we were legitimate,” he said.
While Custom Offsets did not make it to the final round of the competition, Chartier says the experience was worth it for the feedback he gained. Each of the top 10 contestants was invited to participate in a roundtable discussion with the judges following the live competition, allowing them to learn from industry veterans.
“It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day work and keep working on selling wheels and tires and keep working on improving the website—but sometimes you’ve got to step back and also play CEO. Think about where the business is going in the next one to three years and who we want to be when we grow up,” said Chartier.
Chartier also competed in “Shark Tank,” and hopes there will be more competitions in store for Custom Offsets in the future—experiences, he says, keep the company thinking about the big picture.
Applications for the 2015 SEMA Launch Pad, Presented by YEN will be accepted through July 3, 2015. For more information, and to apply, visit www.sema.org/launch-pad. For more information, contact Bryan Harrison at firstname.lastname@example.org.