By Chad Simon
BOOSTane President Ian Lehn (center) won SEMA's Launch Pad competition in 2014 and exhibited for the first time at the 2015 SEMA Show.
The 2016 SEMA Show Priority Booth Space Selection process begins May 2, and now’s the time to start solidifying your plans, especially for first-time exhibitors.
Ian Lehn, president of BOOSTane, based in Bonita Springs, Florida, experienced first-hand the value provided by exhibiting at the SEMA Show—and he had an extra advantage. He’d won SEMA’s Launch Pad competition in 2014, which helped create exposure for the company as a first-time exhibitor of the 2015 SEMA Show. Lehn’s plan was to walk away from the Show with a few big international distributors, further develop his network and continue to brand the company as a recognizable name in the industry.
“We wanted to substantiate ourselves to the market,” said Lehn. “Getting recognized by SEMA and other organizations within SEMA substantiates your product as the real thing. I was at the recent Town Hall meeting in Miami, and two guys walked up to me and said they had met me the previous year at the Launch Pad competition.”
Lehn launched BOOSTane in 2014 while studying engineering at Georgia Tech. He and a friend had developed the product and used it as their senior exit thesis before the company existed. Lehn was involved in powerboat racing at the time and needed a race fuel alterative. After achieving some success in the powerboat community, he decided to cross over into the automotive market.
“When I started going to automotive shows, I had no idea what I was doing,” Lehn admitted. “So I reached out to one of my professors, and he told me, ‘If you’re going into the automotive industry, there’s only one place you need to go, and that’s SEMA.’”
In 2014, Lehn joined SEMA and the Young Executives Network (YEN). That same year, his application was accepted to participate in the YEN Power Tour, and he was partnered with Jonathan Mill—the inaugural SEMA Launch Pad winner—who informed Lehn of the Launch Pad opportunity, so he decided to apply.
“As an engineer, I never had to look at my company from a business plan standpoint,” Lehn said. “I thought if I designed a good product, people would just line up outside my door. Next thing I know I’m on stage receiving the award. In my first year with SEMA, the association essentially took me from a guy who knew nothing about the automotive industry, built this huge network for me on the Power Tour, then helped me take that same network and apply it to winning Launch Pad.”
The prize package included a 10x20-ft. booth in the Performance Pavilion at the 2015 SEMA Show, where buyers from all over the world came to talk to him about his product. Taylor Creative designed his SEMA Show booth, and Hot Rod magazine created three different ads that he continues to use today.
“I was given all these different assets that I wouldn’t have had the money for or wouldn’t have even known that I needed,” Lehn said. “We’ve gone from selling strictly to the Great Lakes region and South Florida to now being sold in all 50 states and 23 different countries around the world. I attribute this success to the one-two-punch combination of Launch Pad and the SEMA Show.”
One of the best resources exhibitors can utilize at the SEMA Show is the New Products Showcase, and Lehn took full advantage by entering three new product lines—BOOSTane Professional, which is a straight race fuel alternative; BOOSTane Premium, which provides fuel protection and stabilization for luxury automobiles; and BOOSTane Marine, which is strictly for high-performance offshore powerboat engines.
In preparation for the 2016 SEMA Show, Lehn plans to apply the knowledge he learned from his rookie experience by concentrating more on the domestic market and campaigning earlier to drive more traffic to his booth. He intends to arrive in Vegas having already locked down customers instead of waiting for them to come to him.
Lehn advises future Launch Pad winners to use this opportunity to get more involved and take full advantage of the recognition they’re going to get.
“Get out there and talk about your experiences and what SEMA has done for you,” he said. “Don’t hide in the shadows; get out there and promote yourself, your company and the industry. It’s easy to tell everybody how much we got out of the prize package. But the intangible benefits we received by just being the spokespeople for our generation in this industry was worth more than anything to me. There’s so much negative connotation surrounding Millennials, and SEMA gave us a platform to show all the industry veterans that we’re coming at them.”
Secure your booth space now for the 2016 SEMA Show.