35 Under 35

SEMA News—September 2017


Compiled by SEMA News Editors

35 Under 35

Young Industry Talent Eyeing the Future

From a generational perspective, the early days of the automotive specialty-equipment industry were exciting times. Pioneering names became the legendary “garage innovators” of speed and performance products who ultimately changed not only how racers competed on the track but also the ways average consumers everywhere drove on the street. Their inventions and out-of-the-box thinking reshaped ideas of performance, convenience and appearance for the automotive and powersports categories, often raising the bar and setting vehicle trends for the OEMs themselves. In the process, they firmly established the foundations for what is now a mainstream industry worth an estimated $41 billion.

Now that the industry has come of age, a few questions often arise: Does that passion remain? Does that pioneering spirit still exist? Does a creative new generation of bright young talent stand ready to inherit the aftermarket legacy? And, if so, who are today’s innovators and where will they take us?

These are some of the questions SEMA News sought to answer with its first special “35 Under 35” feature five years ago. Our goal then—as it is now—was to identify and highlight the next generation of industry up-and-comers, age 35 and younger. More than simply a who’s who of rising stars, the feature sought to glean their insights and opinions on industry challenges and the directions they’d like to see it go. The piece was so well received by newcomers and veterans alike that it’s now become a much-anticipated September tradition that continues to identify and reveal the aftermarket’s most noteworthy young talent year after year.

The selection process is never easy. In order to land on our “35 Under 35” list, individuals must first gain nomination from one or more industry peers who must also supply the reasoning behind their nominations. Pouring through those scores of annual submissions, SEMA News then looks for candidates already displaying leadership qualities within their organizations or businesses. Entrepreneurship, commitment, insight, innovation, integrity, responsibility and demonstrated skill, involvement and success within the industry all weigh heavily in our decision-making.

Throughout our deliberations, the SEMA News staff is continually awed by the depth of talent we must consider. In one way or another, every nominee is a winner and worthy of recognition. Yet, ultimately, we have to winnow the nominations down to 35 finalists to make our special section. For this 2017 edition, we are again pleased to introduce the industry to an impressive roster of highly accomplished young individuals already making a name for themselves across virtually every industry segment.

Often embracing and bench-setting new technologies and Millennial business practices, they nevertheless share in the same creative dynamism and spirit that first established this industry more than a generation ago.

Franky Anduiza, 27

Creative Design Manager—MagnaFlow

Frank Anduiza
Franky Anduiza

A newcomer to the industry, Franky Anduiza is already making an impact with his design work, winning celebrity accolades for his marketing posters and warehouse-distributor awards for his creative packaging concepts. He is also currently charged with developing sound-video clips for all MagnaFlow product applications as well as advertising that speaks to consumers outside traditional media channels. Described as “visionary,” Anduiza intuitively understands how placement and viewership shape design, tailoring high-concept art to his audiences and adapting mainstream marketing and advertising design cues to the automotive aftermarket.

Did we mention that he’s only been at this for about four years?

“Creating cool and effective art, graphic design and photography for our brand is exciting and challenging,” said Anduiza. “I love working with our sales team, marketing team and staff.”

Anduiza especially appreciates the ongoing motivation and growth as an artist that his position brings.

“It is a true privilege to continue to do what I do for MagnaFlow,” he said. “Our customers are passionate car enthusiasts who value having the best by the best.”

Still, don’t be surprised to ultimately see him running his own design studio in the foreseeable future—a goal he doesn’t rule out.

In his briefcase: “All of my design tools. My desktop computer, design programs, camera, and a pen and some scrap paper.”

David Ayers, 27

Director of Marketing and Technology—The AAM Group

  David Ayers
David Ayers

At 25, David Ayers became director of marketing and technology for The AAM Group, a program distribution group and specialty marketing firm dedicated to the growth of the automotive aftermarket. Shortly thereafter, Ayers became project lead in the development of an integrated, customizable B2B web solution for cataloging, shopping and order entry. His responsibilities for the project included managing a team of programmers, software testers and data developers. The project, which operates from ACES/PIES data supplied by the SEMA Data Co-op and other channels, was finished ahead of schedule and under budget and is on pace to be used by more than 20,000 jobbers by the end of the year.

“I believe technology shouldn’t be reserved just for e-commerce retailers: Warehouse distributors and local businesses of all types within the SEMA market have a rapidly expanding need for digital tools and resources as customer expectations continue to be changed by shopping experiences in other sectors,” Ayers explained. “I am positive there will be huge changes in the way the aftermarket does commerce, and I love that I’m in a place where I can help shape the experience of so many.”

In his briefcase: ASANA—an online project-management tool the whole team uses. “Though our team has quickly outgrown my briefcase, they are truly the key to our success.”

Kelleigh Ash, 34

General Manager—Rolling Big Power

Kelleigh Ash
Kelleigh Ash

Kelleigh Ash is proud to have dedicated her entire career to the automotive aftermarket, and her accomplishments show that she’s playing for keeps.

“The most exciting parts of the truck and performance markets are simply the people,” said Ash. “The builders and enthusiasts are some of the best people I have ever met. Their passion is contagious, and they are great, genuine people. They live and breathe this industry, and it makes what we do all worthwhile.”

Education is vital to Ash—she’s been collecting degrees and certifications over the last several years and, in addition to a B.A. in aftermarket management and an M.S. in organizational leadership, she is a certified Six Sigma Green Belt and currently working toward a PhD. She’s also beefed up her technical skills, becoming an ASE master technician in all automotive segments, including medium-heavy truck and diesel. To date, Ash has secured 42 patents for various companies, with two more pending.

Between her work and studies, Ash still finds time for volunteering, serving on SEMA’s Emerging Trends & Technology Network select committee since 2015. At home, she has several project vehicles in various stages of rebuild at any given time.

In her briefcase: A Samsung phone with a Wrike project-management app, a Surface and a Surface Pen, powdercoat swatches, catalogs, and a RBP coffee mug and hat.

Eduardo Barahona, 29

Sales and Technical Executive—JB Internacional and Exedy

  Eduardo Barahona
Eduardo Barahona

With 10 years of automotive aftermarket industry experience, Eduardo Barahona’s greatest professional achievement was being chosen by Exedy Global Parts to participate in a technical training program at the company’s headquarters in Osaka, Japan. He completed the program with recognition, became an expert in the clutch field, and strengthened his skills to facilitate seminars to end users, sales professionals and technicians in Central and South America. A mechanical engineer with a strong network in the entire OE and aftermarket supply chain, Barahona founded an internet distribution company for brake pad sales and negotiated an exclusive distribution agreement in Ecuador with a German OEM.

“Customers are motivated to having recognized brands as part of their product portfolios; therefore, it is our responsibility to carefully choose the correct distribution channel for customers who have the enthusiasm to engage with our brands,” Barahona said. “Recognition comes along with quality products to serve each market segment, although pricing is quite sensitive in Latin America. We have a broad segmentation [OE and aftermarket]; having the support of our entire supply chain is key for our company.”

In his briefcase: “My iPhone with online access to the company’s database that I designed and developed for decision-making, and email applications to review business anywhere, any time.”

Billy Bautista, 35


Billy Bautista
Billy Bautista

An avid racer, Billy Bautista’s proudest achievements were tributes to the late Paul Walker, whom his racing team competed against at Redline Time Attack. Bautista’s nonprofit network of drivers, Team Analog, was heavily involved in Need for Speed Underground 1 and 2, and all of their cars were used in Tokyo Drift.

In 2015, Bautista and his colleagues finished building an all-electric drift car—an ’86 Toyota Corolla capable of producing 880 lb.-ft. of torque—and took it to the SEMA Show. The next year, Bautista displayed a Paul Walker tribute GTR and Supra, and this year he is building four military tribute projects on behalf of ROUSH, Centerline, HCM Carbon and other partners. He also helps interns gain experience, scholarships and jobs through industry projects and car shows. With more than two dozen social-media platforms, LevelupAuto, has garnered more than 11 million followers combined.

Bautista accomplished all this despite an acute pancreatitis diagnosis in 2001. In his early ’20s, Bautista’s symptoms grew worse, and after 14 operations, he’d lost half of his internal organs.

“The only thing that kept me going was cars,” he said. “Every year that I did something for someone, lifted someone, changed someone’s life, the more my own gradually changed.”

In his briefcase: Two iPhones, an iPad, a tablet, a battery pack, a Jedi light saber, business cards and a picture of his grandma.

William Bibb, 34

Director of Product Design and Creative Services—Lund International

  William Bibb
William Bibb

Over the past 11 years, William “Billy” Bibb has been busy climbing the corporate ladder at Lund International. He is currently the lead designer for new products and marketing across nine individual brands, and he has successfully integrated two company acquisitions.

Bibb holds nine industry product patents and has created more than 30 product innovations, including the AMP Research Powerstep XL, which was a finalist for the 2014 SEMA Best New Exterior Accessory Product. He was also a finalist for the 2016 SEMA Gen-III Innovator of the Year award. In March 2017, he started his own company, Vik Kustoms LLC, which focuses on automotive aftermarket marketing and custom vehicle design fabrication.

“I have been afforded a lot of opportunity over the years,” Bibb said. “I have had amazing mentors and people who believed in me and taught me a lot about this industry, and I think that helped me realize that I have an opportunity to do some things now in other parts of our industry to try and make a mark and continue my love and passion for all things automotive.”

In his briefcase: “A pen, so I can write and draw on whatever. My iPhone [seldom] leaves my side, [and] as long as I have SolidWorks and Photoshop/Illustrator, I can pretty much get anybody anything they need.”

Scott Bean, 25

Shop Foreman—Sterling Hot Rods

Scott Bean
Scott Bean

Scott Bean grew up around cars but found his true drive in a high-school automotive shop class. In his senior year, Bean transformed a ’80 Pontiac station wagon into a hot rod, and he was hooked. Following high school, he earned a degree in automotive technology and began working at a Porsche and BMW performance shop, gaining more skills in designing, building and testing custom headers, exhaust systems and turbo kits.

Looking to get back to American classics, he landed an entry-level position at Sterling Hot Rods, sweeping floors and taking out the trash. Five years later, he is now shop foreman, responsible for daily operations, managing nine employees and overseeing 10 or more projects at a time.

“Our clients come to us wanting everything from concourse restorations to one-off customs to routine maintenance on their classic cars,” he said.

To date, Bean’s favorite accomplishment is a ’65 Buick Riviera built for a client who wanted a Chevy LS3 engine with a matching overdrive transmission, a lowered suspension, a custom interior, upgraded brakes and custom wheels. Many of the parts were hard to come by, but ingenuity brought the build to fruition.

In his briefcase: Bean’s team calls his Snap-On toolbox “The Cathedral.” He also carries a clipboard, a one-subject notebook and his smartphone for email and social media.

Ben Bontrager, 33

Aftermarket Manager—Mito Corp.

  Ben Bontrager
Ben Bontrager

A passion for cars has helped propel Ben Bontrager through 14 years of industry success. The ever-evolving mobile-electronics aftermarket segment is challenging because it requires Bontrager to constantly think ahead and push for innovation. Since joining Mito Corp., Bontrager has been responsible for the highest-producing territory per capita in the company’s department, and he was promoted to department manager in less than four years.

As aftermarket sales manager, Bontrager currently oversees six territory reps and has been responsible for growing sales 30% and maintaining 28 straight months of department-record sales. He is credited for each of the top four sales years in the department’s 21-year history. Bontrager finds his career most fulfilling when customers look to him and his team for answers and solutions.

“It is rewarding to have so many great relationships with our customers that they trust in our opinions and solutions and look to us for the answers,” Bontrager said. “The trust and respect that has been earned from all the hard work and dedication put forth makes the customers’ trust my greatest accomplishment of all.”

In his briefcase: “Being an installer at heart, I certainly can’t live without anything currently inside my tool bag. I love to be challenged to open up a car to find a solution. Lastly, I can’t live without an iPhone, internet and vehicle diagram websites.”

Jeremy Boysen, 35

CEO—JB Autosports Inc.

Jeremy Boysen
Jeremy Boysen

A racer at heart, Jeremy Boysen has dedicated his career to the sport-compact segment. As CEO of JB Autosports Inc., a retailer and wholesaler based in Des Moines, Iowa, he has established relationships with both domestic and foreign vendors and has overseen the import and private labeling of multiple product lines. JB Autosports is now the sole exclusive distributor in the United States for headlights and taillights for the ’15-plus WRX/STI platform. Boysen was instrumental in developing the company’s focused marketing strategy and has grown the company from two to 30 employees over the last several years.

“Our clients are motivated to make changes to their vehicles that fit their lifestyle,” Boysen said. “For a lot of people, those are cosmetic changes that allow the warranty to stay intact while allowing them some creative outlet. Others tend to add some go-fast parts that give them a rush when they get on the freeway or on a track. The most exciting part of the sport-compact world to me is the portion of us who push the limits of these vehicles on a track at local autocross events, HPDE events, Time Attack or even drag racing. The thrill of going fast is what has always grabbed my attention.”

In his briefcase: An Android phone, a laptop, headphones and the many cables needed to charge or hook up to anything.

Steven Ellis, 32

Owner, Fabricator, Installer, Sales, PR—Urban Garage

  Steven Ellis
Steven Ellis

Growing up in a small town in northern Arizona—where locating a quality mechanic or garage was a difficult task—Steven Ellis learned early how to repair vehicles. As vehicle technology became increasingly sophisticated, Ellis adapted, honing his understanding of vehicles and performance over the years, until he evolved from repairman to expert craftsman.

Ellis has operated Urban Garage since 2012. To date, he has built several show cars for FearOne that were featured at the annual SEMA Show.

His ’15 Chevy Colorado build was a top-10 finalist in Transamerican’s “Life is Better Off-Road” contest. He also built a Hyundai Tuscon for the Toyo Tires Treadpass that year. Those projects resulted in more business and attention for him and Urban Garage.

As he looks toward the future, Ellis has ideas to further build a reputation for delivering quality, unique style and customer satisfaction. He hopes to expand the shop, add to his equipment and grow a passionate team. He’d also love to have a TV show highlighting his story and his work.

In his briefcase: “I am more of a backpack person, so my most useful tool is my fully wrapped Chevrolet Tahoe. I get people waving, taking pictures, and stopping me to talk about the shop.”

Erik Fritz, 24

HD (Heavy Duty) Design Engineer—Horizon Global (Cequent Performance Products)

Erik Fritz
Erik Fritz

Already an accomplished engineer, Erik Fritz designed his first two hitches for Horizon Global, based in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, four years ago while interning with the company. After completing the entire process of analytics, lab and prototype work, the hitches are now being sold to the public. In fact, the Draw-Tite front-mount receiver netted sales of more than $32,000 in 2016.

Last year, as an intern at American Axle & Manufacturing, Fritz implemented a tooling-management program that saved the company an estimated $10,000.

The successes don’t end there: Fritz has returned to Horizon Global as a fulltime HD Design Engineer, working on projects with domestic automakers to outfit their heavy-duty trucks with reliable hitches. He also recently received a patent on an above-bed gooseneck adapter design, an achievement he’s most proud of.

“The most challenging aspect of my work is being able to come up with creative and innovative designs to fulfill customer needs,” said Fritz, who hopes to direct engineering for a tier-one automotive supplier someday.

In his briefcase: “People still use briefcases? Tools that I can’t do without include a tape measure, calipers, my iPhone, a machinery handbook, a calculator, and a pen and paper.”

Scott Cobett, 33

Director of Marketing—Wheel Pros

  Scott Cobett
Scott Cobett

To Scott Cobett, the most exciting part of the aftermarket wheel segment is its constant change. At Wheel Pros, he enjoys managing marketing for the manufacturer, brand owner and wholesaler of aftermarket custom wheels and high-performance tires.

“Wheels are the biggest fashion statement a person can make on a vehicle, and we get to play a big part in defining the demand for products that create an automotive trend,” he said.

“We don’t sell a product that is a required maintenance item or is necessary to keep a vehicle on the road,” he continued. “Our consumer is ready to bring some self-expression to their ride and make it an extension of their personality. Much like a watch, sunglasses or a tattoo, they’ve purchased wheels to set themselves apart and create individualism.”

Cobett is also an enthusiast, off-roading since childhood. He still races as a hobby and even won the 2017 Mexican 1000. On weekends, he’s often at the races with his family even when he’s not driving or working the event.

In his briefcase: Instagram, Yelp, gum, family pictures, a Wheel Pros catalog, sometimes a tape measure and always a pen and paper. “Why doesn’t anyone ever write anything down anymore? I still feel like my best ideas happen on a scratch piece of paper.”

Colin Frost, 31

Founder—Big Country Labs

Colin Frost
Colin Frost

A common challenge across automotive segments is creating products with the right mix of enthusiast appeal and functional performance. Founder of Big Country Labs, Colin Frost, has spent the past five years creating product designs for a variety of consumers.

“Everyone wants something a little different,” Frost said. “Some communities value lap times and some value styling, and how they interact with brands differs from segment to segment. I find myself straddling the line between my personal interests and my goal to have that translate with the brand.”

Frost began his career as a designer at Stillen, where he created renderings for product releases and introductions to new markets. He also helped plan Stillen’s website redesign.

In 2012, Frost started Big Country Labs with a focus on designing GT wings and reinvigorating the use of big wings on drift cars, show cars and track cars. Frost was also a Formula Drift competitor, driving for makes such as Mazda, Lexus and TRD.

Frost’s goals are to continue designing wings for his favorite cars and begin producing additional products such as bumpers and fenders for a range of vehicles.

In his briefcase: “I carry around a small notebook filled with sketches, doodles, ideas, and to-do lists. With the majority of my work done on a computer, it feels really good to put lines down on a dot-grid page that allows for design without constriction.”

Nicole Ellan James, 24

Automotive Journalist, Editor-in-Chief—ClassicCars.com, Pretty Driven

  Nicole Ellan James
Nicole Ellan James

Nicole Ellan James doesn’t want to just report on the action; she wants to be in on it. Considered somewhat of a rarity in today’s aftermarket, she’s a Millennial with a passion for performance vehicles of all models and years. James owns a ’65 and a ’05 Ford Mustang, is active in several car clubs both locally and nationally, and has competed in race events through the Southwest.

With that experience and passion, James is already making significant contributions to the industry by providing quality journalistic coverage of auctions, events, the hobby and top-level motorsports such as NASCAR, Formula Drift and IndyCar. Through ClassicCars.com, James helped create the Future Classics Car Show, which brings together generations of car lovers.

For James, automotive journalism was a hobby until she went to her first SEMA Show, where she realized it was the career for her. Two weeks later, she was offered a position at ClassicCars.com. Since then, she has been published in Fox Sports, SpeedHunters, the DuPont Registry and The Detroit News, and she was featured on “Ford Performance” and “The Gentleman Racer.”

In her briefcase: “I rely on my phone significantly. I use it to record interviews, take photos, post breaking news stories, and for social media. I get most of my tips and leads through Instagram, and with Signal I can snoop out stories and trends.”

Mark Giambalvo, 34

Owner—Creative Rod & Kustom LLC

Mark Giambalvo
Mark Giambalvo

Mark Giambalvo has been in the automotive aftermarket industry for more than 17 years. In 2003, he opened Creative Rod & Kustom, which specializes in custom sheetmetal fabrication, fiberglass design and fabrication, engine swaps and mechanical upgrades, and award-winning body and paint work.

Throughout his career, Giambalvo’s work has been recognized with a range of accolades. His awards include the 2016 SEMA Chevrolet Design Award for Truck of the Year, the ISCA Rising Star Award, a 2015 Goodguys Custom Rod of the Year Top 5, a 2014 Great 8 Ridler Award, and a 2014 Goodguys Street Rod of the Year Top 5. In addition to creating award-winning rods and rides, Giambalvo has also served as a judge for the Syracuse Nationals Top 12 Awards and the Goodguys East Coast Nationals Builder’s Choice Award.

Giambalvo is most excited when he can visualize custom vehicle designs in his head and see the ideas come to fruition.

“I will continue to push myself to be a better builder, focusing on making each project better than the last,” Giambalvo said. “I also have the goal of getting into parts manufacturing for hot rods on a small scale.”

In his briefcase: iPhone, Facebook and Instagram to keep in touch with customers while on the road. In the office, his computer to locate parts and information on current projects.

Timothy Kawasaki, 28

National Sales and Marketing Manager—Wheel Vintiques

  Timothy Kawasaki
Timothy Kawasaki

Timothy Kawasaki’s introduction to the automotive aftermarket was through his family’s business. As a teenager, he swept floors and packed boxes while his parents’ love of the industry rubbed off on him. Today, Kawasaki is national sales and marketing manager for Wheel Vintiques.

Whether it’s a new or a classic model, one of the first things vehicle owners upgrade is the wheels, and there’s no right or wrong when it comes to their tastes, said Kawasaki.

“The wheels we choose for our builds really depend on our personal style,” he explained. “I often compare wheels to shoes: By just changing your shoes, you can either dress up or down the rest of an outfit. The same goes for wheels. You can have a set of 15-in. silver rallye wheels with derby caps and trim rings on your ’69 Camaro, and it will look very traditional, or you can put a set of 18-in. rallye wheels with chrome lips and black centers on the same vehicle, and it will look completely different.”

Kawasaki has won two SEMA Global Media Awards for products he developed but is most proud of his service on the SEMA Young Executives Network select committee.

In his briefcase: A backpack with his iPhone, work and personal laptops, noise-cancelling headphones, a portable power bank, a camera, a notepad and a box of pens.

Timothy King, 32

Founder—Red Goat Marketing

Timothy King
Timothy King

Timothy King ranks among those enthusiasts who grew up in the garage. After high school, he worked for a local auto shop, honing his under-hood skills. He next gained sales and journalism experience before founding Red Goat Marketing in 2014. The firm offers content creation, branding, social media and sales services.

“Easily my greatest career accomplishment was being able to take all my experience and schooling and finally go out on my own,” he said. “My goal had always been to be a true entrepreneur, and I finally accomplished that step where I’m working for myself. However, the success I’ve had wouldn’t have been possible without my team helping me along the way.

“All of my customers are in the automotive aftermarket world, which is where I specialize. They generally already have a pretty solid marketing plan in place, and other times I develop a plan from scratch. Whatever level they are at, we are here to execute that plan.”

For his part in engaging the next generation of gearheads, King starts with his own children, giving them the same garage experiences he had from a young age.

In his briefcase: “Hands down my cell phone, which has all my social media and emails on it. I also have my laptop, a steno pad and pens. Basically with a laptop, a phone and an internet connection, I can work anywhere—including on a beach in Maui!”

Wei Wei Li, 32

Vice President—Stitchcraft Interiors

  Wei Wei Li
Wei Wei Li

Wei Wei Li joined Stitchcraft Interiors last year as a designer and builder to assist with a ’17 Mustang convertible EcoBoost build for Ford. As the company’s vice president he handles fabrications and motor, transmission and suspension installations. Li enjoys working on a wide variety of vehicles—classic cars, hot rods, musclecars and trucks—and the challenge of keeping up with ever-changing trends.

“I enjoy redesigning things with a purpose—designing the full car, including the electrical, audio, drivetrain, suspension and even welding, body and paint,” Li explained. “When it comes to the business side, I always am excited to meet new clients and find out what kind of project they are working on, the story behind the project, and why they are so interested in making changes and what changes they want. I enjoy helping them brainstorm and come up with great ideas and materials that might be new to the upholstery industry.”

“I can’t wait to see what the future holds for me here,” he added. “As a designer, there will always be things to create, and those things will continue to be my great accomplishments.”

In his briefcase: An Android phone, schedules, a customer list and a laptop that houses software for 3D modeling, CAD design and virtual-reality preview for customers.

David Lightner, 33

Owner, Painter and Consultant—Lightner Motorsports

David Lightner
David Lightner

Like many enthusiasts turned aftermarket professionals, David Lightner was exposed to racing from a young age and built his first car as a teenager. Today, in addition to running a custom autobody shop, he is a production painter, a technical consultant and a collision-repair instructor at Thaddeus Stevens College.

Lightner Motorsports caters to customers looking to add performance and aesthetic upgrades to their vehicles—for races, car shows or personal enjoyment. Lightner’s favorite build was a Honda Civic Si that was featured on ESPN’s “Import Racer TV” and in the video game “Juiced 2 Hot Import Nights.”

“From the process of designing and rendering the ideas to the execution of the work, I feel like I get to play every time I work with someone on a new project,” Lightner said. “Customization allows me to be creative and free, while my position in the collision-repair business provides the instant gratification of my work. In that role, I feel as though I am a part of a team serving consumers by rehabilitating and protecting their investments.”

In his briefcase: “Lately it’s been my spray guns (SataJet 5000). I have been painting our SEMA projects for this year after a full day of painting cars for Select Collision Group—and, of course, my iPhone and laptop to keep up with my consultant position at Visionary Brands.”

Jennifer LaFever, 34

Director of Quality, NASCAR Production—Roush Yates Engines

  Jennifer LaFever
Jennifer LaFever

Jennifer LaFever has loved motorsports and NASCAR from age 2. She earned a mechanical engineering degree from the University of California at Davis and later returned to technical school to supplement her skillset. LaFever next moved to North Carolina to complete her education at NASCAR Tech, and her career has been a whirlwind since. Within two months, she had an internship at Roush Yates Engines; within six months, she was appointed quality manager; and this year, she was promoted to director of quality.

Now LaFever ensures that proper procedures are available, calibration of equipment is correct, and only quality parts are available to the production group so that assembly and testing make schedule. Ultimately, the engines are used by the Ford Performance NASCAR and road-race teams.

“The technology we develop on the track is applied to production vehicles and aftermarket products for the general public,” LaFever noted.

Recently elected chairman of the board for the Society of Automotive Engineers Carolina Chapter, she has also served on the SEMA Businesswomen’s Network select committee for five years.

In her briefcase: Microsoft Excel because “engineers love data, tables and charts!” Also her calendar and daily to-do list.

Sam Mapes, 27

Owner—Sam’s Upholstery

Sam Mapes
Sam Mapes

Sam Mapes’ first project was in high school—a ’70 Chevelle built with his dad. The car went on to win several awards, perhaps an early indication of Mapes’ future as a successful upholsterer. It was also that build that inspired him to attend WyoTech and pursue a career in the upholstery and restoration niche.

Mapes started Sam’s Upholstery in his parents’ three-car garage. In the beginning, he relied heavily on seat repairs for farm trucks, tractors and ATVs to pay the bills, but even though it wasn’t exactly his area of passion, he said the experience was worth it.

“I know the less desirable work allowed me to practice, test and perfect my upholstery skills,” he said. “Repairs are still a part of my current business plan, but I have grown enough to not be reliant on those services.”

Since 2010, the company has expanded to six employees and is based in a 5,000-sq.-ft. facility offering upholstery (including airplane interiors), fabrication, engine and chassis services.

Mapes has an extensive list of awards to his name, including a 2011 Car Craft Top 10 Award, a 2015 Goodguys Young Guys Award, and 2017 Best in Class at World of Wheels Minneapolis. In his spare time, he volunteers in his community and hopes to offer classes for enthusiasts in the future.

In his briefcase: Mapes never leaves the shop without his cellphone, pocket knife and a pen.

Jake Neuman, 27

Engineer—Viking Performance Inc.

  Jake Neuman
Jake Neuman

A life-long automotive enthusiast, Jake Neuman always wanted a career in the automotive sphere. He landed his job with Viking Performance right out of college and has since been the lead engineering mind behind some of the company’s most prominent products. Neuman also designed and developed the patented Viking Crusader shock valving, which he considers one of his biggest accomplishments to date. Neuman has been tasked with developing suspension components for an exceptionally wide variety of chassis and platforms and always makes it a point to consider customer feedback when exploring new ways of doing things.

Neuman’s role at Viking Performance extends far beyond engineering. He is also the main technical-assistance provider and product specialist for Viking’s line of performance products.

“I deal with a wide range of customers who have different needs,” he said. “Everything from an 80-year-old car that needs to ride and handle like new to taking a tenth of a second off a 1,000-plus-hp drag car, every customer and application is unique.”

In his briefcase: “I typically carry just the essentials with me: a caliper, calculator and note pad. I stay connected with my iPhone, which keeps me in the loop with email and always has dozens of podcasts downloaded for traveling. Lastly, I always keep a cup of coffee nearby.

John Petty, 30

Segment Manager—Mishimoto

John Petty
John Petty

John Petty has been with Delaware-based manufacturer Mishimoto since 2010, working his way up through several positions. As segment manager, Petty currently works with the engineering team to identify opportunities for new developments. He’s had a hand in several of the company’s patented products, including a 6.4L Powerstroke upper support bar, a Cadillac ATS catch-can system, and Floating Bracket Mustang radiators.

A large part of Petty’s job is working with the SEMA Garage to ensure that the company’s line of air-intake systems and intercoolers meets the California Air Resources Board’s requirements for EO certification.

“The ability to innovate and quickly bring products to market for new vehicles is the most exciting aspect of our business segment,” Petty said. “With the rapid growth of OEM engineering ability, we need to match and exceed that baseline. This is a fun challenge we deal with whenever a new vehicle is released.”

Petty said his greatest career accomplishment to date has been working with the Mishimoto team to build the manufacturer’s domestic and international departments. Looking ahead, he hopes to scale Mishimoto into new categories and industries.

In his briefcase: Espresso, a water bottle, Sharpies, a notepad and at least two computer monitors.

Sanaz Marbley, 32

Vice President—JMPR Public Relations Inc.

  Sanaz Marbley
Sanaz Marbley

In her 10 years with JMPR Public Relations, Sanaz Marbley has worked with numerous OEM and aftermarket clients, including such high-profile companies as Meguiar’s, Prestone, Royal Purple and Galpin Auto Sports. She sees each PR campaign as a chance to strengthen her skillsets and technique.

“Our clients are always looking for solutions to not only improve their brand reputation within core enthusiast and consumer audiences but also results that will help drive their overall business goals forward,” she said. “It can be easy to think up some incredibly creative campaigns, but a great PR person knows if that creative doesn’t meet the client’s overall business goals, it won’t go anywhere.”

Marbley was recently appointed vice president and looks forward to continuing her work in the aftermarket. With gratitude to those who helped her grow, she now seeks to inspire young PR professionals beginning their careers. “It is still extremely important to find new ways to inspire automotive passion and enthusiasm within newer generations,” she added.

In her briefcase: As a working mom, Marbley considers a lint roller, a pack of gum, sanitizing wipes and hand lotion to be essentials. “Aside from that, a stack of business cards, a pen, a small notepad and a good shade of red lipstick will ensure that you’re the most memorable person in the room!”

Saul Reisman, 28

Owner and Operator—Saul’s Automotive LLC

Saul Reisman
Saul Reisman

By age 19, Saul Reisman had earned an associate physics degree and worked under a master aircraft technician. He’d also incorporated two successful businesses, but he hadn’t yet discovered his automotive passion. Then he and his friend Casey Cales co-founded Saul’s Automotive in 2010. The full-service mechanical repair facility started out as a neighborhood operation but has grown to a six-bay shop, employing eight and doing more than $1 million in business each year. Both Reisman and the shop have won multiple awards, including the Denver-A-List Award in 2013 and 2014, a Talk of The Town Award in 2012, and a Highlands Ranch Best of the Best Award in 2015.

“I truly enjoy the odd-ball challenges,” Reisman said. “The cars other shops turn away, the times when you can’t just throw a manual and a technician together and say ‘solve’ it but really have to use your brain, apply the scientific process, use engineering principles, and solve a problem.”

In his briefcase: “A pen and a notepad are by far my greatest resources. Letting your brain do what it can as thoughts arrive allows better processing and more free thought. However, I find that taking the time to balance business and exercise is the true solution. Throughout my day, I take 10 minutes of every hour to reset my brain, grab a few reps and keep myself moving. Also, no office chair; get off it already.”

Stephen Ruiz, 30

Senior Calibration Engineer—Edelbrock LLC

  Stephen Ruiz
Stephen Ruiz

Stephen Ruiz grew up with gasoline in his veins. A World Challenge race car driver in his early 20s, Ruiz learned the ins and outs of an engine bay rather quickly and has worked on performance engines ever since. After his racing career transitioned into the engineering field, Ruiz found a home at Edelbrock.

According to colleagues, Ruiz is integral to the development of all Edelbrock’s late-model superchargers, cylinder heads and intake manifolds. His indispensability has earned him a promotion to senior calibration engineer, where his expertise is used to develop products that are powerful while also being emissions compliant for Edelbrock’s extensive racing customer base. This balance of adding performance while keeping things within emissions confines is what Ruiz cites as one of his greatest day-to-day challenges as a calibration engineer. He relishes his ongoing growth at Edelbrock and within the racing community.

“A majority of Edelbrock customers are DIY performance enthusiasts,” he said. “They are passionate about their vehicles and appreciate the engineering and testing that goes into our products.”

In his briefcase: “My laptop, a laptop power source, a phone, vehicle calibration interfaces, multiple USB cables, USB storage, zip ties, a water bottle and a Clif Bar.”

Monte Roach, 21

Owner/Operator—Roach Pinstriping

Monte Roach
Monte Roach

Monte Roach first picked up pinstriping at 14 years old. At 16, he assisted in the restoration of the original Von Dutch bus. Since then, Roach has incorporated his business with a shop in Minnesota. Along with custom pinstriping for cars, motorcycles and parts, Roach Pinstriping includes a line of apparel. Roach travels to regional shows across the Midwest, demonstrating his art form. He has also pinstriped feature vehicles for the SEMA Show and appeared in exhibitor booths.

“Usually, pinstriping is the finishing touch to the projects my clients have poured their hearts and souls into,” he said. “It’s an awesome honor and responsibility when they turn it over to me to help complete their vision.”

In the future, Roach hopes to expand his business to include applications for additional apparel and home décor items.

In his briefcase: “I couldn’t call myself a pinstriper if I didn’t refer first to quality pinstriping brushes and the great results I get with 1-Shot Paint. As far as the business portion of my work, I rely heavily on my Ford truck to carry me and my equipment and get set up from show to show.” Being always on the go, Roach added he’d also be lost without his iPhone and social-media apps, such as Facebook and Instagram, which he uses to connect with this client base.

Steve Ryan, 32

Co-Owner—Mobsteel/Detroit Steel Wheel

  Steve Ryan
Steve Ryan

If Steve “Steve-O” Ryan seems familiar, it’s probably because you’ve seen him either on NBCSN’s “Mobsteel” or currently on the History Channel’s “Detroit Steel.” But Ryan is not just a media personality. He’s a talented fabricator with more than 14 years of industry experience under his belt. Growing up in the car culture of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, he moved to Detroit to work with Adam Genei at Mobsteel when he was just 16 years old.

Mobsteel builds are known for their trademark vintage-luxury-turned-modern-street style and Ryan’s projects have won a number of prestigious awards over the years, including six Ford Design awards and nods from DUB and JL Audio.

When the Mobsteel team wraps up shooting, the day still isn’t over for Ryan. He also manages Detroit Steel Wheel Company, the shop’s line of large-diameter, American-made wheels launched in 2013.

“I love creating” said Ryan. “Whether it be an automotive project we are working on for a customer or making a machine to make manufacturing flow better and more efficiently. There are always hurdles in business, but it’s creating the means to get through them that is fun.”

In his briefcase: “My welder, because obviously I’m gonna need to fab a bigger briefcase.”

Brycen Smith, 30

Shop Foreman/Fabricator—Scott’s Hot Rods ‘N Customs

Brycen Smith
Brycen Smith

Automotive expertise and artistic capability typically combine in fantastic form, often leading to the works of art that line the floor of the SEMA Show. Such is the case with California-based fabricator Brycen Smith, whose love of automotive building has taken him far in his 12-year career.

Smith has built several SEMA Show vehicles, including a ’65 Chevrolet Suburban, ’48 Chevrolet 3100 truck and bare-metal ’58 Ford F-100. Several of Smith’s builds have received high honors, such as the Goodguys Truck of the Year award.

“I have had amazing experiences with everyone from your average person wanting to build their dream truck to celebrities who are looking to add something to their collection,” he said. “The love of cars is something that unites people from various walks of life.

His current project, “The Ruptured Duck,” garnered attention as a work-in-progress car at the 2016 SEMA Show. The car is Smith’s most extensive project to date, creating a hand-built aluminum body to resemble a true World War II B-25 Mitchell bomber. He hopes to have the car completed for the 2018 car show season.

In his briefcase: A MetalAce30F English wheel, a Miller Syncrowave 210, an Eckold Kraiformer, a Proline planishing hammer and a Pullmax. Aside from fabrication tools, Instagram.

Neal Unschuld, 32

President—Euroteck Racing LLC

  Neal Unschuld
Neal Unschuld

Neal Unschuld founded Euroteck Racing in his home shortly after graduating from high school. At first, the business was exclusively e-commerce. Euroteck’s first foray into manufacturing came when a customer requested a carbon-fiber front lip spoiler for a Mercedes. It didn’t exist, but Unschuld had it made locally. Other customers loved the product and asked for it in other models.

Today the company designs and produces private-label carbon-fiber parts and forged wheels for more than 40 companies, and about half of those products are manufactured in-house. The product lines include parts for almost all Mercedes AMG cars and for other popular luxury and exotic models.

Looking back over the last 14 years, Unschuld feels his greatest accomplishment has been running a successful business for so long, knowing that many don’t make it.

“I have learned not to take such big leaps at a time to expand because that is where you can get in trouble fast,” he said. “Instead, take it slow, look around, and feel it out. Be realistic with both your short- and long-term outlooks.”

In his briefcase: “A Samsung Galaxy S7 and a Windows-based laptop only! Occasionally a tape measure and a DSLR camera. Oh yeah, and a protein bar. You always work better on a full stomach!”

Brock Templeman, 28

President—Savior Products Inc.

Brock Templeman
Brock Templeman

Brock Templeman is still riding the wave of his greatest career accomplishment—helping create and patent a line of performance battery cases and trays. Originally, the idea was to protect marine batteries, reducing vibration to extend their lifespan, but more recently it has been applied to automotive and powersports applications.

Templeman has had several roles at Savior Products, a company founded by his grandfather, Art, in 1987. Today, as president, he works alongside his father Jon and puts his dual degrees in finance and marketing to work, managing product lines and spearheading new-business development.

Additionally, he oversees sales and marketing and ensures that the company’s products maintain platinum-level data with the SEMA Data Co-op. So far, he’s secured three patents and has five more pending.

“Developing something that is truly unique and patentable while at the same time beneficial to the end user is satisfying,” he said. “Seeing a customer learn about a genuinely new product and get excited is an awesome feeling. Knowing that our products actually help others and the environment provides us with the drive to continue the stream of innovative new products.”

In his briefcase: Templeman opts for a backpack filled with Apple products, noise-cancelling headphones when he travels by air, and a Kansas City Chiefs, Royals or Jayhawks hoodie.

David Walker, 32; Kevin Walker, 31

Co-Owners—Custom Trucks Unlimited LLC

  David and Kevin Walker
David and Kevin Walker

With 13 years of industry experience, David and Kevin Walker have grown their truck-accessory retail operation to four locations in Alabama, Georgia and Texas. Originally focused on selling and installing truck accessories, the business has expanded to include additional product lines and wholesale and industrial/government contracting.

While many wonder about the future of brick-and-mortar, Custom Trucks Unlimited has nearly doubled in sales and volume in the last two years, and the brothers plan to add two more locations by the end of 2018. Day to day, David focuses on the bottom line with his accounting and finance background, and Kevin’s administration and Juris Doctor degrees give him another perspective for long-term strategy.

“The most exciting thing for me is entering into new markets as we open more stores,” said David.

Kevin added, “We have a wide variety of customers, and they may have different motivations. Some of our customers are outfitting their trucks for work, and others are more of a lifestyle customer who wants to use his truck to have fun on the weekends.”

In their briefcases: Kevin always carries a laptop, pad of paper and pen. David says his truck is his briefcase.

Michael Weiss, 31

President and CEO—Weistec Engineering

Michael Weiss
Michael Weiss

Michael Weiss founded Weistec Engineering after earning a mechanical engineering degree from Cal Poly Pomona. Weiss was able to grow the company into the internationally recognized manufacturer that it is today despite the weak economy of the time. The manufacturer is outfitted for CNC machining, CNC mandrel bending, 3D printing, 3D scanning, welding and fabrication.

Weistec’s original product line focused on performance upgrades for AMG vehicles, including a CARB-certified supercharger system, and Weistec’s customer base today is still mostly affluent owners of high-end luxury cars. To stay competitive for this demographic, not only is product quality paramount but service standards must also remain top-notch.

“Developing quality and innovative parts for a vehicle that is as highly engineered as an AMG takes a team of intelligent, motivated and passionate people all working together,” said Weiss. “Designing, manufacturing and pushing the envelope with new innovative products are definitely the most exciting parts of the process. Sometimes QuickBooks is open more than SolidWorks, but I have a core team that shares my vision and helps me make it a reality.”

In his briefcase: An Apple Watch, an iPhone, SolidWorks, a 3D mouse and a FARO CMM to bridge the analog and digital worlds.

Ashley Yoder, 34

Head of Production—Brentwood Communications International Inc.

  Ashley Yoder
Ashley Yoder

Now in her 13th year as a producer for Brentwood Communications International Inc., Ashley Yoder has been a major force behind several popular TV shows, including “Overhaulin’” and “SEMA Battle of the Builders.” After graduating from USC with a broadcast journalism degree, Yoder immediately applied her talents to creating content for the automotive aftermarket.

“I was lucky, starting my career with a production company that was part of the very first wave of reality TV,” She said. “We brought the custom car and automotive aftermarket tothe public.”

Yoder’s advancement in automotive television was swift, moving her from a production assistant sweeping floors and running errands to orchestrating the Battle of the Builders live show at the SEMA Show. She spends most of her time in the field and on the road, working with clients all over the United States.

“From Chattanooga, Tennessee, with Corky Coker, to Bourbon, Missouri, with the Gateway Classic Mustang Boys, I’ve made some life-long friends on the road,” she said.

In her briefcase: “When I’m not traveling, my dog Lola is one thing you will find in my bag. She comes to work with me when I am prepping for shoots in the office and makes me laugh.”

Tyler Williams, 23

President/Owner—All American Billet

Tyler Williams
Tyler Williams

At the ripe old age of 23, Tyler Williams is running a multi-million-dollar operation in Phoenix. Four years ago, he purchased an old screw machine shop equipped with one CNC machine and has since transformed it into an aftermarket auto and motorcycle parts manufacturer with three divisions and 10 CNC machines. All American Billet serves the hot-rod industry, specializing in front-drive systems, suspensions, and interior, exterior and engine accessories. The company now manufactures thousands of products, including its Silverline series of black-anodized parts with machined accents.

Amid all that, Williams earned a degree in business management from Grand Canyon University. The studies are paying off now, as Williams oversees the day-to-day operations of 20 employees and keeps an eye on the horizon, planning for continued growth.

“My greatest career accomplishment was to come from nothing and, within just a few years, have our name flood the market,” said Williams. “I always love the question from customers, ‘Where did you guys come from?’ Going to shows is a lot of fun, because every customer wants to show us pictures of their vehicle, and we get to see firsthand how our products are being used.”

In his briefcase: “My briefcase is solely my phone. I take notes and am on the calculator constantly. Business is all about numbers, and, luckily, I love the number side of things.”

Do you know a rising star within the specialty-equipment industry, age 35 or younger? To nominate them for future 35 Under 35 recognition, visit www.sema.org/35-under-35.


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