YEN Member Insights

Kris Horton, YEN Member Insights, September 2016

Kris Horton, YEN Member Insights, November 2016­Kris Horton on Next Gen Vehicle Design

Kris creates life-like computer renderings of custom vehicles. Combining state of the art technology with his creative inspirations. He’s a Ford Award winner and has contributed to numerous SEMA Show project builds. He took the time to tell us a little bit more about exactly what it is he does, and how SEMA has changed his business.

1) Can you tell us a little bit about the process you take when developing a rendering? Are there any rituals in your process you undertake to get inspired (ie listen to specific type of music, use a standing computer desk, etc)?

I always say that I’m not very “artsy-fartsy” as one of my favorite instructors used to put it. I don’t have a specific process for getting inspired and as clichéd as it may sound, I believe that an artist should be able to be inspired by anything and everything around them. Listening to music is probably one of the best ways I can clear my head and focus, but sometimes it takes going for a walk or a swim to get my head in the mood to work on a particular project.

Steven Rossi, YEN Member Insights, August 2016

Steven Rossi, YEN Member Insights, August 2016

Tell us about yourself.

First, the love of cars and trucks has always defined me as a person. The lifestyle, culture, and utility of a pickup truck is a love I share with 50 million other truck owners in the USA. My uncle gave me my first pickup truck at the age of seven, where I began to learn about trucks and making forts! Also where I made my first custom tonneau cover, with my father.  At the age of 17 I started my first business while working towards college degree in biology.  I quickly fell in love with “being my own boss” and building a business from the ground up.  With no more than $500 in my pocket, my first business grew and eventually sold when I was decided to invest my time and entrepreneurial knowledge in crafting tonneau covers. That is when I started TruXmart Tonneau Covers, in May, 2011.

Who/what are your major influencers?

My influence are my superheroes; my father and my COO, Steve Raivio. These two great people guided and supported me in growing as a businessman. My father taught me to never give up and to face each obstacle as something that will make me stronger, smarter, and better. Steve Raivio taught me everything about ethical growth, customer service, and to always learn something new, each week, month, and year. I wouldn’t be where I am, today, if not for them.

Jayke Milton, YEN Member Insights, June 2016


Jayke Milton, YEN Member Insights, June 2016fuelculture Media, what is it? How does it work?
The fuelculture Media Agency was born of an intuitive and organic inclination towards both modern media and automotive passion. We, in practice, are a full service media agency dedicated to the automotive aftermarket and specializing in creating and distributing content for mass public consumption. Our progression through the industry has led us to creating and executing many entities and fuelculture serves somewhat, as the zip tie that binds it all together. Wrecked Magazine, Sponsor Spotter, Slide America, The Street Driven Tour and more have all been created to serve both our industry and our clients.

What's the best part about developing this type of business?
The freedom to create. We are free to keep our fingers to the pulse of the consumer which has allowed us to consistently produce creative marketing initiatives for our clients that truly integrate their brands into the communities they want to sell in to. We get to play the bridge of two worlds and for us, it is a rewarding challenge.

James Snoddy, YEN Member Insights, April 2016


James Snoddy, YEN Member Insights, April 2016I’m originally from Rochester, NY. I am an alumnus of the University of Maryland, College Park, with a degree in English literature and of the Johns Hopkins University, with a Masters in writing.

I’m the inventor of the Jammock (it’s a hammock for your Jeep or truck), own, and run the company. Jammock does over $200,000 in sales each year worldwide.

I’m a former U.S. Army infantry officer, following seven years of enlisted service as a Military Policeman. I served as a Stryker Platoon Leader for 16-months in Iraq and led over 480 combat patrols and raids, finishing my tour with zero U.S. casualties under my command, which I regard as my greatest achievement. I’ve served the U.S. in every major theater of the Global War on Terror: as a military policeman guarding the Pentagon crash site following 9-11; as a prison guard at Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; as an infantry officer in Mosul, Baghdad, and Hamam al-Alil, Iraq; and (very briefly) as a Cooperative Biological Engagement Program project manager in Kabul, Afghanistan.


Jared Chavez, YEN Member Insights, July 2015


YEN Member Insight – Jared ChavezBeing part of SEMA is truly amazing because the organization provides its members with a number of opportunities to network. This comes in the form of traditional networking mixers, the SEMA Show itself and many of the membership programs aimed to connect us all together. I highly recommend that everyone put themselves out there and meet their fellow SEMA members because it will truly help them engage within the community.

With all of the opportunity to connect, I have seen one common mistake repeatedly made by those new to networking. It probably will surprise you—you may even disagree with me—but from my experience, I can tell you that if you can accept this one philosophy, your ability to network will grow exponentially.

Networking is not about what people can do for you.

Let’s think about this for a moment and really try to gain a deeper understanding, as I am sure the basic motivation for many people in networking is to meet others who can help them with their business.

Neil Tjin, YEN Member Insights, March 2015


YEN Member Insight – Neil TjinNeil Tjin is the president of Tjin Edition and the automotive marketing director at Vortech Engineering in Channel Islands, California.

How did you get into the industry?
I started tinkering with cars in 1996. It started out as a hobby and I was able to turn it into a profession in the early 2000's. I started out as the marketing director at Toucan Industries, and then I became the executive editor at Hot Compact and Imports magazine and B/Scene Magazine in 2003. In 2010, I became the automotive marketing director at Vortech Engineering. And, we started the Tjin Edition Road Show in 2004.

When did you start Tjin Edition and what is it all about?
Tjin Edition started out as a car club/business in 2003, when we did our first OEM build for Scion. In 2004, we expanded the Tjin Edition brand into the Tjin Edition Road Show, and this is year will be our 11th year on the road.

Michael Chapin and Eric Coomer, YEN Member Insights, October 2014

YEN Member Insight – Michael Chapin and Eric Coomer, RxSpeed.comAt the 2012 SEMA Show Awards Banquet, Michael Chapin and Eric Coomer sat down for dinner at the YEN member table. Focused on their respective ventures, the two like-minded gasoline junkies stayed in contact for another year and found several more overlapping likes and interests. Fast forward to 2014, when an opportunity arose to collaborate in a new business launch——a search engine for aftermarket parts.

What kind of SEMA resources have you found to be valuable?

Chapin: Besides the obvious fact that we met while networking with YEN, Eric and I use SEMA’s market reports and resources to convey to the outside world the scale and dynamic of this marketplace. For most non-car people, it’s an industry that hides in plain sight. Few expect to hear that 24 million Americans spend $33 billion annually. The market segmentation reports draw clear lines in the sand to help people understand who buys parts for necessity and who buys them for fun.

Coomer: The background and education SEMA provides on the industry’s data revolution, and more specifically the SEMA Data Co-op, have by far been the most helpful in educating myself and others about the need for standardized product data. It wasn’t very long ago that every small business was told they needed a website in order to survive, and now in 2014, getting your products seen and sold online carries that same message. Clear business communication doesn’t end with conversation, but continues with every file and piece of data you exchange.

Nick Gramelspacher, YEN Member Insights, September 2014

Nick Gramelspacher, YEN Member Insights, September 2014, Automotive News, Aftermarket News

Describe yourself in your own words.
My name is Nicholas Gramelspacher, and I am vice president, sales and marketing, at Meyer Distributing, and a member of the SEMA Board of Directors. I have a wife, April, and son, Ajay.

What type of education do you have?
I have a degree in business management.

Did you choose the aftermarket or did the aftermarket choose you?
I chose the aftermarket-I was tinkering on and fixing up trucks in early high school and fell in love with it. We have a family business in the furniture industry, but I wanted to plow my own path to do what I love and love what I do: cars, trucks and Jeeps. That, along with working for a great company like Meyer, which has had tremendous growth, and having a hardworking team made it a great decision 16 years ago.

What has your career path looked like?
I started with Meyer in the shipping department and worked there for about six months before moving into sales. We were a single location, 25,000-sq.-ft. company back then, selling about 40 lines.

Justin Hartenstein, YEN Member Insights, January 2014

Justin Hartenstein, SEMA YEN Member of the Month Spotlight, Member Insight, Automotive News, Aftermarket News, January 2014

Justin Hartenstein, founder and president of Oracle Lighting, was a true automotive enthusiast from the beginning.

When Hartenstein began selling automotive parts in his eBay store in 1999, it was primarily items that he had installed but later taken off his own rides. He later started making items on his own and posting project pictures on online forums. Others began requesting parts, asking to buy what Hartenstein had made for himself. While he maintained his eBay store, Hartenstein was also going to school at the University of New Orleans and working full time.

It wasn’t until Hurricane Katrina in 2005 that Oracle Lighting became the top priority for Hartenstein. His previous employer was greatly affected by Katrina. After the Hurricane, Hartenstein moved for a short period, and his own business was what he relied on. This was his turning point.

“When I moved back, I didn’t have any distractions, and it’s all I’ve done since then,” he said.

Oracle Lighting has been a SEMA member since 2003 and began exhibiting at the Show in 2009.

Alain Eboli, YEN Member Insights, May 2013

Alain Eboli, SEMA YEN Member of the Month Spotlight, Member Insight, Automotive News, Aftermarket News, May 2013

Alain Eboli is a graduate of Southern Polytechnic State University in Atlanta, Georgia. He is a father to a 4-year-old son who also shares a strong interest in cars and trucks. Alain's role is Engineering Manager for Omix-ADA/Rugged Ridge/Alloy USA, the largest independent manufacturer of Jeep replacement parts and accessories.

How long have you been in the automotive aftermarket? What other industries have you worked in?

I have been with Omix-ADA/Rugged Ridge/Alloy USA for about 5 years with a brief period of about 6 months where I worked for Newell Rubbermaid's Graco Childrens Products brand. I returned to Omix in August of 2012 to fill the role of Engineering Manager. Prior to my initial employment with Omix, I worked as a Design Engineer designing LED billboard structures and other signage solutions for outdoor applications, stadiums and arenas.

What does it take to create innovative products?

It's much easier to invent than it is to innovate. Creating innovative products starts with understanding the consumer and the problems they face.


Subscribe to YEN Member Insights