The Right Stuff

Ira Gabriel is the SEMA Vice President of Marketing, PR and Communications. As the responsibility to oversee the Battle of the Builders and Young Guns program falls to Ira, we had an opportunity to sit with him in the SEMA Diamond Bar office to chat about the Battle of the Builders, Young Guns program and 2020 Young Guns regional venues.

SEMA: How does the SEMA Battle of the Builders and Young Guns program connect with the mission of the SEMA?
IG: SEMA is a trade association that helps its members succeed. Getting more youth involved in the industry is a major strategic focus for the company. The goal of the SEMA Show is to bring together industry professionals, enthusiasts, and manufacturers and highlight the aftermarket parts, technology and vehicles from our industry. The Young Guns program, in particular, is a program that was built to recognize and inspire the next wave of young builders and get them actively involved with the aftermarket industry.

SEMA: How does a builder become one of the Young Guns?
IG: If you are 27 years or younger at the time of the annual SEMA Show and work on your vehicle in any capacity, you are eligible to register for the Young Guns program. To participate, a young builder would register for one of the regional Young Guns events that are held around the country. If selected to present their vehicle at the Young Guns regional event, the young builder would be given the opportunity to present their vehicle in front of industry judges and be evaluated on the quality of their build, work done to their build, total involvement as the builder, ingenuity and aftermarket parts used on the build.
The winner of each event will then advance their way to the SEMA Show—at our expense—to compete in the prestigious SEMA Battle of the Builders competition. Prospective young builders can visit where we have a listing of all the events that we're going to be at in 2020.

SEMA: How would you best describe the program and opportunity for a young builder?
IG: The SEMA Battle of the Builders competition was created to create excitement about the builders, aftermarket industry parts and vehicles. Coverage of the SEMA Battle of the Builders is shared throughout social media, on a nationally televised one-hour program and through media coverage. For a young builder, the hardest step to enter the industry is the first step. Getting your vehicle to display at the world-famous SEMA Show is a tall task for a young builder just starting out who may not have the connections. Since the SEMA show is trade only and not open to the public, it’s difficult for a young person to display their work, much less attend the Show. SEMA has created the program to help young builders with their first step.

SEMA: What advice do you have for a young builder to get started?
IG: My recommendation is to visit a Young Guns regional venue as an applicant who wants to enter a vehicle or a spectator who is interested in seeing first-hand what other young builders in your area are working on. Right now, young builders can visit to find one of the 13 regional events geographically near them in 2020.

SEMA: What does it mean to a builder when they qualify at one of the regional events?
IG: Qualifying at a regional event for a young builder means you have been recognized by your peers and industry members who have acknowledged the hard work, hours, craftsmanship, ideas and mechanical workings that you’ve put into your build. Simply put, being identified as the Young Guns winner at a regional event means that your work speaks for itself. It is one of the highest compliments and honors that can be bestowed upon a builder. SEMA will award an all-expenses-paid trip to one builder from each regional. When you win, you’re transported to the SEMA Show in the fall, and your vehicle is displayed alongside hundreds of other builds. You are standing shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the top builders in the industry—and in the world! These top builders have become media sensations, TV personalities and have launched big businesses—all because they started out as a young builder who was doing something with a vehicle that they really, really enjoy. Many of these builders who start at SEMA end up making a career out of it.

SEMA: What is the typical experience for a young builder who has become a Young Guns competitor at the SEMA Show?
IG: For a Young Guns competitor, the SEMA Show is an eye-opening experience. Many of them have never been to the SEMA Show, and quite a few of them have never traveled too far outside of their home town. At the SEMA Show, these young builders are competing with world-renowned builders who may be working on vehicles similar to theirs. These young builders are seeing different ways professional builders around the country work on their vehicles and create performance product. They also get to see how some of the newest automotive aftermarket product from our industry is utilized. The SEMA Show is all about introducing new products and technology into the industry and an indicator of what will ultimately make its way to the consumer when it gets into the distribution channel. So, for a young Builder to be at the SEMA Show, they’re not only meeting the iconic builders that they know of or have grown up with, but they’re also meeting with the companies and the brands that they know and may have used on their own builds. The SEMA Show is an opportunity for a young builder to expand their career, professional business and knowledge about product. It's a great opportunity to connect with people.

SEMA: Any last-minute advice for young builders out there?
IG: Keep pursuing your passion and dreams. Your first project is going to be one that you will remember forever, but it won’t be the last. Work with people around you, and get advice from mentors and those in the industry. Pursue the industry as a career, hobby, profession or just a pastime. The more you put into it, the more the industry will give back to you. Take the first step today by visiting and registering to attend a regional event.