Serious Business

SEMA Education Builders' Panel
››› The SEMA Education builders panel (left to right): moderator RJ de Vera, TJ Hunt, Bisi Ezerioha, Gabby Downing and Kyle Kuhnhausen.


A Real-World Builders' Look at How to Get a Vehicle Project Sponsored

T. J. Hunt has more than two million followers on YouTube. He pioneered automotive influencing and has turned it into a lucrative career. At the 2022 SEMA Show in Las Vegas, he was on a panel during a session entitled "How to Get a Sponsor for Your Next Build."

"You're not going to get sponsored because you're cool," said the president of Hunt and Company, an apparel business he launched. "It's because that company thinks you're going to make them more sales. For a start, you have to see yourself as a salesman for that company."

The session was one of more than 70 educational presentations during the Show that ran last November at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Joining Hunt were RJ de Vera, SEMA vice president of marketing, who moderated the session; Bisi Ezerioha, president of Bisimoto Engineering in Ontario, California; Kyle Kuhnhausen, founder and president of Kuhnhausen Metal Concepts in Creswell, Oregon; and popular content creator and competitor Gabby Downing from Fredericksburg, Virginia.

All the panelists had humble starts. Ezerioha is originally from Nigeria and worked his way up from building a Honda CRX drag car to racing for American Honda. Today, he has relationships with many original equipment manufacturers. Kuhnhausen and Downing both started with Hondas as well, with Kuhnhausen winning the Young Guns category in the 2018 SEMA Battle of the Builders. Downing has driven drift cars, off-road vehicles and started with videos on basic repairs, including oil changes. She recently bought a C5 Corvette and is one of the most popular influencers in the automotive aftermarket.

"These are great examples of people who started building a car and now they have these great businesses," said de Vera. "For us at SEMA, a pillar is the idea of innovation and opportunity. Innovation isn't just about building the business, it's about building yourself."

Inevitably, a first project is going to start in a person's garage and it's going to be self-funded. A build also needs to be chronicled so others can follow the story. Recalling his experience in the Battle of the Builders, Kuhnhausen said, "It takes guts to start a build and put it all on social."

Most first-timers start with what they're given, noted de Vera. Ezerioha's first modification was by accident. He had an '88 Honda CRX HF. He started his car one morning and the exhaust was louder than usual because it was perforated. "It sounded cool, and I liked it," he said. He went to a local Honda dealer and got a quote of $600 to fix it. "I couldn't afford it, so I went to a local muffler shop and they put a Dynomax Ultraflow on my car," he said.

The HF designation for his car stood for high fuel economy, and Ezerioha called that a "blessing in disguise" because it was the lightest CRX made. He got into drag racing and when it came to interacting with people in the pits, Ezerioha did what came naturally. All the other competitors kept to themselves to try to maintain a competitive advantage. But Ezerioha was an open book. He had his sponsors' literature displayed on a table and he interacted with fans. A representative from American Honda noticed Ezerioha's efforts and asked if he would race for the company. "My passion is what allowed me to attract a financial sponsorship," he said.

Downing started with her own CRX. "I had just gotten out of high school and I needed something that was old and affordable, and a Civic was too boring," she said. "It had 18-in. wheels that were way too big and had two big subwoofers in the back. I modded it, I raced it and I rallied it."

Hunt started with a BMW 328, saying, "I did some V6 things to try to make it fast, tuning and springs and taillight tints, just some basic stuff; but that's kind of what cracked the seal for me. Then I got into the forums and trying to figure it all out."

It Starts With Parts

The first step in the sponsorship process is usually parts. Ezerioha's first backing came from SoCal Racing Wheels. "I met with the owner and he was an engineer as well, and we just hit it off," he said. "It taught me early on that relationships are important with sponsorships."

Kuhnhausen was four years into a five-year build and took the car to a local show in Oregon. He met the president of Radium Engineering of Clackamas, Oregon, which makes performance accessories for cars and trucks. "He loved the passion I had and the innovation I was doing on the car, and he said, 'Give me a call and we'll get you whatever you need," said Kuhnhausen.

He continued, "I made the call and about a week later, an unmarked package showed up on my door. I said, 'That's cool, this guy believes in me so much that he's willing to help me amplify my build,' which went on to win the Young Guns division of Battle of the Builders and "kind of got my career going." Today, Kuhnhausen is a Battle of the Builders judge.

All the cars that KMC builds now get Radium parts. "I've got a lot more eyes on what I do to feed business their way, so it's a cool relationship," said Kuhnhausen. "They gave me the early edge and now I can give that back."

Early in her career, Downing got lots of parts sent to her to use in videos. One of her earliest partners was BFGoodrich. When the tire giant first reached out to her, she thought someone was pranking her.

"I have had a hard time understanding my value and believing that I had anything to give back," she said. "When they reached out and believed in me and my value and being different, [they became] someone I wanted to continue to work with."

Hunt was running a Subaru BRZ and sent an email to Subaru parts distributors to introduce himself. "I got lucky because the person who saw the email was 18 and actually a viewer of my channel," said Hunt. "His boss was probably twice his age and had no idea."

Hunt landed a phone call with the boss and explained his presence on YouTube. He explained that if they gave him a store credit on parts, Hunt would do install videos.

"They took a shot in the dark and it was a hit for them," said Hunt. "It opened up that door and showed me how to leverage what I had."

Cashing In

Once a shop or individual is successful, the relationship often organically moves to the next level—financial sponsorships.

Downing said that her first financial sponsor remains a partner today. "They saw what I could do if I had financial assistance," she said. "I'm all about proving myself and making content and showing it."

Kuhnhausen's content has always been based on his build process. "I found a company that I don't have to sell their product because my simply using their product sells their product and that's SendCutSend laser cutting service," he said. "The partners you want to work with are the ones that you would still be working with even if you didn't have a deal."

Hunt's first financial sponsorship came through de Vera when the latter worked in marketing for Meguiar's Inc. Today the wax and polish company is Hunt's longest-standing partner. "You need to know the sponsor's demographic better than your own," he said. "What do they have and not have."

De Vera saw Hunt's reach firsthand at a show that Meguiar's was sponsoring. There was a long line made up primarily of young attendees waiting for as long as two hours for Hunt and company merchandise. Meguiar's was a brand known for appealing to the older hot-rod crowd, not the young drift-car enthusiasts.

When Hunt and de Vera started talking, the former explained that he could deliver that audience to Meguiar's.

"You need to fully understand that you're a salesman, know the demographic, what they're studying, what they're looking for," said Hunt.

Added Downing, "Once I took myself seriously, brands saw that," she said. "I shifted to promoting myself as a business and not a person."



As of August 15, 2023

Lakewood Bellhousing Bolt Kit for Mopar Gen III to T-56/T-56 Magnum

Lakewood has specialized in safety from the beginning. These Lakewood Bellhousing Bolts are no different. Built from high-strength chromoly steel, then black oxide-coated for a tough, long-lasting finish. This bolt kit provides the necessary fasteners to connect your bellhousing to both the engine (LS or LT) and transmission (T-56 or T-56 Magnum). The entire kit consists of 10.9/Grade 8 bolts, and it's included in purchase of an LK7100K bellhousing.

Ranger TruSensor TPMS Tool Kit

With the portable TS58R in hand, technicians will be able to view Sensor Battery Life, Tire Pressure, Broadcast Frequency, Sensor ID, as well as tire location. Its universal interface can relearn all known 315-MHz and 433-MHz sensors, including aftermarket and OE types. The TS58R has four modes for programming new sensors: copy by activation, manual input, auto-create ID (up to five sensors at a time) and copy by OBD. Other essential TPMS service capabilities include Manual Input ID, Duplicate ID, Automatic Create ID, Sensor Position Change, and Modify ID functions.

Ingersoll-Rand W311 IQV20 1/4-in. Compact Impact Driver

Ingersoll Rand grows its IQV20 system with the W3111 IQV20 1/4-in. Compact Impact Driver. Its brushless motor delivers up to 4,200 in.-lbs. of breakaway torque to quickly complete demanding applications. A compact form factor with 5.2-in. tip-to-tail length and weight under 2.3 lbs. provide excellent control and maneuverability in tight workspaces.

Astro Tools Goliath Ball Joint Service Tool & Master Adapter Set

Astro's latest large forged-alloy C-frame press features industry-leading strength and both a wider opening and longer arms to more easily fit adapters. The set includes all the receiver tubes and removing/installing adapters needed to work on press-fit upper and lower ball joints. It works on 2WD and 4WD domestic and import vehicles through the '20s. It includes information for more than 1,100 applications. All forged adapters and screws are grade-12.9 heat-treated for max durability.

Beta Tools 12V Multipurpose Portable Starter

Beta Tools' new 12V multipurpose charger uses a starting current of 600 amps and a pickup current of 1,500 amps. The four-cell, LifePo4 battery has a capacity of 25,000 milliamp-hours and protects against polarity reversal, short-circuit, overcurrent, overcharge and overheating. It's supplied with a protective case, cable with starting clamps, USB ports for charging electronic devices, an LED battery charge indicator, USB and USB-C cables, and multifunction LED lighting,

Bauer 20V Brushless Cordless 1/2-in. Impact Wrench

The Bauer 20V Brushless Cordless 1/2-in. High-Torque Impact Wrench delivers 1000 ft.-lb. of bolt breakaway torque at speeds up to 1,800 rpm to power-off nuts and bolts fast. The three-speed selector operates at 0-700, 0-1,400 and 0-1,800. A built-in LED light provides superior work visibility. Pair up with the Bauer 3 Ah battery pack or greater to deliver more work per charge and more work over the life of the pack.

Boxo USA Pro Series 45-in., 11-Drawer Bottom Roll Tool Cabinet

Ideal for the seasoned mechanic, professional technician as well as the homeowner who likes to be organized, each Pro Series toolbox works perfectly with our large choice of tools. They're constructed from strong 18-gauge spot-welded steel with gusset-reinforced corners, full-length beam supports (where applicable) and multiple strategically placed spot welds for long life. Each full-length drawer uses a soft-slide design with an all-steel ball-bearings rated at 100 lbs. per slide. They're available in white with black drawers or black with gray drawers.



As of August 15, 2023

AC Hydraulic A/S 35119

ADAS Aiming 38239

Adenna LLC 35133

Advantage Lifts 38087

AirBoss Air Tools Co. Ltd. 38161

AIRCAT 36135 35113

AirSept Inc. 36237


Alkota Cleaning Systems 39225

Alpine Bender Machinery 35095

Alsco Uniforms 39223

Amgo Hydraulic Corp. 38139

Anglo American Tools 36118

Anhui Xunchi Tools & Equipment Co. Ltd. 12772

ANSED Diagnostic Solutions 39167

Ansell 37129

APlusLift Car Lift Products 39238

Ascent Systems Inc. 36030

Assembly Tool Specialists Inc. 35241

Atlantic Safety Products Inc. 35067

Atlas Copco Compressors 35071




Badass Workbench 37097

Bad Dog Tools 35043

Baileigh 36073

BendPak/Cool Boss/JackPak 35137

Bend-Tech 38171

Best Guard 38187

Beta Tools 37113

Big Ass Fans 36087

Bissell Commercial/Speedy Sweep 36152


Boss Tables 37183

Brush Research Manufacturing 35065

Buddy Load Binder Attachment 12382

Cabinets By Hayley 36117

CARKU Technology Co. Ltd. 37050


Cattini Oleopneumatica S.r.l. 36124

Cementex Products Inc. 12182

Champion Pneumatic 35055


ChargeDNA 12283


ClampTite Tools LLC 36066

Cobra/Detroit Torch 36160

Cool-A-Zone 36064

Creaform 35191

The Creative Product Group Inc. 11642


CTA Tools 35217

DEA WORKY North America Inc. 37141

Dongguan Karlux Precision Machinery Science & Technology Co. Ltd. 11424

Durofix Inc. 37119

Dynabrade 37055

Edwards Manufacturing 36073

Enter Corp. 35033

Epilog Laser 35037

Ernst Manufacturing Inc. 35201

ETA Manufacturing Sdn Bhd 11429

E-XTEQ LLC 38027

Fanttik 37221



FILCAR 48193

Fireball Tool 37201

Flagro USA Inc. 35223

Flo-Dynamics/Norco Lifting Equipment 36095

Full Spectrum Laser 12482

Fuyang Tongli Industrial Co. Ltd. 38133

Garage Royalty Products Inc. 12483

GARTEC 49192

GEDORE Tools 36240

GrandPaw Tools 39107

Green Air Link Corp. 36200

Greentech Dryers srl 49200

GripEdge Tools 13167

GT Tools 36162

Guang Yang Industrial Works 39077

Guangzhou Palmergrip Metal
Products Co. Ltd. 35115

Guangzhou TAWA Hi Tech Co. Ltd. 35213


Haas Automation Inc. 36211

Hangzhou Black Box 3D Technology Co. Ltd. 12369

Harbor Freight 38047

HEM INC/HE&M SAW Inc. 36060

Hertz Kompressoren USA 35251

Homak 38017

Horizon Tool Inc. 36206

Huizhou Cartee Electric
& Machinery Co. Ltd. 37248

Huth Ben Pearson International 36032

Industrial Fan Co. 37241

Industrial Gold Air Compressors 35025

Ingersoll Rand 35087

Innova Electronics 38151

Ironclad Performance Wear 12874

iSCAN BY Autoland Scientech 38183

Jeoutay Liu Industrial Co. Ltd. 37237

JM3 Oil Filter Wrench 12663

J.W. Winco Inc. 12083

Kaeser Compressors Inc. 36109

K&L Supply Co. 12244

KATOOL 37231

Kingdom Abrasive Corp. 36216

KNIPEX Tools 36141

KnKut Drill Bits & Cutting Tools 35235

Koken USA 36205

Krebs Brothers 38111

Kukko Quality Tools Inc. 36156

Lang Tools 35107

Last Drop Wrench LLC 36204

Launch Tech USA 38101

LDS Industries LLC 38235


Levrack LLC 37149

LockNLube 38129

Lokithor 12669

LS Industries 36226

Lyon LLC 39234

Makita USA Inc. 11416

Mastech Innovation Ltd. 12783

MaverickCNC Plasma Tables 37135

Mayhew Tools 35171

Mega Compressor 37213

Millner-Haufen Tool Co. 35163

Milton Industries 37039

Milwaukee Sprayer Mfg. 37217

Mobile Tool Network 36212

Moduline Cabinets 36061

Mohawk Lifts LLC. 36189

Mueller-Kueps LP 35147

Nantong CheliTools Co. Ltd. 36236

NextLED 35239

Ningbo Chima Winch Co. Ltd. 38216

Ningbo Huasheng Air Compressors Co. Ltd. 38249

Ningbo Wuma Electric Appliance Co. Ltd. 11445

Nitrous Keys 35205

Ohio Brush Works 38212

OMER USA Inc. 37047

OmniWallUSA 36181

Panaro USA Inc. 12753

Parker Hannifin 37087

PICHLER Tools 12865

Pollution Control Products Co. 35185

Portacool 35049

Portasol 35233

Powerbuilt and Caterpillar 37155

Power Probe Group 36103

Precision Instruments Inc. 38233

Prologics Europe Ltd. 36232

Proslat 12571

Puffer (Taizhou) Machinery Co. Ltd. 39111

Puma Industries Inc. 39248

Qingdao Toolstar Tools Co. Ltd. 12458

QJT Group 37240

Quantum Machinery Group 38069

RAASM USA Inc. 36158

RAISE3D 37109

Rapid Air Products 36153

Raxwell Industries LLC 39035

Red Kap 36125

Redline Detection 37171

Revopoint Global Inc. 13083

Rhino Tuff Tanks LLC 36112

Rich Honest Machinery & Tools Co. Ltd. 35159

Rodman Drill 35031

ROGO Fastener Co. Inc. 37209

Rotary 36017

Roth North America 36228

Rousseau Métal Inc. 37067

Ryerson Inc. 11678

Safety-Kleen 36039

Sage Oil Vac/Acme Truck Body 39105

SAMSON Corp. 37236

San Antonio Laser 11543

SAS Safety Corp. 35103 36020

SEMA Garage: ADAS, Emissions,
Product Development 36007

Serra LightWELD-LightSAFE-LightBOT 38145

SFA Companies Inc. 35077

Shanghai Techway Industrial Co. Ltd. 13175


Shenzhen Southking Technology Co. Ltd. 39101

SHINING 3D Technology Inc. 12353


SK Tools USA LLC 38229

Soartec Industrial Corp. 39075

Socket Straps 36218

Spectro Wire & Cable Inc. 35017

SpringTools 35021

SP Tools USA 36199

Stahlwille Tools LLC 36241

Stand Tools Enterprise Co. Ltd. 35227

Steamericas Inc. 37061

Stertil-Koni USA 37073

Strategic Tools & Equipment Co. 35127

Stratus Auto Equipment 38211

STRINGO Inc. 13158

Strong Hand Tools 38119

Sumake North America 36161

Sunbright Tools Co. Ltd. 36222

SunFire Heaters 35229

Sunmatch Industrial Co. Ltd. 36051

Super Duty Fans 38205

SW Safety Solutions Inc. 13169

T.D. Premier Group LLC 39099

Temco Parts Washers 36234

Teslong 13171


Thexton Manufacturing Co. Inc. 35161

Titan, Star Asia USA LLC 38193


TOPDON 38221

Tracked Machines 38199

TRAK Machine Tools 37103

TR Tools LLC/Tite-reach Wrenches 35061


TW Products 36238

TW Tools LLC 39229

Uniweld Products Inc. 35063

URREA Professional Tools 13069

ValvoMax 37249


VIM Tools 38177

Vividia Technologies & Oasis Scientific Inc. 35125

Wallmek Tools 37177

Wera Tools NA Inc. 13168

Werther 36147

Wiha Tools 37189

Wilton 36073

Wuhu Yijing Hardware Tool
Manufactring Co. Ltd. 39103

Wuyi Mingrun industry & Trade Co. Ltd. 39109

Yongkang Lante Industry and Trade Co. Ltd. 12454

Zendex Tool Corp. 36171

Zhejiang Nanpu Pneumatic
Components Co. Ltd. 12282

Zhejiang Refine Wufu Air Tools Co. Ltd. 38236

Zhejiang Rongpeng Air Tools Co. Ltd. 35207

Zhejiang Safemate Automotive
Safety & Emergency 39236

Zhejiang Zhongyou Industry & Trade, Ltd. 39175

Zhuji Danbo Tools Co. Ltd. 38250

Zund America 36221