Erin Brochu, 39, owner and manager, Castle Rentals & Welding Supplies, Edson, Alberta, Canada, says she grew up riding around town on her bicycle, delivering the monthly payables for the equipment rental company her father had purchased when she was a child.
“I did a lot of sweeping the floor and I even got paid a whopping 75 cents an hour,” Brochu says. “As I got older, the tasks became more complicated. I had a few other part-time jobs during high school but came back full-time when I graduated. You might say this career chose me, rather than me choosing it,” Brochu says.
It was a friend of Brochu’s father who started Castle Rentals in the 1980s to help grow his welding shop. Her father eventually purchased the company and then Brochu and her younger brother, Brad Collin, bought the business from him in March 2018.
“Dad had been stepping back for quite some time by then, so it wasn’t a stretch for me to turn from manager to owner. I have been in a lead role here since I was in my early 20s and the best part of my job is the fact that it changes every single day. Even every hour. I love picking up the phone and my day changes from one thing to the next just that quickly. I’ve been here for over two decades and no two days have been the same,” she says.
Castle Rentals & Welding Supplies rents everything from generators, light towers and air compressors to aerial lifts, skid steers and attachments. The target customers are contractors, and the company has nine people on staff.
“My dad always said, ‘If it’s not here, you can’t rent it out.’ That’s a motto I’ve always gone by, and that leaves my company very flexible. I don’t require my staff to jump through hoops to buy something they need for customers. That flexibility has really helped when it comes to dealing with the biggest customers, because we’ve really become a one-stop shop,” Brochu says.
“Since Edson is a small town, we often get contractors coming from different cities to do large projects here, and since we can supply that ‘one-stop’ convenience for them, the contractors tend to remember us for the next project,” she says.
Initially, Brochu says she joined the family business to earn money before going back to school.
“I wound up starting to date my future husband and never left for school,” she says, adding that she completed her bachelor’s degree in management online “in the middle of the night because I was still working 50 hours a week, getting married and having a baby.”
She also studied computer programming and code in school, which helped her build the company’s first few websites from scratch before most other rental companies were online.
“Now, I run two websites, one for selling our welding supplies and the other is for our rental items. One is known locally, and our welding supplies ship all over the world. From small town Edson, I’ve shipped to every continent except Antarctica,” she says.
She also credits Rental Management and the American Rental Association (ARA) with helping her business be more successful.
“Once we started receiving the magazines, I realized that rental stores face the same issues across North America, so I’m sure to read every issue. I get extra copies for my employees as well. It’s surprising the amount of different legislation and safety tips and tricks that we all pick up from reading the issues,” she says, adding that she and her husband regularly attend The ARA Show™ and even brought their nine-year-old son with them to Anaheim in 2019.
Her most memorable accomplishment in the business was renting equipment for a massive mine expansion project that she handled when she was 21.
“I remember when the job was done, the purchasing manager from the mine came to meet me for the first time and was floored by how young I was. I also enjoy driving near any of the big projects that rent our equipment and seeing the progress. Although I’m not the one swinging the hammer, it feels like I am a part of building things,” she says.