Erin Stephenson doesn’t only have a seat at the table – she’s at the head of it.
Throughout her career, Stephenson has established herself as a strong female leader and trailblazer within the Canadian tech centre. As the CMO and COO of Dozr — an online heavy equipment marketplace — Stephenson’s sweet spot resides in the intersection between technology and construction: two industries often dominated by men.
Since Dozr was first founded five years ago, Stephenson and Dozr’s two other co-founders – her husband and brother-in-law – have built an online platform that boasts about 30,000 active suppliers and renters of heavy construction equipment such as tractors and forklifts, with users located across Canada and the U.S. For her part, Stephenson’s leadership skills have earned her speaking opportunities, guest appearances on podcasts, and accolades such as the Startup Canada Woman Entrepreneur Award.
“I started Dozr to change the construction industry for the better,” Stephenson explains. “I know there’s an underrepresentation of female leaders in both tech and construction, so I certainly feel a sense of obligation to get in front of people, so other aspiring female entrepreneurs can see me and don’t feel like they’re alone in the room.”
The concept for Dozr first originated in 2014, while Stephenson was working at her husband and brother-in-law’s landscape construction business. They found that some of the equipment they owned was resting idle for much of the year. Dozr – a play on the words “bulldozer” and “dozing” – enables other businesses to earn additional revenue from their idle equipment and allows contractors to rent equipment at lower rates than traditional rental companies.
Stephenson says that since its initial launch in 2015, Dozr has expanded to include traditional rental shops and original equipment manufacturers among its suppliers. The company provides a full service end-to-end platform that helps contractors find the best equipment rental packages from a wide range of trusted suppliers with ease.
Stephenson’s had first-hand experience seeing a tech company grow and adapt to a changing marketplace. After graduating from Sheridan, she spent nearly 10 years at BlackBerry right during a period of massive growth for the company. She experienced the ins-and-outs of testing tech and learned how to determine when a product reaches a stage when it’s intuitive and practical enough to bring to market.
“I got to work with some really talented leaders and see how they operate and how they lead people – what positive leadership looks like,” says Stephenson. “That really set the stage for me as a leader in my role at Dozr – being able to see what works and internalizing the best parts of what I experienced.”
Using those career insights as well as the lessons learned through Sheridan, Stephenson prioritized fostering a strong corporate culture early on at Dozr. The key, she says, is in accountability. “We try to create a culture where everybody feels like owners. We want everyone to feel like they have a stake in the game here,” she says. This philosophy holds strong even in Dozr’s office space, which features an open concept layout at a converted fire station in Kitchener, Ont.
“A lot comes down to transparency and authenticity. Being honest with where we are as a company and trying to do the best we can by our employees. We care about every person that works here on a personal and professional level, and we want to make sure they feel like they’re taken care of.”
As CMO, Stephenson handles Dozr’s marketing strategy, and as COO, she says “I identify roadblocks that face our company. Then, I remove those roadblocks.” A lot of that work involves cross-functional team projects, bringing groups together whether it be engineering, design, sales or customer experience, and making sure those areas are working seamlessly together to execute on company goals.
“We’ve come a long way in the last five years and have matured a lot, but every time we grow and achieve a goal, there’s a new set of challenges we have,” Stephenson explains. “It’s the nature of being an entrepreneur – you can’t rest on your laurels.”
*Editor’s Note: photo and video footage in this story was obtained prior to the introduction of physical distancing restrictions required because of the COVID-19 outbreak*