Shannon Botten, 37, president, Botten’s Equipment & Event Rental, McMinnville, Ore., says her company is another multigenerational equipment and event rental business with one key difference — the family created the business together from scratch in 2012.
“My father brought the knowledge and experience of the industry, but we were all on the starting line together from the beginning,” Botten says, adding that it was the industry that seemed to seek her out vs. her choosing to pursue a career in equipment and event rental.
“My husband, Alan Botten, was needing to change industries as his current business of automotive radiator repair was ever-changing and it became cheaper to buy new than fix the old one. About the same time, my father, Dick Edwards, was getting tired of commuting an hour up to Portland every day to Barbur Rentals,” Botten says.
“They decided to put a pressure washer or two out in front of the radiator repair shop in McMinnville and the response from the community was astounding. They were very supportive to have a family-run rental option in town again and two pressure washers quickly grew to include trenchers and mini excavators,” she says.
Initially, Botten helped in the evening, weekends and in the summers for seven years while also serving as a special education teacher.
“In 2019, I went to part-time teaching to fully resigning in 2020 to focus on the rental business. I think my training of being a special educator really helped in transferring my skills to helping grow our company. In that field, you must always think outside of the box, manage your time to get all the paperwork done and have strong people skills to lead meetings. I use those skills daily,” she says.
The company mostly offers equipment rentals, focused on small lawn and garden equipment, and up to 12,000-lb. excavators. On the event side, the company rents bounce houses and concessions as well as serving the wine industry with large canopies and farm tables.
Botten first attended The ARA Show™ in 2017, about the same time that Kyle Tegner, CERP, Special Occasions, Corvallis, Ore., approached her about joining the ARA of Oregon board, which she accepted. She currently is serving as president of the ARA of Oregon.
“This not only began a strong working relationship between our two companies, but also opened many new learning opportunities with other board members. I have a master’s degree in education, not business, so even though some skills transfer to this industry, the American Rental Association (ARA) has helped bridge the gap in learning about human resources, employee training and marketing as well as connecting me and my family to people in the industry who have been at this for longer than we have,” she says.
The best part of the job, she says, is learning about equipment and meeting new people.
“I really enjoy being on the front counter with my husband, seeing people in our community and helping them with their projects. I have to say, though, this side of the business is more fun when we can find enough staff to do it to the level that we and our customers have come to expect,” Botten says.
Finding employees, particularly in Oregon, has not been easy. “Employees are going to the highest bidder and wages are insane. No longer can we have full benefits and retirement as an incentive. It is expected. We have invested much time in our onboarding and training program through RentalU, creating a ‘Botten’s way’ of doing things and speaking to our customers so it is a clear, consistent message for a consistent level of service,” she says.
Dealing with the pandemic also has strengthened her desire to be more involved in local government and school board meetings.
“I learned that if you are not fully informed and are not a strong advocate for our rights as small business owners, things will just happen to you without voicing your concerns and opinions,” she says.