Connected Community-An off-road passion turned into a business
It’s the perfect example of turning your passion into purpose and eventually, a business. It started with Dana and Brad Douthwright’s love of off-roading. That love is what drew them to one another and it eventually helped them stumble onto a business idea.
“My husband wanted these tires, but the supplier only dealt with businesses and wanted a business number to get them,” says dana Douthright.
After they called the C.R.A. to get that number, Dana’s husband, Brad said,
“We should start an off-road shop.”
That was 2008, and that company that requested the business number, eventually became one of their first suppliers.Eastern Offroad & Performance has had a long journey. For 4 years, they worked out of a 1-bay garage off the Douthwright’s home. Ultimately, they had to give up full time jobs at Canaport LNG and Xerox, cash in RESPs and RRSPs, to get the business going, while still raise two little girls.
They started out selling lift kits and accessories, but they now have a successful o.k. tire franchise, and are the exclusive Atlantic Canada distributors of the spray-in box liner brand, “bullet liner”. But, Dana says the dream doesn’t stop there.
“Right now, lift kits last only a few years because of the sand and salt. We think we have a better version that can withstand those conditions. We want to eventually have our own lift kits sold right across the country and into the northern states.”
First, they need a business plan and some brand-storming sessions. Douthwright will be working with entrepreneur development officer, Dakota Lutes at Enterprise Saint John’s Vennture Garage SJ.
“Dana is a newcomer to Vennture Garage. I think the vision of her new product has great potential. Dana’s knowledge of the industry and aptitude for action certainly makes her the right person to bring it to life. I’m excited to she how Eastern Offroad can develop with the support of Vennture Garage and Enterprise Saint John,” says Lutes
Lutes says they will start with a lean canvas process. It’s a 30 minute ideation and strategy exercise. The Vennture Garage uses it to get entrepreneurs to detail the core elements of their business model early in the incubation process. After they complete the exercise, they have a vision for their product and customer. They can use the lean canvas for direction as they move forward with developing their product.
Dana and Brad continue to plug away at their existing business, while working on the new one. While she does that, Dana revels in the fact that she’s also changing people’s perception about women in the automotive repair field.
“I have a unisex name, so I e-mail someone and they think it’s a guy and then they call and I start talking about suspension systems and wheel specs. They’re shocked to hear a woman,” says Douthwright.
She says that challenge has been a fun one to overcome and beneficial to changing the idea that automotive repair shops want to take advantage of women. She talks about it in her company video she posted to her you tube channel.
“I have felt that before, experienced it and to be able to change that, was a motivator to me.”
That’s just one motivating factor that keeps her doing what she loves. An off-road adventure that has put her exactly where she wants to be.
Originally published in “Connections to Growth” column in the Saint John Telegraph Journal, January 17, 2017