Snow Removal Services Move Toward On-Demand Business Model
By Mehmood Ali
“Winter is coming,” is a dreadful sentence that strikes fear into the hearts of residents in the Northern United States and Canada. The onset of winter promises not only freezing days and layers of clothes but also the long, arduous and seemingly never-ending chore of shoveling snow. While freshly fallen snow may be beautiful to tourists, the locals dread it. Waking up in the morning is difficult enough without having to add digging out your car to your morning routine. Luckily, like most things in this age of technology, there’s an app for that. Young entrepreneurs across the country have capitalized on people’s hatred of shoveling their driveway day in and day out by rolling out apps that use Uber’s business model to offer on-demand snow removal and snow plowing services.
Snow removal and snow plowing, two terms often used interchangeably, are very different. Snow removal describes removing the snow from a site, while snow plowing refers to simply pushing the snow into a large pile to the side. The two jobs require hard work, great effort and a lot of time. Like most things that are difficult and time-consuming, people are lining up to pay someone else to take care of it. On-demand snow plowing/removal services have been popping up all over the nation with start-ups like Boston’s ‘Yeti,’ Canada’s ‘Touch Plow’ and ‘Plowz and Mowz,’ which started in Syracuse, NY but has since spread to cover 30 markets in the US including Denver, Minneapolis, and Chicago. Existing companies, such as asphalt repair company, Imperial Seal, are taking note of this business idea and adding on-demand plowing to their list of services.
“It largely came from a personal pain of having to shovel our own driveways,” said Sean Griffith, who started the on-demand app ‘Plow Me Out’ to service Atlantic Canada.
The apps serve as a connection between contractors, freelance snow blowers and those in need of their services. They’re designed to be simple and user-friendly, requiring minimal information before sending someone out to start plowing. With some apps, to request a plow truck, users must enter their address, the size of the area that needs to be plowed and agrees with a price quote before anyone is sent out. Others simply send someone the moment a user requests a plow, settling the payment once the work has been done.
This pay-as-you-go model appeals to many, as the only alternative to shoveling your own driveway prior to this was to hire a snow removal company and sign a contract for the season or on a monthly basis. While larger snow removal businesses may not be happy with this new on-demand trend, the apps connect smaller contractors with new clientele by providing denser routes.
“We’re just giving them an entirely new type of customer,” Andrew Englander, Co-Founder of Plowz and Mowz, said in an interview with AccuWeather.com. “Someone who wants to pay as they go and only for what they need.”
As snow plowing and removal is a winter-specific service, many would assume that these apps would be useless for most of the year. Luckily, there’s no shortage of household grunt work that many want to take off their plate. That’s why many of the on-demand snow plowing and removal services also offer lawn care once the snow begins to melt.
Based on the increasing demand for these services, it’s clear that this on-demand business model could soon dominate the snow plowing and removal industry. If on demand snow services continue to expand throughout the country at their current rate, Northerners could soon look forward to the first snowfall of winter instead of seeing it as a sign of work to come.