‘Uber for snow removal:’ New app inspired by Canada’s winter weather

Homeowners can download the app for free and set up a profile, including location, size of driveway and how many cars park there

When the first big snow dump covered Winnipeg this week, the developers of a new phone app put their technology to the test.

“You can think of it as Uber for snow removal,” said OnTheStep founder Buhle Mwanza, referring to the ride-hailing app.

Mwanza spent months developing the on-demand snow clearing app, which connects homeowners with shovellers — called steppers — to get their driveways and walkways cleared.

Looking around at snow-covered driveways on Thursday, the University of Manitoba computer science student said he was inspired by Winnipeg’s nickname of Winterpeg.

“I was just thinking why not make a problem all of us have to go through as innovative and fun as possible and really embrace that Winterpeg identity?”

Homeowners can download the app for free and set up a profile, including location, size of driveway and how many cars park there. When the snow starts to fall, as it always does in large quantities in Winnipeg, they can request shovelling services from their phone.

Once a price is set, a shovelling notification goes out to all the steppers in the area and one — or a team, depending on the size of the job — will get to work.

READ MORE: Lower Mainland highway crews prepare for a winter of heavy rain, wind

Homeowners get notifications of each aspect of the job: when the stepper arrives, when the work is done, and when the money goes through.

The app launched earlier this month, but the city had yet to see much snow. As Environment Canada put out a special weather statement for the incoming winter storm on Wednesday, Mwanza became excited to see if people would want the service and how it would all work.

He went to the first shovel request himself and the homeowner was so excited, they took photos together. But soon after, more and more requests started to come in.

OnTheStep recently partnered with Hire-A-Refugee, a local organization that connects refugees with jobs, but the demand for services was outpacing the supply of shovellers.

So Mwanza, along with the other OnTheStep team members — Tyrel Praymayer, Alex Shao and Tristen Wong — pulled out their shovels and got to work. From the first request Wednesday afternoon until around 3 a.m. Thursday, the group trudged up and down driveways with shovels.

“I feel like snow and Winnipeg is sort of like a bonding experience. We all have to deal with it,” said Praymayer, OnTheStep’s marketing manager and student at the Asper School of Business at the University of Manitoba.

“Winnipeg is great inspiration for this app. It’s a beautiful way of incorporating Winnipeg into innovation.”

Despite a night and morning of shovelling, team members said they are excited by the demand of the first big snowfall.

“Snow definitely has a different identity in our mindsets now,” Mwanza said.

Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Arion Therapeutic Farm works alongside Mamas for Mamas

The farm will be open every day through the holidays

Salvation Army falling short of fundraising goal

The charity has raised 61 per cent of their goal, meaning a shortfall of $313,000.

Kelowna-based KF Aerospace gets WestJet Encore contract

This is KF’s third contract with the award-winning airline family.

Retailers feel impact of generous return policies

Technology data tracking can clamp down on fraudulent abuse

Your morning news in 90: Dec. 18, 2018

Tune in for 90 seconds to get the top headlines for the Okanagan, Shuswap and Similkameen.

Year in review: Public beach access a hot topic for Lake Country residents

Gable Beach was a contentious issue for Lake Country

A journey through 2018’s top pop culture moments

Was there any pop culture this year? Of course there was.

‘A stronger Alberta:’ Ottawa announces $1.6B for Canada’s oil and gas sector

Price of Alberta oil plummeted so low that Alberta’s Premier said Canada was practically giving it away

Wicked weather, including heavy snow, rainfall, hammers southern B.C.

Environment Canada has posted winter storm warnings for the Coquihalla Highway, Highway 3

Caretaker jailed, must pay back money after stealing $260K from elderly B.C. couple

Antonette Dizon, now 50, had been hired to provide extra care for Henry and Helen Abfalter

Canadians to get low-cost data-only mobile phone plans within 90 days: CRTC

Bell, Rogers and Telus will provide plans as cheap as 250MB for $15

Police have ‘viable suspects’ in B.C. gangster’s 2017 murder

Crown prosecutor Neil Wiberg was successful in asking a judge to extend the length of time police can hold onto exhibits seized in connection with the homicide.

Man rescued from sinking boat off the coast of Vancouver Island

Mayday call came into Coast Guard saying vessel had taken on water, BC Ferries dispatched to scene

Most Read