‘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

Kidney Foundation trying to keep patients warm this winter

Kidney Foundation of Canada’s Warm the Sole campaign takes chill off dialysis treatments

Nanaimo RCMP to host summer youth camp

Youths can discover if they have the mettle to be a Mountie at five-day camp in July

GUEST COMMENT: Temporary emergency shelter just part of solution

Setting up temporary emergency shelters was and is a reasonable response

Nanaimo Theatre Group will start its season by staging a farce

Self Help follows married second-rate actors who become famous self-help coaches

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: School buses need seat belts

If I had a child in school, I would be insisting on seat belts in school buses, says letter writer

Nanaimo’s Fiddelium youth ensemble heading to the Yukon for a fiddle festival

Appearance at Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous is group’s first out-of-province trip

B.C. students win Great Waters Challenge video contest

Video, mural and song about saving the salmon claims the top prize

New museum exhibit presents Nanaimo mysteries

Nanaimo Mysteries exhibit unveils city’s fiction and even stranger facts

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: No good reason to be advertising guns for sale

What is this push in the advertising in your newspaper for guns, asks letter writer

Malcolmson is now officially Nanaimo’s MLA

Sheila Malcolmson took the oath of allegiance Thursday in the B.C. legislature

Beefs & Bouquets, Feb. 14

To submit a beef or a bouquet to the Nanaimo News Bulletin, e-mail bulletinboard@nanaimobulletin.com

Dallas Stars pay tribute to Nanaimo woman who died of cancer

NHL team wore Arlene Forbes’s initials on hockey helmets last week

Flying squirrels found to glow pink in the dark, including two from B.C.

Squirrels from Hope and Abbotsford were included in the biologists’ database

Ontario police field complaints over Amber Alert for missing girl, 11, found dead

Some said the Amber Alert issued late Thursday for Riya Rajkumar disrupted their sleep

Most Read