‘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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

VIDEO: Neighbours help Sidney woman mark 103rd birthday with surprise parade

Barbara Chorlton celebrates her ‘best birthday so far’

Racism is here too, say Victoria’s black community leaders

White Victorians have role to play in combatting systems of oppression, prejudice

Shortage of foreign workers costs Saanich Peninsula berry farmer thousands

Gobind Farms says hiring local has been difficult during pandemic

Pedestrian, cycling overpass now open at McKenzie Interchange

Bridge connects Portage Road, Galloping Goose Regional Trail

VIDEO: B.C. dentist gets grand welcome home after two months in hospital fighting COVID-19

Michael Chow was given a surprise send off by hospital staff and ‘welcome home’ from neighbours

‘Like finding a needle in a haystack’: Ancient arrowhead discovered near Williams Lake

The artifact is believed to be from the Nesikip period between 7,500 BP to 6,000 BP

Indigenous families say their loved ones’ deaths in custody are part of pattern

Nora Martin joins other Indigenous families in calling for a significant shift in policing

PHOTOS: Anti-racism protesters gather in communities across B.C.

More protests are expected through the weekend

Indigenous chief alleges RCMP beat him during arrest that began over expired licence plate

Athabasca Chipewyan Chief Allan Adam calling for independent investigation

‘I’m pissed, I’m outraged’: Federal minister calls out police violence against Indigenous people

Indigenous Minister Marc Miller spoke on recent incidents, including fatal shooting of a B.C. woman

UPDATED: Pair accused of ‘horrific’ assault at Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park arrested

Police say Jason Tapp, 30, and Nicole Edwards, 33, did not show up to meet their bail supervisor this week

POLL: Are you sending your children back to school this month?

Classrooms looked decidedly different when students headed back to school for the… Continue reading

Most Read