‘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

Ellis Ross (left), BC Liberal party, celebrated with his wife, Tracey after being named the preliminary winner of the 2020 snap provincial election. (Cameron Ehl photo)
Ross named preliminary winner of snap election

BC Liberals’ Ellis Ross named the re-elected MLA for Skeena riding

Voting has officially closed throughout B.C. for the 2020 snap provincial election. (Clare Rayment)
Map of Skeena polling stations

Watch the updates on the map below as polling stations are counted throughout Skeena riding

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

John Horgan has been re-elected the MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca. (File-Black Press)
Horgan trounces challengers to be re-elected in his Vancouver Island riding

MLA has represented constituency of Langford-Juan de Fuca and its predecessors since 2005

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Provincial Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau speaks at Provincial Green Party headquarters at the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe in Victoria. (Arnold Lim / Black Press)
VIDEO: Furstenau leads BC Greens to win first riding outside of Vancouver Island

Sonia Furstenau became leader of BC Greens one week before snap election was called

NDP Leader John Horgan elbow bumps NDP candidate Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidate Fin Donnelly following a seniors round table in Coquitlam, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Record number of mail-in ballots may shift results

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

Most Read