By Isaac Zarecki
“I’d pay $1,000 more in taxes if the city would take care of it.”
Middleton resident Chad Wilke obviously has strong feelings about the problem he hopes to solve with his new company, My Snow Hero, a mobile-based app that promises on-demand snow removal service.
Wilke’s inspiration for this company came in two parts. The first was in his own driveway. After a heavy, eight-inch snowfall, he was getting ready to break out his snow blower and get to work. That’s when his neighbor came by with a plow. He cleared the driveway in a fraction of the time it would have taken Wilke.
The second inspiration was Wilke’s mother. She is a healthy member of the “Baby Boomer” generation, and perfectly capable of shoveling most snowfalls. She runs into trouble at the end where the city plows leave large piles of dense snow.
Wilke recognized the potential danger of his mother trying to remove the snow by herself. His solution was a service that can be used by all of America’s “Boomers” – and others who simply want the help.
At first glance, My Snow Hero doesn’t seem like anything new. People with personal plows have been getting paid to clear local driveways since truck-mounted plows were invented.
Where My Snow Hero differentiates itself is the cost, $15 per visit. It’s a steal compared to the current industry standard of $50 to $60.
The drastic price cut stems from the time spent per driveway, only two minutes. While most plow services are spending 15 to 20 minutes clearing the entire driveway, My Snow Hero plows will only take two or three passes. This will clear most of the surface along with the mountain of snow left by city plows at the mouth of the driveway.
The nuts and bolts of the operation are still being fleshed out, but Wilke’s vision mirrors similar on demand mobile apps such as Uber. Customers will wake up one morning to six inches of snow, hop on their smartphone, order a My Snow Hero plow, and 70 percent of the work will be done for them.
My Snow Hero’s employees won’t be full time. They can’t be. In a business based on isolated seasonal events, it makes more financial sense for the employees to be people looking for some extra side cash.
Wilke is also looking into some interesting partnerships. The first being with individual snow plow manufactures. They could offer potential plow buyers a fast track to becoming a My Snow Hero plower.
The other partnerships don’t have anything to do with snow at all. Because of the seasonal nature of the snow-removal industry, My Snow Hero’s chances at being a stand-alone company are slim. Wilke is considering partnering with companies that have more year round potential, or that augment My Snow Hero in its offseason. There is nothing in the works yet, but he likes the idea of partnering with companies such as Uber or Angie’s list.
My Snow Hero was a semi-finalist in the Governor’s Business Plan Contest, which culminates June 7-8 at the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference in Madison.
Zarecki is a student in the UW-Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication.