Plowz & Mowz: Just Like UBER!

Knew it would happen! An “APP-BASED” business like UBER for driveway plowing.

Source: J&R Lawns & Landscapes
J&R Lawns & Landscapes in Syracuse uses new app to order plows from an phone app.

In the winter of 2012, after a major snow blast to Syracuse, New York, Wills Mahoney’s mother got stuck in her driveway. As she sat, she watched several plows go by, but couldn’t get one to her property. And there it was, the inspiration for Plowz & Mowz, an on-demand, residential plowing and mowing company, founded by 33-year-old Mahoney and college friend Andrew Englander.

“We are truly the only on-demand snow plowing app on the market today. You can go with other websites, but their turnaround time is about 48 hours, and they’re going to have to give you an estimate,” claimed Mahoney, whose company now serves 30 markets, including Boston, Cleveland, Chicago, Minneapolis and Milwaukee.

Customers download the app, type in their information, get an exact price on a snowplow and then that request is dispatched to drivers who contract with the company. Generally, those drivers are already out on their routes. They can accept or reject the job, depending on distance and schedules.

“It’s very similar to the Uber model,” said Mahoney.

Residential snowplowing is actually a growing business, as harsher storms hit the nation with increased frequency. There are approximately 30,000 residential plowing companies and three times as many who plow commercial properties, like malls and offices.

“The vast majority of the residential market is single contractors. It is highly fragmented,” said Martin Tirado, CEO of the Snow and Ice Management Association, who calls the app a “disruptor.”

“Some of the bigger companies that do this,” he added, “like Brightview, [formerly Rockville, Maryland-based Brickman] they only comprise 3 to 4 percent of market share, and they’re the biggest one out there.”

Jeff DeLine, a Plowz & Mowz provider for three years, said he has seen demand for snowplows surge dramatically.

“Easily hundreds more requests for each event,” said DeLine, owner of J&R Lawns and Landscapes in Syracuse.

DeLine employs about 30 drivers and uses Plowz & Mowz for additional revenue that he said comes without extra hassle.

“It just fills a gap in our current routes,” said DeLine. “We don’t have to gather customer information, we don’t have to gather their billing information, and we don’t have to bill them after the service is completed. All we have to do is show up to the job, plow it and send a picture when it’s completed.”

Last winter, when Syracuse was unusually dry, DeLine dispatched five trucks to Boston, which was seeing record snowfall. He said he made $15,000 on the trip and could not have done it without the app.

“It wouldn’t have been feasible to travel there and do that based on the amount of work that we would have had to do to gain customers there at the drop of a hat,” he said.

While there is no significant competition to Plowz & Mowz yet, there are still challenges to this model. It works for residential, but would need to be much larger scale to serve commercial properties, which require heavy equipment. The model also does away with old-fashioned customer relationships.

“It’s going to be a significant change and more challenging. Before this, people had a route, operators, drivers, they were familiar with the properties in advance. Now they don’t know,” said Tirado. “The property could have steep inclines and declines, sensitive landscaping, where are you going to put the snow? Before, people did on-site inspections. It’s going to be more challenging, but I certainly think people will adapt to it.”

Mahoney said he hasn’t had many issues with customer satisfaction. He notes that drivers have Google Maps, providing a picture of the property, and that customers can upload photos and instructions to their requests. Mahoney claims to have grown his app into a “multimillion-dollar company” in just three years. He said he has help from an angel investor and will be raising more funds soon.

No question, the promise of quick help after a storm is very attractive. With a possibly epic winter storm bearing down on Washington, D.C., where Plowz & Mowz does not yet operate, put a call in to a northern Virginia plow company Thursday to find out about weekend service. After sitting on hold for at least 10 minutes, we were told they could not guarantee a plow before Monday.






What Happened to Presidents Day, Never Mind Abe and George

I do not give much credit to other bloggers, especially if they are women; but my favorite blogger is Phyllis Zimmerman.

Her blog yesterday was all about the United States “Holiday”.

As she says:

According to my son’s school calendar, today is Famous Americans Day.

What happened to President’s Day? For that matter, what happened to Washington’s Birthday and Lincoln’s Birthday? To me, Famous Americans Day isn’t a good term because leaves too much room for interpretation. Technically, most U.S. celebrities are famous Americans. Can you imagine… On second thought, let’s not.

When I was attending Rome’s Fort Stanwix Elementary School during the 1960s, we had Feb. 9 off for Lincoln’s Birthday and Feb. 22 off for Washington’s Birthday. Then something happened. The two were combined into a single holiday on the third Monday of each February known by many as President’s Day. That’s what I’ve always thought, anyway. However, after doing a brief search on the internet, even that no longer appears as concrete fact to me. Different online sources offer different opinions. Some say that legally, today really is Washington Birthday, but it’s only called that in some states. Other states call it President’s Day. Some reportedly don’t bother with the possessive apostrophe and call it Presidents Day.

Now I’m really confused, but if I have to make a choice, I’d go with Presidents Day as that could honor both Washington and Lincoln. President’s Day is a singular possessive, which means that it would honor only one President. That could be Nixon for all we know.

Oh, what a minute. Richard Nixon was born on Jan. 9. I hope they don’t consider lumping his birthday in with Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on the third Monday of each January. You never know.

Forget that Lincoln’s Birthday was February 12, 1809. As usual she got the important stuff right.

I read Phyllis in the UTICA OD. She is a Rome, NY native now living in Harrisburg, She currently works as a freelance journalist for the PA Media Group, which publishes and The Patriot-News in Pennsylvania’s Capital region. She also is the author of a novel, All Things Must Pass, which is set in Utica, New York.

A New Home For GOOGLE +

There are plenty of social networks beyond Facebook. Twitter, Google+, Linkedin, and Pinterest have made themselves useful but haven’t been able to gain the traction of Facebook. But Facebook is gaining a reputation as ‘grandpa’s’ network as it becomes almost a public utility. The younger population that was responsible for popularizing the site is moving to newer systems like Snapchat, Kik Messenger, oOVoo, WhatsApp, Vine, Tinder, and others that specialize in fast paced interactions.

These newer systems also avoid some of the things that caught up many a job hunting graduate in that they are much more private and in some cases delete the content soon after it’s been viewed. Whether this is good for society isn’t really my point. The issue is that the older networks have commoditized the structures and methods that took untold hours and interactions to understand and write program code to support.

There’s been a fair amount of effort put into networking the supply chain. But all of that effort has been done by companies wanting to promote their own back end services like EDI translation, trading partner connection, and delivery of transactions. They intend to support their efforts by locking their users into using their systems. It’s not a bad thought but it is frighteningly similar to what we saw in the heyday of the VAN where each VAN had its own connections and sought to either lock out their competitors or charge fees to transfer transactions to another VAN.

Certainly creating and sustaining a network is a costly venture but it doesn’t need to be invented any more. Networking and creating cross-connections is done every day and our children understand how to manage their own accounts. The value to supply chain processing is in the expertise and effort needed to manage the back end functions. Making the connection is the simple part.

Keys Remembers Killer Storm, 80 Years Later

Eighty years ago, hurricanes weren’t given human names. So the storm that devastated the Upper Keys in 1935 is known simply by the day it swept across Islamorada: the Labor Day Hurricane.

Islamorada in 1935 was a small village of a few hundred people, scraping through the Depression growing Key limes and pineapples. The village was also the site of a camp for hundreds more: relief workers building a highway. Most of those workers were World War I veterans.

In 1935, hurricane tracking and forecasting came from reports of ships at sea, relayed by radio and telegraph.

“Back in those days, you knew something was coming because the barometer was going down and the weather was bad, but you didn’t know to what extent,” said storm survivor Pete Perdue, who told his story on a recording made by the Historical Preservation Society of the Upper Keys in 1989. “So you closed up your shutters and you secured your boat and you took your chances.”

Perdue was 5 years old in 1935. He and his family first took shelter from the storm in the Matecumbe Hotel.

“The wind started to come up and the place started to shake and the plaster started to crack and finally we could tell that the building itself was about to disintegrate,” Perdue said. “And it did — the top floor of it went totally off and of course the bottom floor collapsed, too.”

As the hotel was collapsing, Perdue’s family escaped to a school bus that was parked behind the hotel. The bus had been pushed up on top of a pile of construction rubble by veterans as a prank, Perdue said.

“We left the car and we got into that bus. And people started floating by,” he said. “So we were grabbing folks and pulling them in the windows. I don’t know how many people were in there, but I know we had six in our family — three generations, a dog and six pups.”

The Florida East Coast Railway, which ran the Key West Extension along the Keys, had sent a rescue train – but it was delayed. Les Standiford chronicled the creation and destruction of the Over-Sea Railroad in his book, “Last Train to Paradise.”

“Most people who worked for the company were on holiday,” Standiford said. And to make things worse, “the drawbridge across the Miami River was up when the train took off out of here, around noon time, so that delayed the rescue train getting down to Islamorada to try to get these workers and the citizenry out of there.”

The train finally reached Islamorada around 7:30 p.m. People were waiting to be rescued, and many had retreated to the railroad tracks as the highest point on the island.

“They were literally getting onto the train. The engineer had the engine fired up and was ready to pull out of there as fast as he could,” Standiford said. “And he looked and he saw a shadow off to the east out there. He wasn’t sure what it was. As it came closer, he realized it was no shadow. It was a wall of water 20 feet high.”

When that surge hit, the engine was the only part of the train heavy enough to withstand the force.

“It took all the cars off the tracks, the people in them and the people waiting on the platform to board, out to sea, most of them drowned and never seen again,” Standiford said. “Many of the bodies were never recovered.”

In the school bus behind the hotel, Pete Perdue and his family were trying to stay above the water. He remembered the water rising within a foot of the roof of the bus.

“We were standing on the seats. And my mother was holding me up. And I remember that Fern, who was a little on the religious side, told everybody we’d better say the Lord’s Prayer because this is it,” Perdue recounted in the 1989 interview. “And just about the time that she finished all that, all the causeways washed out and the water went down immediately and that was it.”

More than 400 people died in the Labor Day Hurricane. The railroad was never rebuilt; Standiford said it had never made the money from freight coming from ships using the Panama Canal that Henry Flagler had envisioned when he built the Key West Extension.

Instead, the Florida East Coast Railroad sold the right-of-way to the state of Florida and the railroad bridges were overhauled to carry the Overseas Highway. Many of them stayed in service until the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Even though Islamorada today bears little resemblance to the place it was in 1935, Standiford said the stories of that storm still have power.

“People in South Florida, who went though it, who were touched by it, still talk about Andrew, 25 years ago,” Standiford said. “Well, people in the Keys still talk about the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 and that was 80 years ago. It’s become a mythic part of existence here.”

Every Labor Day, Islamorada residents hold a service at the Hurricane Memorial built at Mile Marker 81.5 on Upper Matecumbe Key. The memorial, dedicated in 1937, is also a crypt that holds the remains of many of the storm’s victims.

Miami-Dade pilots express rail service to downtown Miami

Miami-Dade County Transit has been offering an express rail service this month from the Dadeland South and Palmetto stations to downtown Miami.

The Downtown Express Metrorail service has been running on weekdays, departing twice in the mornings and twice in the afternoons with only selected stops on the route to downtown Miami, according to Miami-Dade Transit’s website.

Operated as a pilot program, the service began Dec. 7 and will wrap up today. It is one of the first new transit offerings to passengers since Alice Bravo was appointed transit director last summer, according to the Miami Herald.

The express rail service is one way the transit agency wants to promote and enhance existing transit services, including Metrorail, Bravo told the newspaper.