The snow was piling up in Casie Pederson's Minnetonka driveway Tuesday, and her snowblower was broken. What to do?
She turned to the Internet, where a Facebook friend steered her to Plowz & Mowz, a free app launched in 2014 that can make plowing a one-time expense rather than a season-long contract.
Using a smartphone or the company's website, Minnesotans can order up a quick plowing, or, in warmer seasons, lawn mowing or raking.
The app serves 30 U.S. cities, including 13 in Minnesota. Users download it, then type in their address and a description of their driveway. A snowplowing usually costs about $45, paid via credit card.
The plowtruck drivers snap a smartphone photo of their work and send it to the customer.
Pederson, 39, used the app for the first time Tuesday. She paid $50, and the plow arrived within an hour.
She said the price struck her as reasonable compared to the $600 seasonal contract she'd had with a snowplowing service before she bought a snowblower. Its trucks had come to her house four times in one season and would only come if 4 or more inches of snow fell, she said.
The Plowz & Mowz app doesn't require a contract and is easy to use, she said.
"Even though my snowblower is working now, I would still call them and ask them to do it," she said.
App co-founder Wills Mahoney said Minneapolis is the company's top market for the plowing service.
"People would rather … have someone come and do it," he said.
Mahoney and his former college roommate, Andrew Englander, got the idea for the snowplow service when Mahoney's mother couldn't find anyone to clear her driveway in Syracuse, N.Y.
"When we had our first Syracuse snowstorm, we got a ton of orders," Mahoney said.
Mike Heffernan, co-owner of Imperial Seal plowing service in Minneapolis, is one of the drivers who contracts with Plowz & Mowz. Heffernan, who takes on extra plowing shifts via the app during his regular-work downtime, said it allows him to earn extra money. Providers are paid via direct deposit within 24 hours.
"I heard about the app from another snowplow contractor," he said. "It's been sending me jobs like crazy."
The app uses real-time GPS to find nearby snowplow drivers. Increasingly, they have to act fast if they want to secure a job. Heffernan said so many contractors are using the app that it's only 45 seconds to a minute before a user's request is picked up.
"It seems to be growing in popularity," he said.
After each plow, app customers rate their providers.
Daniel Boulay, 31, a frequent user from Golden Valley, used Plowz & Mowz on Wednesday for a $35 driveway plowing job. Before he found the app, he'd tackle the snow himself or just let it go, because using a snowplowing service was so costly, he said.
"I would wait until my neighbors got sick and tired of me trying to plow my way up the driveway," he said.
Boulay now sleeps in and lets drivers provided via the app handle his driveway.
"I've been telling everyone about it," he said.