I launched a snow-shoveling service in my town
Ever since I moved to the suburbs, I've been in disbelief that certain business practices are still in place. Taxi stands still rely on radios to dispatch taxis to customers when current apps do this much more efficiently. Physical Yellow Pages books are still printed and delivered to every single house when the same content can be looked up online. And finally, you have kids still going door to door after snow storms to get snow shoveling jobs. I knew there had to be a better way for them and their customers.
After doing a ton of research, I determined there was enough demand for my new service idea. So I came up with the name Shovl, leaving off the "e" to sound high tech and modern. For branding, I knew I wanted to use illustration, as it would break through the clutter since every other commercial snow service relied on before/after photography. From there, I crafted the brand's manifesto. It spoke to the notion of ease of use. For customers, it was never having to go outside or even open your door or worry about who would come to shovel your property. For workers, it meant never having to go door to door looking for work again.
To build awareness, I launched hyper-local ads on Facebook which cost me all of $16, listed my services within the Facebook community mom and dad groups, and posted flyers at the train station. The initial result: $5,000 in sales before the first sign of snow. I also optimized the company website that I built and within a month was top of search on google for "snow removal" and "snow shoveling" in the towns we serviced.
Everything was going great...until the first day of business. The first snow of the season dropped a foot and a half of snow on my town. My workers had trouble getting to jobs, even though they were within walking distance. And worse, for those who relied only on muscle and a shovel, could only handle a 1/4 of the houses they had signed up for. It was a logistical nightmare that resulted in me having to go out with my snow blower untill 3am to help finish the jobs. In the end, many customers were happy, many more were not, and I had to refund over $3,000 in potential sales due to a lack of workers. But that didn't stop me.
Since that first storm, it snowed an additional seven more times, including a late March storm that dropped over half a foot of snow. I focused my efforts on hiring more workers and implemented new ways to reduce wait times. The results proved successful. I'm proud to say that despite the costs of starting the business and the early hurdles, I was profitable year one.
Looking toward next season, my efforts will be focused on optimizing the digital dispatch system and expanding my network of workers. While starting a side hustle was a very scary experience at first, looking back, I'm proud to have taken it on. The lessons I've learned have taught me a lot about running a business and I look to continue to grow and get better in year two.