By: Diane Stirling
When the snow flies, the wind blows, the leaves fall, and the grass grows, it’s all good for School of Information Studies (iSchool) alumnus William (“Wills”) Mahoney.
That’s because the ebbs and flows of nature are the stuff of Mahoney’s expanding business, Plowz and Mowz. The on-demand property services company uses mobile and online technologies to connect customers with providers, and the company has grown like a weed since its founding last winter.
The idea for Plowz and Mowz came to Mahoney, a 2006 graduate of the iSchool's Information Management & Technology program last year. When his mother’s car got stuck in her driveway during a snowstorm, he was unable to contact any snow plow operators to get her out - even though he watched several of them drive right by. With both parties missing a beneficial connection, Wills “decided there was a better way to do it.”
With Syracuse University friend Andrew Englander (Arts & Sciences, ’05), and two developers they knew from high school, they envisioned that their Syracuse startup might grow to include Rochester and Buffalo in its first year. However, Mahoney’s iSchool background and his entrepreneurial spirit - buoyed by huge national and technology press coverage - helped him scale fast. In just a year, the company is now in 36 major markets, covering about a 40-mile radius around each, expanding to many northern and eastern U.S. states.
“What’s cool is that this year, we’re able to handle the workload,” Mahoney observed. “Last year we went into this and kind of had a struggle—there was overwhelming consumer demand and we didn’t have enough providers to meet the demand.”
Currently, the local office is staffed by nine full-time workers, including “an extensive back-end staff that manages the customer call center,” Mahoney added. Even though the process is fully automated, the company “still wants to provide a personal touch, and it has people on staff monitoring operations 24/7 during a snowstorm,” he said.
Wills said the company is “Fortunately, adequately funded [now] through an angel investor, but we’re at a stage where we’re going to take it to the next level.” That includes “a lot of VC interest in the company, so we’re starting to take it very seriously,” he added. “We consider ourselves a leader in this on-demand landscaping business. It’s a good idea, it works, and we know now there’ll be competition.”
One likely step is establishing a New York City office, Mahoney added, given the need to add developers. “It’s going to be a necessity for the future to have all our developers in one area. We have lots of plans to improve the app, and it’s going to take more than the workforce we have on staff right now,” he said.
Mahoney plans to keep the company based locally, he said. It’s located it in the same building with the computer services and IT support firm he started right out of college, and which he has operated for nearly a decade, Express Computer Service, LLC. The co-located offices permit him “to spend a lot of time personally involved with both companies,” he said. “I’m able to walk from one business to the other. I’m spread a little thin, but it’s nice that they are under one roof, so I can manage day-to-day operations on each one,” he adds.
How it Works
All Plowz and Mowz functions are coordinated via separate mobile apps for customers and providers (available free from Google Play Store/iTunes App Store). Patrons also can access the company online via desktop computer.
- Customers tap information into a form regarding the service they want and details on when and where. They send a digital photo to help gauge pricing.
- Plowz and Mowz provides a quote. If accepted, a local provider is assigned.
- Providers receive job notices via text message, with links to the customer’s information. They can accept the jobs they want. When a job is completed, providers confirm it via a photo.
- Customers are billed when jobs are completed, and pay online. They also are able to rate the service.
- Providers are paid within 24 hours.
Back to the iSchool
Wills came back to the iSchool recently to talk to a group of students about his companies. “It was cool to see how much things have changed at the University since I was there, and [to see] all the entrepreneurial classes I wish I had,” he said. Even though there were no mobile phone technologies or apps to work with when he was taking classes, Mahoney said he still “had the ability to figure out what I wanted to do when I left there. I had a good idea that I wanted to be my own boss create and company, and I knew I had the right stuff to be able to do that.”
Wills encourages students interested in internships to get in touch with him at the company. Internships were offered last year, and Plowz and Mowz anticipates having them again this year, he said.