Deanna Kurlowecz of Concord was in a bind this summer. Guests were coming for dinner on a Tuesday night, and the day before she realized her lawn needed a trim. She pulled out her smartphone and opened up the Plowz & Mowz app to schedule a mowing.
“I couldn’t believe how convenient it was,” said Kurlowecz, who had learned about the app while watching a morning talk show.
Kurlowecz had a contract with a landscaper, who mowed once a week for $65. But her lawn didn’t always need a weekly mow, and she was unhappy with the price. Plowz & Mowz allowed her to request a mow only when she needed it, and charged just $45. Mowz customers can request services with as little as one day’s notice.
Afterward, “they take a picture of it,” she said. “They’re accountable for what they do.”
Smartphones and the Web have disrupted all sorts of traditional businesses — car services (Uber), vacation stays (Airbnb), laundry services (Washio), dating (Tinder), and household chores (TaskRabbit), to name a few.
Add snowplowing, lawn mowing, and leaf blowing to the list.
Plowz & Mowz cofounder William Mahoney had his “aha moment’’ in 2012 when his mother was stuck in her Syracuse, N.Y., home and couldn’t get anyone to plow her driveway.
“All these plows were going by her house and missing an opportunity,” he said.
He and his freshman roommate at Syracuse University, Andrew Englander, realized that plowing “was a business that needed to be optimized.” The pair decided to fund the app and took their idea to Lamplighter Labs, a product development and design company in New York City run by two of Mahoney’s high school friends, Andy and Kris Minkstein. Originally they funded it on their own. But they have since gained an angel investor who is providing them with an undisclosed amount to keep the company going while it grows.
The app and service went live a year ago, and is now active in more than 30 cities across the United States, from Miami to Anchorage. In the Boston area alone more than 100 contractors have agreed to provide services.
Customers launch the app and input their address, lawn or driveway type, and size to request plowing, mowing, or leaf-clearing services. When a request comes in, it gets sent to providers within a certain radius; the providers then decide whether to accept the job. The app calculates the price, based on the work’s size and scope.
If a customer gives a provider a good rating, Plowz & Mowz will pair them again.
Once a job is picked up by a provider, the customer gets an estimate of when it will be done, and real-time updates; the record is three minutes from request to arrival. Typically, the wait can range from 15 minutes to two hours, depending on weather and availability.
Michael Dooling of Dooling Landscaping LLC in Waltham does yardwork for Plowz & Mowz, after being contacted by the company, and, come snow, will be plowing for it.
“It’s pretty easy,” he said. “They give me a couple days notice. If I can’t do a work order, they find someone else to do it.”
Prices vary by size and location. In the Boston area, the average plow costs about $45, and the average mow, $35.
Tucker Marion, an associate business professor at Northeastern University, said it can be difficult to predict which services will work well on mobile platforms, and which will flop. Since Plowz & Mowz is a complement to existing landscape businesses, rather than a replacement, he said, the service may give smaller operations a chance to get noticed.
“It empowers the individual who may not have the means to advertise,” he said of providers.
Peter Schuller, a homeowner in Needham Heights, used Plowz & Mowz this summer after he heard about it through friends. He referred to his lawn as “manageable” and said he usually mows it himself. However, when he went on vacation he used Mowz to keep his lawn from getting overgrown.
Schuller was so pleased with the lawn service that he plans to use the company for plowing. “If we get some of the big snowstorms with heavy snow it’s worth being warm and not hurting my back,” Schuller said. “I’d much rather have guys come in professionally with an actual plow and watch from the comfort of my own home.”