In the midst of the recent Snowmageddon, the ad on Nextdoor jumped out:
"We are students attending UST in St Paul who started a snow removal business to raise money for our college expenses. The winters in Minnesota can make it difficult for residents and clearing the snow adds another layer of difficulty, so we saw an opportunity to provide a valuable service while also earning some extra money."
Young people still shovel snow to make money? Who were these enterprising college students? Eye On St. Paul had to know.
After clearing snow from nearly 50 properties so far this winter while attending school full time, John Voigt, Aeden Loftsgaarden and Alejandro Koenen sat down to share their story.
This interview was edited for length.
Q: Whose idea was it?
Alejandro: I just thought it would be a good way to get out in the community and make some money. I've known John since we went to St. Mark's school.
Q: You've known each other for how long?
John: Since 6th grade.
Q: Is this the first year that you've been shoveling?
John: Yeah. It's the first year we've done it.
Q: When was the first big snowfall where you guys hit the streets?
Alejandro: December. It was the big one.
Q: The idea was to make money for school?
Alejandro: That was the idea, yeah. I just did the math and thought if we hit the right amount of houses every hour … a couple hours a day during a snowstorm, we could probably make a decent amount of money. But right away, we didn't really have a good plan. In December, we made like $20.
Aeden: We went around, and we knocked on doors for like three hours, four hours. And we got one person.
Q: So did you change up the business plan a little bit?
Q: How did you keep it going?
Alejandro: I just told them to stick with it — I just felt that something greater was coming. And then I heard about Nextdoor.
Q: Changed the marketing plan?
Alejandro: Yeah, we were able to reach like 5,000 people.
Q: When was your next snowstorm?
Q: How did you guys do in January?
Aeden: There were two storms. The first week and the second week. The first week I was there, and we made like $1,000.
Q: Do you guys do flyers?
Alejandro: Pretty much just Nextdoor. And we've had a lot of people recommend us to, like, their neighbors and friends.
Q: So, second snowstorm in January: How'd you do?
John: About the same.
Q: And now we've had the big whopper in February. How many houses did you shovel out in February?
Aeden: About 30.
Q: Do you charge per house, or does it depend on the size of the job?
Alejandro: It depends. They might have already done the driveway, and we do the sidewalks. We charge like $30 for that. For everything, we charge about $50 for that.
Q: Do you have shovels only, or do you have a snowblower?
Aeden: I have a snowblower.
Q: Do all three of you work at a house at one time?
Q: Who does what?
Alejandro: We can all work the snowblower.
Aeden: On the last one, Alejandro was on the snowblower.
Q: Do you have a truck to haul the snowblower around?
Aeden: Yeah. I have my 4Runner. My dad's old 4Runner. The snowblower fits perfectly.
Q: I imagine you're the only people in St. Paul right now hoping for another big snowstorm.
All: [Smiling] Yeah.
Q: How much have you guys made, approximately, this season?
Q: So probably not enough to make a real dent in your college expenses?
Alejandro: No. But it's a nice way to get out into the community. Like, we meet some really interesting, cool people.
Q: Tell me about that.
Alejandro: I think one of our first guys, his name is Jason. He's like an older dude. Every time we shovel, he comes out and talks to us. Says some really interesting things.
Q: Now, when you say older dude, how old?
Alejandro: Probably 60s. He served like in the Cold War, in Alaska.
Q: What makes him stand out?
Alejandro: He's just a funny guy. Makes us laugh.
Aeden: He's willing to come out and talk to us.
Q: Have you met and talked to a lot of other people?
Alejandro: We met this guy yesterday named Abraham. In West St. Paul. He's pretty cool.
Q: Do you guys have a limit on how far you go?
Alejandro: Most of our jobs were in St. Paul or Minneapolis. A lot of our jobs are in Highland Park.
Q: Are you looking to do other stuff?
Alejandro: We're thinking about starting landscaping. We could start out with lawn mowing. It's simple. But then we could do patios. Moving rocks.
Q: Do you guys have experience with that?
Aeden: A little bit.
Alejandro: My dad was a construction worker, then an architect. He knows a lot of things.
Q: You were his hired muscle?
Alejandro: For free.
Q: Are you guys younger, older? When do you graduate?
Alejandro: We're all freshmen.
Q: What are your majors?
Aeden: Business marketing.
Alej: International business.
John: Civil engineering.
Q: What are the plans for the future, with all this experience?
Aeden: Probably start a business. That would be cool.