When Kelly Dowell was a little girl, she’d go out with her dad on a mission: Bring relief to men hard at work keeping snow off the roads around St. Louis, Missouri. She’d bring doughnuts and make sure the men had warm clothes, calling into the dispatcher on the two-way radio to make sure she and company founder and president Maurice Dowell, were on the right route.
Now Dowell is business developer for Dowco Enterprises of Wildwood, a St. Louis suburb. She used to be in the field when her father launched the family business, but she’s now largely behind a desk. The essence of the work remains, however, and Dowell, who stands to become a general manager, is always available to troubleshoot, making life easier for crew members who clock in and clock out on their cell phones.
The work itself isn’t what keeps her at Dowco; it’s the company. “I like the people I work with,” she says. “I could be doing anything; it’s not about the green industry or the white industry, it’s the people I work with. The people I want to be working with.”
January and February are Dowco’s busiest snow-removal months, but the firm emphasizes deicing, a kind of preventive maintenance, Dowell says. The Dowco mainstay is landscape maintenance, and snow removal constitutes 20 percent of its business. The workforce ranges from 20 to 50 workers in season.
Dowco promises carefully selected snow removal and ice control clients that their businesses will be kept open at all designated times with no delays. The company caters largely to corporate customers, with some subdivision and residential business.
It also makes a point of communicating with those customers, emailing them information on the latest weather forecasts and relying on various internet sources and Dowco’s extensive experience.
“You just have to plan ahead as much as you can,” Dowell says. “We rely a lot on technology. We try to make sure that our clients are always informed before and after an event.”
While it’s the people she works with who keep her focused, weather keeps the business going year-round. And the weather is both a boon and a bane.
“We’re always dictated by the weather … if it’s too hot, there’s no work. If there’s no snow, there’s no work,” Dowell says. Seasonal fluctuations and unpredictability can be maddening, but, she adds, “I would go stir-crazy if it was the same every day.”