Darden Alum Reinvents the Snow Shovel

February 17, 2015

Virginia received several inches of snow yesterday, leaving many in the Charlottesville area with the unhappy task of snow removal this morning.

Traditional snow shoveling, however, may become a thing of the past thanks to Phil Davis, an alumnus of the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He is the inventor of “The Pushel,” which, according to his website, is the “first major innovation in snow shovel design in over 100 years.” (You can order it through his website for $49.95, plus shipping and handling.)

We talked to Davis about his time at Darden, his latest invention and being an entrepreneur.

Q. What drew you to the Darden School of Business?

A. I was initially recruited to Stanford and then heard about U.Va. I started out at law, but switched to Darden. I was in a Darden marketing class and thought, “This is it.”

Q. What did you learn at Darden that has helped you in business?

A. I had a marketing concentration, but it wasn’t actually the marketing classes that I learned the most from. They had classes that were called A&C – analysis and communication – that were all about how to communicate. It helped me to fine-tune my communication and I learned how to paint a vision of what I wanted.

Darden also encouraged using my imagination. These skills came in handy when inventing The Pushel. I was frustrated with snow shoveling and thought to myself, “There’s got to be a better way.” What I learned at Darden helped me to develop a unique way for snow removal and allowed me to clearly communicate my vision to my manufacturers in China.

I developed a design in November of 2012 and by February of 2013, I had a prototype in hand.

The Pushel allows you to push the snow, which reduces strain and is safer than shoveling.

Q. We had some snow here in Virginia last night. Do you remember any snow events during your time at U.Va.?

A. Snowy days didn’t stand out because I’m from Cleveland. I remember classes were canceled once during my three years there.

Q. What motivates you?

A. Two things motivate me to invent: I like the rush of adrenaline. Seeing it in my mind, getting it into the marketplace, seeing that it’s well received. It’s like giving birth to a child. There’s nothing like it.

I’m also motivated by my setbacks. You can’t afford to lie down and have a pity party. I have a daughter and I want her to see that I keep trying despite my failures. I also want to leave her a legacy.

Q. What advice, if any, would you give future entrepreneurs?

A. One, understand the difference between being passionate and emotional. Emotions can cloud your judgment, but passion can drive you. Always be passionate in business, but never be emotional.

Two, follow your instincts. Sometimes, it’s easy to listen to naysayers – don’t. If everyone followed that particular paradigm, then we wouldn’t have innovation. Following your instincts keeps you one step ahead.