SweepSouth operates in multiple South African cities and has become synonymous with an easy, efficient way of booking an on-demand cleaning service. But did you know that CEO and co-founder Aisha Pandor and her team also operate in Kenya and have exciting plans to launch in West Africa in 2021?
One of the most vulnerable labour groups in the country, Aisha Pandor and has worked tirelessly to lobby for better pay and working conditions for domestic workers. She admits that the idea for SweepSouth seemed like a no-brainer when she and her husband, Alen, were faced with a situation where they struggled to find temporary help at home. They recognised how useful a tech platform would be that handled the necessary vetting and connected people with the right domestic help.
“When we started to look deeper into the domestic work industry, we realised there were so many issues around payment and treatment of domestic workers. With so many domestic workers in the country (one million) and so many households employing domestic workers, it seemed obvious to step in and help solve some of the challenges in the industry,” explains Aisha.
“So many domestic workers are mothers and primary breadwinners. If we could help them find work at decent rates and conditions, we would be positively impacting their families, too. The idea of building a business of positive impact was always important to Alen and I from the start. I come from a family of activists and he came to South Africa from former Yugoslavia to escape civil war. We both believe in doing work of substance – work that makes the world a better place.”
The plan was always to build something big and scalable, while having a positive impact on the domestic work and home services industry in South Africa. Aisha says that scaling up has not been without its surprises, both positive and challenging. The journey has not been in vain with SweepSouth having recently celebrated its 1 millionth booking. “Our team constantly displays a lot of grit; we make mistakes but learn quickly and move on. As a team, we really enjoy working together toward an aligned mission. This is of extreme importance because through the challenging times, going back to the purpose of our business has seen us through,” she continues.
Business during a pandemic
As with most businesses, navigating the Covid-19 storm was incredibly tough for SweepSouth and its stakeholders. “It was difficult trying to balance all of the financial and health concerns of our SweepStars and customers with my own fears and the impact on my life,” Aisha confesses.
“I’m incredibly proud of our team who helped us react fast in the face of uncertainty. We undertook some major cost-cutting initiatives within the business; made technical changes to our platform to allow customers to continue to support SweepStars during lockdown; raised a R12 million fund to support SweepStars and their families during lockdown; and launched and grew new verticals such as our SweepSouth Shop (selling home cleaning and disinfecting products), our outdoor cleaning and gardening service, and SweepSouth Connect that offers plumbers, handymen, electricians, carpet cleaners and other services.”
The company is happy to report that it has remained on top of regulations and best practices. Some of these regulations include:
Ensuring that SweepStars and customers understand the need for masks, social distancing and hand hygiene during every booking.
Customers and SweepStars need to verify (via the platform) that they are symptom free and will adhere to best practice before we allow them to make/go to bookings.
Making information available and easily digestible for SweepStars and customers, on everything from how to stay protected to where to get tested and whom to contact should they need more information.
Making its employee psychosocial support officer (who was in place before the pandemic) available to anyone who needs support processing the mental health issues that will surely arise as a result of this stressful year.
Build your own
Despite the challenges as a result of the pandemic and lockdown, Aisha is adamant that there’s never been a better time to be an entrepreneur in South Africa, particularly a female entrepreneur.
“The playing field is far from level, but there is a wealth of support available, from networks, to accelerators, mentors, advisors and investors. If you truly want to build something, believe in your idea, get support and build it. Work on developing your confidence (this was a big challenge for me, particularly in male-dominated environments), and do work that speaks for itself.”
Author: Candice Landie