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South African entrepreneur takes domestic workers to the next digital frontier

Aisha Pandor, CEO and co-founder of SweepSouth, is making waves in the tech industry by digitising domestic work services and ensuring digital inclusivity among South African women.

Founded in 2014 by Aisha Pandor and her husband Alen Ribić, SweepSouth is an online platform that connects homeowners and cleaners. Aisha’s vision for SweepSouth was to create a business that not only provides a reliable service for customers who need their homes cleaned, but that also generates jobs for experienced and skilled domestic workers.  Four years later, her business has grown to an in-house team of 36 people who has worked with over 7400 cleaners to date.

The challenges of growing a start-up business

Despite growing so fast, Aisha says one of their biggest learning curves was that not everything falls into place once a new business starts growing, “we realised that scaling and growth is in itself a business challenge.” They took on this challenge by making sure they communicate well and infuse their values and vision across their platform. “Leading with empathy and keeping empathetic as you grow is very important, ultimately, it’s good people who drive a business’ success.”

Aisha, who holds a PhD in Human Genetics, says a common thread between her studies and her business success is constant learning. “I think it’s important not to feel like you’ve arrived at any point,” she says. “Keep learning and keep on challenging yourself.”

The secret behind staying innovative

At the heart of SweepSouth lies innovation and Aisha says that being curious allows them to stay on top of international trends and innovations. “We don’t just have to keep current to innovation but actually create innovative solutions ourselves,” she says. In 2017, Aisha’s innovative outlook was recognised by the World Economic Forum when she was selected as one of Africa’s breakthrough female innovators.

SweepSouth was recognised for solving problems that are common on the African continent such as unemployment and under employment among women, but also for giving more women access to technology.

“It wasn’t just about the technology itself, but actually about what that technology can do for women who may otherwise be excluded from the many benefits that technology can bring.” Aisha adds that SweepSouth has the potential to create further digital literacy and digital inclusivity.

How online-banking can promote financial inclusivity

Digital inclusivity at SweepSouth also translates to financial inclusivity. When they on-board new domestic workers, they have representatives of First National Bank (FNB) who come in to look at the new SweepStar’s (as domestic workers are called) banking arrangements. “FNB really helps our SweepStars find appropriate banking solutions that are appropriate to their earnings and banking requirements and are cost-effective,” Aisha says.

Aisha explains that when they started SweepSouth, they knew they needed an online paying platform where clients could transact online.

“FNB was the only bank at the time that really understood the concept of having an online merchant banking account to facilitate these online payments, they really are at the forefront of banking innovation in our country” Aisha says.

“FNB has been a fantastic partner to us – as an investor, as a bank and as a banking solution for SweepStars.

The power of women investing in other women 

Growing up, Aisha was influenced by business women who have specifically been active after 1994. “I think about women like Wendy Applebaum and Wendy Luhabe who started Wiphold and who came to together to invest in other women,” she recalls. Those women were the forerunners and paved the way for companies like SweepSouth to also try to effect positive change amongst women.

Aisha, who is also a mother of two, says she’s really influenced by business women who challenge themselves to take the next step. “More recently I’m thinking of someone like Khanyi Dhlomo who went from being a magazine editor to owning a publishing house (Ndalo Media). Women like that, who are able to lead and build empires but who aren’t afraid to still be feminine, are very inspiring to me.”

In terms of work ethic, Aisha, who is the daughter of Minister Naledi Pandor, says her mother’s hard work set a good example for her growing up. “My mother sacrificed a lot for her work and for the country, and as such has encouraged all her children to really think about doing work in our lives that has a positive impact.”