How to build a startup the right way – a lesson from SweepSouth

Aisha Pandor and her team at SweepSouth are using tech to uplift and empower women in the most vulnerable industry in South Africa.

Go boldly, but go slowly and go steadily is the message Aisha Pandor from SweepSouth left with CLC members and delegates at the inaugural Lean Innovation Safari held earlier this year.

SweepSouth is an on-demand, online home-cleaning services platform that has two client bases: the homeowners who need convenience and a clean home, and the domestic workers, called SweepStars, who use the platform as a means to get dignified work at decent pay rates, with the flexibility of being able to choose when and where they would like to work.

Now a flourishing business, SweepSouth was a startup kicked off in 2014 by Aisha and her husband Alen Ribic when they saw the gap in the market after experiencing their own difficulties in finding a domestic worker for their home at short notice.

THE DUO WORKED THROUGH THE INITIAL TEETHING PAINS AND PROBLEM AREAS ON THE WEB PLATFORM INSTEAD FOCUSING ON COSTLY APP DEVELOPMENT FIRST

The platform, which connects cleaners with home owners for booking, managing and payment, was initially browser-based.

Instead of first throwing all their resources into mobile app development, Aisha explained how the duo worked through the initial teething pains and problem areas on the web platform, tweaking according to user feedback and data, and getting the product market fit perfect before expanding.

This slow and steady approach with a hot idea – an approach that was flexible enough to change to accommodate its users’ needs – got them sign-ups from service providers, got them customers, and got them noticed. SweepSouth has raised millions in funding from venture capital providers since its inception and Aisha and Alen were invited to participate in the prestigious 500 Startups accelerator in Silicon Valley in 2015 – a first for South Africa.

Today, users can access the Uber-like platform using a laptop, smartphone or tablet via web or app.

A theme that was clear with SweepSouth is its mission to make a positive social impact. Apart from making the process between customer and service provider a much smoother and egalitarian one, SweepSouth also provides training, from cleaning processes to tech management.

‘By using technology, we’re upskilling so that a tool previously used for phoning, messaging and social media can now be used to help earn income,’ says Aisha.

It was particularly good to hear from members of the team. Lindiwe, a former domestic worker turned on boarding assistant, led us through the journey of working with SweepSouth and her personal evolution within the team, while Trevor, also a former cleaner, explained his role as a trainer for the new SweepStars.

Main takeaway: Building user trust is paramount and go slow at the beginning, using the time to learn and develop according to what your user is asking for. 


We’d like to extend our thanks to Aisha and her team for taking the time to host one of the events on the CLC’s Lean Innovation Safari. The Safari was held 22–24 April 2018 and provided delegates the opportunity to explore the innovation ecosystem in Cape Town.

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