My parents said I was crazy to start a business, SweepSouth’s Aisha Pandor reveals in podcast


Save three years’ worth of salary. That’s what SweepSouth co-founder Aisha Pandor’s mother — the Minister of Foreign Affairs Naledi Pandor — advised her daughter to do before she started a business.

The SweepSouth co-founder was speaking in a podcast by Andrew Warner of Mixergy, published last month. Mixergy is a US podcast series on entrepreneurship and the interview was conducted in South Africa, in a trip undertaken by Warner that was sponsored by ClickFunnels.

Pandor (pictured above), together with her husband Alen Ribic, runs a successful online cleaning services platform that connects clients with domestic cleaners. The two founded the business in 2014.

A few years ago, after a long academic career as a geneticist, Pandor had moved to working as a management consultant. She had been at Accenture for two years, when she and her software engineer husband both quit their jobs, sold their house and car and moved in with Pandor’s parents.

“From our parents’ point of view we were two people who were professionals, working professionals, we were earning a salary. I’d studied for 10 years and was just getting into a career and had resigned from my job, that I’d voluntarily given up.

Aisha Pandor’s parents thought she was crazy when she quit her job to start SweepSouth with her husband

“She thought we were crazy. She told me to save three years’ worth of my salary before resigning from my job and I told her she was crazy,” said Pandor.

Pandor also revealed that it was only three years later that she and Ribic moved out of her parent’s home and got their own place.

“I always joke because my mom is just such a conservative person, she’s a politician, she’s so conservative and she always says ‘we were given so that we can give’ and I always joke with her that you should give a little bit to yourself as well,” adds Pandor.

In October last year the startup closed its latest investment round in which it raised over R60-million. The round included a R30-million investment from Naspers’s R1.4-billion venture capital (VC) fund Naspers Foundry, which was announced in June (see this story).

First iteration was tourism marketplace

Pandor told Warner that when she and Ribic were looking to start a business, a marketplace seemed like a good idea — because it had the ability to benefit a wide number of people.

But Ribic and Pandor’s first version of the business wasn’t a marketplace for domestic workers — but rather one for tourist activities, called ShiftSouth (ShiftSouth is still the business’s name and it trades under “SweepSouth”, said Pandor in the interview).

But the idea never resonated with Pandor. Added to this, the potential market for local tourist activities seemed smaller at the time than it was in Europe.

It was only after struggling to find a temporary replacement to cover their domestic worker that they realised that they might have a business idea, after friends and contacts told her they also struggled when looking for domestic worker.

‘Wanting to leave a legacy’

In the podcast Pandor also revealed to Warner how being from a family of political activists influenced her to start her own business.

“I definitely feel the healthy weight of wanting to leave a legacy. As a child I felt that as relevance, like needing to be relevant. I wanted people to remember me, I wanted to be interesting,” Pandor told Warner. “I recognised that I had a family that was remarkable, I wanted to be remarkable,” she added.

Said Pandor: “What I understood is that my legacy involved people who were responsible for political liberation. My generation needed to be responsible for economic liberation — to do that you needed to grow industries.”

Read more: Cape Town startup SweepSouth raises over R50m in new funding round
Read more: Naspers Foundry announces its first investment, with R30m in SweepSouth
Read more: Sweep South concludes Series-A round with Black Coffee for ‘seven-figure’ sum
Read more: Domestic cleaning startup SweepSouth sweeps in R10m
Read more: SweepSouth becomes first SA startup to join Silicon Valley’s 500 Startups programme

Featured image: SweepSouth co-founder Aisha Pandor (Supplied)



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