As we embark on a new year many of us will be looking to launch new business endeavours. But the road to success is never easy and is often tricky.
Having reached the milestone of being in operation for five years last year and creating more than 15 000 employment opportunities for previously unemployed or underemployed domestic workers, it cannot be denied that domestic cleaning services app, SweepSouth is a South African startup success story.
While the company looks towards its future with plans to expand into new markets and offer services beyond domestic services, SweepSouth’s co-founder and CEO Aisha Pandor gives her advice for those just starting out.
Find Unique Problems
When setting out in business, particularly if you’re going to be striking it out on your own as an entrepreneur, think big. Focus on unique challenges and solutions that have the potential to change people’s lives. In South Africa, these are a plenty. Through technology, SweepSouth was able to address a core consumer issue – struggling to find reliable & vetted domestic help at decent rates that are also affordable. But it has done so while also addressing unemployment and underemployment, and domestic worker wage issues.
Define Success For Yourself
“When you have a big vision, you cannot expect to reach your outcomes on day one,” says Aisha. Success is not a destination, and it is natural for goal posts to shift. There is no such thing as overnight success, and every stage of development comes with some frustration. “The practical details of whatever you set out to achieve could mean you have to redefine what success looks like at every stage. Set smaller, more attainable goals along the way to keep you on track.”
Social Problems Can Be Business Opportunities
According to Aisha, the interesting thing about growing a business in South Africa is that you have to be creative and a problem solver. “It may sometimes be something outside of your business focus or something you have to fix before you can grow to the next level. There are amazing opportunities to unearth solutions to social problems while yo buuild your business.”
Lean On & Learn From Your Networks
“Learn how to work with people, how to lead people and how to get people to buy in to your vision. Never underestimate word of mouth and feedback to improve and build trust. In your business and in life, you don’t need to go it alone,” says Aisha. “There are people who have done it before. Ask for advice, broaden your networks and share your challenges with a trusted person. When you don’t, it can be damaging to you, your business and the people who trust you to lead them.
Pick Your Partners Carefully
“It is your vision, and you need to think carefully about the partners and investors you bring on-board. Your partners should have a similar vision as you, but skill sets that complement yours,” adds Aisha. “When you exclusively self-fund a business, it can take longer to get to the same stage as a business with investors. So, the right investors can be good for business. When closing an investment, people often underestimate how long it takes to conclude an agreement, so you also have to make sure you have enough runway to allow that process to unfold.”
Remember You Are Not Your Business
Aisha believes the notion of balance is a fallacy. “I always just try to do the best I can,” she says. For Aisha, burnout is also real and it is something that can always be close if you do not learn to redefine what success is to you. It is important to de-couple business success from your personal life. Personal success is about reaching other goals, and about how you feel about yourself. Separating personal and business success means you still set work goals, but you can feel good about yourself whether or not the business works out in the end.