Fuelled by passion for empowering women economically: An interview with Paballo Mokoqo

Paballo Mokoqo

Meet Paballo Mokoqo, founder and CEO of DustBusters – a cleaning and laundry service company – and a passionate advocate for women gaining access to opportunities for economic empowerment.

Trained in Public Administration and Political Science at the National University of Lesotho, she started out as a HR Administrator but was soon bitten by the entrepreneurial bug.

6 years later, the business has gone from strength to strength and now has a team of 9 full time employees. Her own personal development has grown in leaps and bounds with a Business Management qualification and accolades like the Mandela Washington YALI fellowship and a United States African Development Foundation (USADF) grant under her belt.

She shares her journey as a female entrepreneur running a first-of-its-kind cleaning business in Maseru, Lesotho and her aspirations to train and upskill women in the domestic cleaning service industry and to expand across Africa.

Tell us about your business and how it started.

Dustbusters was birthed by a personal need, it started as a home cleaning business because I felt with the pressures of my then job, I needed a reliable, efficient cleaner available on my speed dial. My colleagues became the first customers and soon there was a growing demand for the services.

I had always been drawn to single women, having been raised by a single mother and aspired to facilitate access in some way to them gaining opportunities for economic gain. The notion of working with single mothers and enabling them to support their families through this business resonated with me, so the business idea and my purpose came together into what is now Dustbusters.

Who is your customer and what services do you provide?

Our services are geared towards busy professionals, business owners, corporates, students and even small businesses and retirees, basically anyone that requires cleaning services and doesn’t have the time to do it themselves.

We offer laundry services, office and home cleaning including carpet and upholstery cleaning. We tailor our services to our client’s needs and have recently expanded our service offering to include deep cleaning and disinfection services.

Describe a typical day in your job.

First task of the day, I commit the day to God through prayer, that sets the pace for my day and how it unfolds. The rest of the day is split between running errands for the business, servicing clients and interacting with them on our online platforms and in person, which is a very effective tool for informal and in the moment feedback .

When the operation side of the business winds down, I get to work on the brand management side of things, continuously shaping our brand and value proposition to respond to our clients’ needs. I work late into the night so I don’t typically start my day too early in the morning.

What drives you and inspires you to wake up every day and go to work?

Impact!  I am driven by the notion of awakening possibility within people that I work with and bearing witness to them tapping into their fullest potential.  We try to cultivate a culture where our employees feel that they are worthy, gifted and have something of value to offer, so I am inspired by seeing that growth and transition.

What are some of the highlights so far in your business journey?

The journey itself, seeing how what started as an idea and then a business with just 2 clients has grown into what it is now. Having a team of dedicated and committed employees that come in everyday with sincerity and a deep sense of servitude and give their all and seeing the results of their work is amazing.

Bringing solutions to our clients’ pain points and adding value has also been a big highlight.

One of our major highlights was being part of the YALI fellowship in the US and consequently winning a grant. Being part of the Vodacom Innovation Park and the opportunities that have come as a result of that, like interacting with and learning from some of the brilliant minds in this country.

A personal highlight has been the growth and self-introspection I have had to go through to become an effective leader and captain of this ship.

Paballo Mokoqo

What challenges and pitfalls have you encountered running a business?

Self-leadership, having no one but yourself to hold you accountable is extremely hard. Knowing that the show must go on le ha uena u khathetse!

Also being responsible for other people and having every one looking to you for solutions especially in uncertain times as these.

Finances are also a big challenge for most start-up businesses, we struggle to make ends meet at times and the temptation to have a job with a steady stream of income sometimes sets in, but that would come at a cost of giving up what I believe is my purpose and calling, and no amount of money can ever compensate for that.

Another major challenge is that the environment we operate in as entrepreneurs in Lesotho is not the easiest. The political instabilities and lack of policies that support entrepreneurs and their work can be frustrating but the show must go on so we find ways to work around all of that.

How has your business been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown?

Initially I battled with anxiety and struggled heavily with the uncertainty and the possibility of having to start over again building a business from the ground up. I was also overwhelmed by the loss of revenue in the month of the lockdown when business operations shut down and being responsible for my employees who looked up to me for solutions when I myself didn’t know what the next day or the future held.

After stepping back, learning to cope with the new reality and gaining mental clarity, I had to tap into my entrepreneurial creativity and find opportunities to pivot in my industry. This became a turning point for the business and saw us expanding our service offering to include disinfection and deep cleaning which is a highly demanded service that has set the wheels in motion again for the business and continues to gain momentum.

The lockdown and the period after that actually turned out to be a great opportunity for innovation in the cleaning service industry and a great way to for us in the industry to take part in the fight against Covid-19.

What are your plans for Dustbusters over the next few years?

We are challenged now more than ever to develop and upskill ourselves. In line with that, we will be launching the Regina Skills Development Hub in August, which will be an avenue to train and capacitate the women who work in the business and equip them with the skills to enable them to get employed in the job market of today and the future.

We will also be adding maid placement to our suite of services, to train efficient, professional maids and find employment for them. We hope to find a solid footing in Lesotho and then expand into the SADC area and other parts of Africa.

What are your top business tips and advice for new and existing entrepreneurs?

  1. Create value and solve a specific customer problem. People buy value and that is what sustains business.
  2. Invest in continuous learning, your business can only grow as far your knowledge and skills, passion can only take you so far so it is important to keep developing and upskilling yourself for the benefit of your business.
  3. Get a mentor. We all have blind spots and it is important to have people or someone to bounce off ideas from and guide you along your journey.
  4. Partnerships and collaboration with other entrepreneurs are key. It is important to build and nurture relationships in business, this has proven very fruitful for me in business.

Words to live by:  “Believing in oneself and knowing who you are is the foundation of everything great” – Jay Z

Connect with Paballo:

Website: Dustbustersafrica.co      

Facebook:  Dust Busters Cleaning and Laundry Maseru

Instagram:  Dustbusters Maseru     

Linkedin:   Dustbuster Cleaning and Laundry Maseru

Twitter: @dustbustersmsu