I’m Antoinette Daniel, Founder of Just Helpers, an ethical cleaning agency for high-end London homes. I started the company as a side hustle in 2013 when I landed an amazing part-time job working for an anti-human trafficking organisation.
Having loved being a secondary school teacher for 12 years, the cut in salary to pursue something that I am so passionate about was tricky. I have always loved cleaning for friends and family and took pride in seeing people’s delight at my efforts. Coming home after a long day of work and seeing that your home space is serene, organised and clean is a joy to behold. Ensuring that “wow” and “ahhhh” feeling when clients get home still gives me that same satisfaction today.
How did I come up with the idea for the company?
Consequently, through friends at church, I was connected to my first amazing client and things grew rapidly from there. I never intended for it to become a business, but demand for the way I cleaned and treated my clients became overwhelming and I ended up finding someone to work with me. She loved how I treated her, and eventually wanted to introduce friends and family to work with us.
Having worked in the anti-human trafficking realm, I saw first-hand the exploitation that happens in all communities, even those right on our doorsteps. Poor economics create desperate life choices for human beings. I knew early on that if I could provide an alternative career, where people, women especially, were nurtured and encouraged to build their own businesses, then my vision would help many individuals in their own journeys.
It was the demand of my earlier colleagues for more clients that forced me into turning this into a business. Truthfully, the first 2 years were a charity, with me working two other jobs to keep the cleaning business afloat so that all these women could have a steady income.
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How has the company evolved through the pandemic?
There are so many challenges in owning a business, but Covid-19 has caused me to have moments of profound paralysis. The main issues have been that many things were unknown, the waiting for so many changeable government directives needing almost instant action. Trying to clarify things to a community of nearly 1000 people. Worrying about our Helpers’ incomes.
We realised that we don’t charge enough for the high-quality service we offer, that most of the liability rested with us. So raised prices and direct debits have helped to secure our cash flow. Additionally, the cleaning team received an 8% pay rise too, putting their hourly rate significantly above the real living wage.
What can we hope to see from Just Helpers in the Future?
At Just Helpers Cleaning Agency, we plan to transform the way that the UK thinks in terms of paying their Helper. Cleaning should not be an industry where people are bargaining for the cheapest service, rather a place where the care, trust, commitment and expertise of cleaners, (or in our case, Helpers) is recognised as an essential and life enhancing service. And paid at its proper rate.