Written by Andrew Seale
Toronto was a different place two decades ago when Erifili Morfidis and Charlotte Gummesson, founders of home and office cleaning service platform iRestify, launched their first (and previous) startup, a call centre outsourcing company.
Not only had “entrepreneurialism” yet to become a popular pursuit, but as women leaders, the pair felt like a rarity in their sector. Morfidis, who immigrated to Canada from Greece as a child, even remembers having clients visit the outsourcing company mistakenly thinking “Erifili” was male name.
“Back then our faces weren’t all over the Internet… so when they walked into the boardroom, they’d look at me and say ‘where’s Mr. Morfidis?’ and I’d say ‘you found her,” she says. “I never felt in the last 20 years at any point that it wasn’t accepted, it was more that people felt surprised.”
But since launching their new startup iRestify in 2016, they’ve noticed the archetypal young, predominately male tech founder is being overhauled with a more diversified array of entrepreneurs.
“The space is really changing – (there’s about) 180,000 tech jobs available today in Canada and I think there’s going to continue to be a huge requirement,” says Morfidis. “It’s open to everybody.”
And it’s a really exciting time to be an entrepreneur, adds Gummesson. Which is why the pair started iRestify, a platform connecting residential and commercial customers with fully-vetted and user-rated cleaning service experts. The startup is the latest in the on-demand model that has already disrupted spheres like handyman services, transportation and vacation rentals.
The company launched in the downtown core and has since grown beyond the Greater Toronto Area to include Hamilton and the surrounding communities. And with 30 to 40 per cent of cleaning businesses in Canada focused on the southwestern Ontario area, Toronto seemed like an easy fit for the pair to team up again and launch another business.
“In Toronto, people are open to these new ideas,” says Gummesson. And, on the other side, there’s plenty of experienced cleaning professionals looking for a low impact way to find clients. “They want to build their business, they want to accept jobs within a certain vicinity.”
There’s also an ecosystem here that didn’t exist the first time around for Gummesson and Morfidis.
“Even though we’ve got business experience, we really see the benefit of being members of these startup ecosystems,” says Morfidis. “There’s so much expert advice and support, free workshops or workshops available at nominal rates – there’s a lot of new things we’ve learned in the last few years and it’s been fantastic.”
And, of course, with two decades experience working together, they always have each other.
“We’re good friends… we work together very well and at the same time we’re very different,” says Morfidis. “Professionally, I’m a very black and white person and (with Charlotte) there’s a little bit of grey – There’s a balance between us.”