A journey from medicine to cleaning

As told by Dinah Owusu-Kissi, Managing Director of Spaklean Limited

What is the probability that a young girl will say that my dream profession is a Cleaner? Zero! I doubt if any parent will dare set that as a goal for their young child. The stigma associated with the cleaning profession is so strong that even those in the profession are compelled to sanitize it with alternative terms such as custodial management. 

My dream profession as a child was to be a medical doctor, and indeed that was only a dream. The only medicine I have practiced is taking care of my husband and 3 children when they are sick. I have spent 16 years of my 25 years working career as a Cleaner. I am privileged to have groomed and nurtured Spaklean Limited as a small company with 3 employees in 2007 to become an internationally recognized company with over 600 employees, with a nationwide presence in Ghana.

The change from medicine to cleaning has been dramatic. I dropped the Medicine dream to a Banker at the University of Ghana and pursued a B.Sc. Administration with specialization in Banking and Finance, because economic situation at home will not allow me to pursue a 7-year education program to be a medical professional. Working as a Banker was indeed fulfilling and indeed a plush alternative and that motivated me to pursue an MBA in Finance at the California National University for Advanced Studies, in California USA. Combining the banking profession with my core profession as a woman proved to be daunting and that challenged me to consider alternatives.


My initial thought was to go in for something simple and basic, one that will allow me time to fulfill my domestic responsibilities. The response to a cleaning business from well-meaning colleagues and friends was not unexpected, but the more I explored that option, the more I appreciated the strong linkage between the fundamentals of business administration and the cleaning business. Upon further reflections I came to appreciate that medicine, banking, cleaning, or whatever career we pursue in life are mere strategies to achieve our vision and mission in life. Many pursue a career as a vision and not a as a strategy. Success depends on the excellence with which you pursue your life strategy. With a clear definition of my vision, mission, and strategy I set off on a course of excellence. My vision – ‘make it glamorous and professional’ and my mission – ‘to motivate, mentor and groom young ones to develop skills and harness their full potentials in life’. The strategy – a cleaning business.

To get the fundamentals right I took the ordinary and advance courses of Cleaning Excellence with the Cleaning Management Institute, USA in 2007. I endeavored to apply all the fundamentals of business administration I acquired during my first- and second-degree education – planning, organizing, coordination and controls.  Even my science background came into play. Central to the strategy has been an extensive training and mentorship programs to help my team dignify the cleaning profession and to work with passion. Close association with industry partners – ISSA and CCAG – has been of immense help. The results have been phenomenal – a self-motivated and well-structured business. Spaklean Limited is the first cleaning services business in Africa to achieve CIMS certification with Honors in 2021! CCAG has awarded the business twice in 2018 (Best Industry Compliant) and 2019 (Health and Safety). MEA Awards declared Spaklean the Best Cleaning Company in Ghana in 2020 and 2023. The credit for these achievements goes to the team, but my humble contributions have not gone unnoticed. In 2022 the Feminine Ghana Achievement Awards credited me with the Most Outstanding Female in Commercial Cleaning and was privileged to be awarded by the West Africa Nobles Forum with the Africa International Award of Merit.

The 16 years has been very exciting. I remember visiting a client and a colleague of the Manager thought I was the Interior Decorator, but I proudly replied that I am the Cleaner. Yes, the cleaning profession can be positioned as glamorous. We deal with dirt but that doesn’t make us dirty. We must be clean to produce clean spaces and we can win the respect of others if we dignify our profession. I humbly and proudly have contributed my token in this regard to the industry with my team of clean professionals. My boss, a former Managing Director of Merchant Bank, will often say ‘whenever I see your staff, I feel like putting down my jacket to wear their uniform’.

Cleaning is lifesaving just as medicine is – so I am still in a lifesaving work. Cleaners are as indispensable as the paramedics. Can you imagine a world without cleaning? That has been my prime message to my team to build their confidence and pride in their profession.

Besides, cleaning is simple and basic, but it requires professional skills. An untrained cleaner is a hazard to the environment. Cleaning must be pursued as a profession with a clear career path. When that path is clearly defined, members in our team will pursue it as a career and not as a temporary job for sustenance while they pursue their dream career. Cleaning business owners should have a clear structure with career progression accompanied by training and mentorship programs. This will boost employee retention and give the opportunity to hone and enhance skills.

Moreover, if cleaning is a profession, then there should be a professional body that regulates the practice of the profession. Other professionals like the engineers, doctors, accountants, lawyers have professional associations where individuals are accredited after achieving the requisite training and experience. This is more than the business association like CCAG. We need an Institute of Cleaning Management that gives accreditation to practitioners. This will give Cleaners the desired recognition in the business environment.

Indeed, if cleaning is a public health concern for public facilities, then there should be legislation to govern standard cleaning practices. This will curb mushrooming cleaning businesses that provide substandard services and protect a business space that has proved attractive to many women. As many as 65% of Spaklean staff are females. This is no mere coincidence but confirms that women naturally have what it takes to be cleaning practitioners –a higher level of hygiene consciousness and the eye for details.  Surely, we can take the lead in the industry and play a major role in cleaning our beautiful planet, one space at a time.

Spaklean – your ambience, our passion.