Suneera Madhani: CEO and Founder of Fattmerchant
Title: CEO and Founder of Fattmerchant
Industry: Merchant Services
Suneera Madhani, 30, is a new mom and has led her company Fattmerchant to more than $1 billion dollars in transactions. She’s flipped the credit card processing industry on its head and cultivated a loyal, transparent business.
In 2017, Fattmerchant set up shop in Atlanta and raised an additional $5.5 million in funding from Atlanta-based Fulcrum Equity Partners. She strongly believes in the power of women and is raising her daughter to have the same Girl Boss morals she holds. Her entrepreneurial story has been featured on Forbes and she also shares her mom boss life on her blog Mom Boss.
Learn more about Suneera Madhani in our interview with her below.
Tell us a little bit about the professional journey you took to get where you are today with your career.
I graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in finance and a minor in leadership. I always knew I had a strong passion for business, so once I graduated, I started out at a top consumer packaged goods company to get my feet wet. From there, I moved into merchant services.
Once I was really immersed in the environment, I realized how horribly non-transparent it was. In the payments world, so many truths are hidden behind lengthy invoices, shady contracts and vague language. I’ve always loved the idea of subscription services, having personally subscribed to companies like Netflix and Birchbox, and I realized how this could translate to the payments industry. I brought the idea of a monthly subscription-based business model to my bosses at the time, and they laughed in my face and said it would never work.
From there, I decided to leave and found my own company, Fattmerchant, with the promise to be transparent and provide value to every business that processes payments. I worked with an incredible team and network to build the company from the ground up, and I’m so proud of everything we’ve accomplished. We’ve processed more than $1 billion in transactions, raised more than $7 million in funding, and most recently, expanded to Transaction Alley in Atlanta.
Tell us a bit about your day to day – and what you love most about what you do?
Aside from the nitty gritty of budgeting, fundraising and endless future planning, a lot of my day to day involves establishing new connections and fostering existing ones. I’m a huge proponent of networking and empowering each other through shared connections, and I’ve encouraged my team to do the same. The chance to interact with so many interesting people on a daily basis is so impactful and absolutely one of the things I love most about this path of entrepreneurship I’ve chosen. Whether it’s speaking at a local event, grabbing coffee with a fellow business owner, or hosting all-hands meetings with my team, I could spend all day connecting with others and helping each other grow.
What was the best piece of career advice you were given?
This isn’t necessarily personal advice delivered to me, but this Michael Phelps quote is one of my favorite business philosophies: “There will be obstacles. There will be doubters. There will be mistakes. But with hard work, there are no limits.”
Anyone who has ever had to deal with merchant services certainly knows how complex the space can be. How difficult was it for you to create this subscription model and break the mold of traditional merchant services?
I always reference the fact that you rarely encounter a merchant who says, “I absolutely love my merchant service provider.” It’s not a very “sexy” business, and it’s known for being antiquated at its best and flat-out manipulative at its worst. It took a lot of planning and strategizing, but in the end, modernizing the industry was the only thing that made sense to me. If something isn’t working, change it.
Our members pay a flat monthly membership that gets them access to the direct cost of interchange, which is made of the percentages set by the credit card companies that everyone has to pay. With this model, we’re able to empower small- to medium-sized businesses and give them the same leverage as the bigger guys. So, it was definitely difficult to break the mold in the beginning and stand up to the people who said it wouldn’t work, but now I’ve realized how important it is to keep evolving. Working with our merchants has shown us that it is, in fact, possible to love your payments provider.
What was your biggest challenge in founding Fattmerchant?
Taking that first leap of faith is terrifying, as any entrepreneur knows. I dove headfirst into an industry that had been running on the same principles for decades, and shaking that up was a serious risk. Finding the confidence to never look back wasn’t easy, but I’m so happy I did.
How do you unplug at the end of the workday or workweek?
I have an amazing daughter and husband that ground me on a daily basis. As a business owner, you have to be realistic that work is bound to bleed into your personal life, but I believe the work/life balance is so important. I absolutely don’t have it all figured out yet, and sometimes I still struggle with finding that balance, in all honesty. But I’ve realized that you have to take time to make time. I work really hard to carve out specific nights for friends, for my family and for date nights. Surrounding myself with the people I love is the best possible way for me to unplug and relieve work-related stress.
In moments of uncertainty or doubt, how do you build yourself back up?
I build myself back up by remembering why I started in the first place. I also remind myself that hurdles are what keep things interesting. If everything were smooth sailing, we’d never learn.
What’s your favorite thing about your workspace/office space?
Our office is bright, open and collaborative. It also fits our brand to a T. We put a lot of emphasis on company culture within Fattmerchant, so our office space has games, snacks, tech, and even a hidden speakeasy bar. One of my other passions is interior design, so I put a lot of thought and personality into our office design, and it feels like a part of myself that I can share with my team on a day-to-day basis.
Being an entrepreneur and a mother, what advice would you offer other entrepreneurs about the balance of work and being a mother?
There are always going to be stereotypes about being a boss and being a mom, and you are always going to have to face them. My advice to mom entrepreneurs is to surround yourself with a solid, unwavering network of support. I believe in the true strength of girl power, and I love seeing women continuously empower each other and lift each other up. Having mentors to look up to and other women going through the same experience has helped me immensely, and I would encourage others to find the same. Also, use the lessons learned in motherhood to help you become a better business owner. There are more similarities within the two jobs than you would think.
Adding in a blog to that mix – you also run MomBossBlog.com – how do structure your time so you also have time to create blog content?
My blog is reflective of my entire outlook on life, so I try to prioritize it as much as I can when the inspiration hits. The concept revolved around the trials and tribulations of being a mom boss – advice, lessons learned, and what works for me. I’ve gathered a lot of insights throughout this journey, so populating content on my blog is something I genuinely enjoy. I find time to do it during my free time outside of work, and will continue to do so as long as it stays a passion.
Do you feel that having a blog has helped to enhance your brand? If so can you explain?
My blog has absolutely helped establish my brand, and I would encourage all women in business to do the same. Once I became a mom, I realized how hard it is to stay sane while cultivating your career. Since then, I’ve built my personal brand around how to own the title of Mom Boss and empower other women at the same time. That’s exactly what my blog is aiming to do.
What tools/apps do you use on a daily basis that you can’t live without?
For staying organized at work, I use Google Calendar, Trello and Slack. I’ve found that these are the best ways to stay in communication with my team throughout the day.
Personally, I love Headspace. Meditation is an amazing way to stay grounded when your life feels particularly overwhelming. I strive to stay hyper-focused on my goals, and I love that there’s tech to help maintain that sense of clarity.
If you were given 3 more hours per day – how would you use them?
I would divide them up. One hour would be dedicated to fitting in in more me-time (horseback riding, other hobbies, or just some solo time). Another hour would be strictly for family time, because I feel like I can have all the time in the world with my daughter Mila and never have enough. I would use the extra one hour to get better organized for the day ahead – I don’t get enough time to plan in the mere 24 hours a day I have now!
What 3 pieces of advice would you offer to other female entrepreneurs?
Keep your passion. Remember your why. There was a reason you journeyed down this path, and there will always be hurdles. Always. However, you have to remember why you started and hold that close to your heart when times get tough.
Don’t look back. If you have an idea, go for it, and don’t listen to the naysayers. Don’t wait for the timing to feel right, because it probably never will. Stay laser-focused on your goal, and don’t waste any time.
Ask for help. That’s one thing I wish I knew going into entrepreneurship – no one has all the answers, and anyone that pretends to is most likely lying. It’s completely acceptable to feel stuck, and when that happens, reach out to the people in your network who have undoubtedly been through it too.
Fun Fact: What Song and TV Series Best Describes Suneera’s Life?
“The song to describe my life would be “Work” by Rihanna, without a doubt. I never stop going.” Suneera answered. “A television show that describes my life would be “Everybody Loves Raymond” – except “Everybody Loves Faizal,” my husband. My family and the support they give me is the reason why I’m able to do and dedicate so much to the work I do every day.”
Want to learn more about Suneera Madhani and her company Fattmerchant? Follow the links below!
Company Website: Fattmerchant
MomBoss Blog: MomBossBlog.com
Company Facebook: facebook.com/Fattmerchant
Company Twitter: @Fattmerchant
Suneera’s Twitter: @SuneeraMadhani
Emily Sprinkle, also known as Emma Loggins, is a designer, marketer, blogger, and speaker. She is the Editor-In-Chief for Women's Business Daily where she pulls from her experience as the CEO and Director of Strategy for Excite Creative Studios, where she specializes in web development, UI/UX design, social media marketing, and overall strategy for her clients.
Emily has also written for CNN, Autotrader, The Guardian, and is also the Editor-In-Chief for the geek lifestyle site FanBolt.com