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Suneera Madhani | Spirit of Innovation

Anyone who hasn’t heard of Suneera Madhani might just be living under a rock. The CEO of Orlando-based Fattmerchant has been featured everywhere from Fast Company, Forbes and Entrepreneur magazines to Huffington Post, National Public Radio and even a sign on the side of a taxicab. Fattmerchant has so shaken up the merchant payment processing space that Madhani has spent much of the past four years sharing secrets of success that have taken the company from two employees to 100.

It all started with an idea. Madhani was working for a Fortune 100 consumer goods company when she thought of a way to help small and midsize merchants save on credit card processing fees. By charging a flat monthly subscription price, instead of a percentage per transaction, a company could capitalize on volume sales rather than “nickel-and-dime” the merchants, she said.

In 2015, the University of Florida graduate launched Fattmerchant with her brother, Sal Rehmetullah, who now serves as president. The company name is an acronym that represents what it offers merchants: fast and affordable transaction technology. The company has been adding to its offerings, including a first-of-its-kind integrated payment platform called Omni that allows business owners to manage their payments through processing and data analytics.

“The biggest thing missing from most payment platforms was simplicity, which is what our technology offers,” Madhani said. “Omni provides business owners the simplicity of having all of their most vital business solutions in one place, coupled with the power and reliability of Fattmerchant’s processing tools. … We are providing merchants with a unified payment experience unlike anything else on the market.”

Fattmerchant has processed more than $2 billion in payments. In the meantime, the company has raised nearly $20 million through three consecutive rounds of funding.

Madhani is handling it all with her usual enthusiasm. “It’s been fun to experience the challenge of growing as a leader, particularly in terms of the journey from startup to small business,” she said. “My role has changed significantly since the first day we opened. … The most difficult challenge is learning to balance. I’ve had to balance vision with budget, protocol with creativity, growth with scaling. I have learned, alongside my team, that balance is everything when building your business. I’ve handled it through mentorships, networking, and never being afraid to ask for help when I need it.”

She is also balancing her personal life. Madhani gave birth to her second child in January. She shared her experience of being a mom and the leader of a fast-growth business in a column in Entrepreneur in September 2018: “Many days juggling life, investors, team members, board, shareholders and your screaming 2-year-old (with another on the way) can seem daunting — but it’s not impossible.”

Madhani talks about how she manages her busy life: “I have every day scheduled in advance, allowing me to be as efficient as possible without making major sacrifices. Even if it seems like something that would be counterintuitive to schedule, add it to your calendar regardless. My schedule includes everything from getting ready for work to designated times for me to spend time with my husband and daughters.”

The company’s modern, open-space office in downtown Orlando and the orange piggy bank in its logo reflect a playful spirit that has given the company a reputation for approachability as well as collaboration. “I love walking into the doors of Fattmerchant and enjoying the culture we’ve built,” Madhani said. “Getting to roam the office and seeing meetings happen that you have absolutely no clue what is being discussed gives a sense of pride and enjoyment to me.

“We work hard to make sure we have a healthy culture that makes coming to work an enjoyable experience. I know it’s cheesy to say that we love coming to work and it’s like our family, but it really is. Everyone here trusts each other to get the work done and to hold each other accountable, and it’s a really collaborative environment.”

Madhani guides her team to focus on making a difference not only in their industry but also in the realm of small business. “In the early stages of founding Fattmerchant, we got on any and all stages we could to get our story out there,” she wrote in the Entrepreneur article. “Every pitch competition, networking event or meetup I could find, we were there. I credit a lot of our early success to simply being visible and showing up.”

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About the author

Diane Sears

A career journalist, author and advocate for business growth, Diane Sears is the CEO, editor and publisher of i4 Business. She is also the founder and president of DiVerse Media LLC, which has handled content marketing projects including nonfiction books, white papers, executive speeches and scripts since 2000. She is co-founder of the nonprofit Go for the Greens Foundation, which helps connect women-owned and minority-owned business owners with growth opportunities internationally.

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