From being rejected multiple times in a room full of men, to founding Orlando’s first $1 billion fintech unicorn, Suneera Madhani never got a place at the dinner table—so she built her seat.
Madhani said she couldn’t start telling her story without talking about her background.Co-founder and CEO Starks Says her parents played a huge role in her company becoming unicorn status after a $245 million Series D funding round and a company valuation of more than $1 billion.
“My parents immigrated here from Karachi, Pakistan,” Madahani said. “They were entrepreneurs out of necessity. Neither of them actually went to college. They had to work from a very young age. They had odd jobs and had to make ends meet.”
After college, Madhani held various corporate positions, culminating in a payments company in the small business sector. “I was selling credit card processing, so I was doing sales. I literally had to go door-to-door to meet people and get rejected in person. It was the hardest job I’ve ever had and taught me a lot about myself. “
While working in the credit card processing industry, she found a lack of transparency.
“There are all these costs,” she said. “Everyone just wants a piece of the pie in how businesses handle their transactions. Everyone just wants to put their hands in the pot, which is why small businesses spend so much to accept credit cards. I know there has to be a better one Methods.”
The self-described “data nerd” financial professional started wondering why there wasn’t a subscription payment model, so she and her brother created a subscription-based payment processor that charges merchants a flat subscription fee. Today, the company serves 30,000 customers and processes $23 billion in payments through its network.
Madhani also launched a podcast aimed at educating and empowering female entrepreneurs called CEO Academy.
“We interview underrepresented founders every Monday, and then we learn tactically from the women who’ve been there, and they’ve made it into what we call the 2% club because less than 2% of female founders have ever broken through A million in income,” she said. “I’m pretty fascinated by this statistic during a pandemic.”
Today, CEO School has a community of over 300,000 women on its social platforms.
“It’s just a strong community of female entrepreneurs helping each other,” Madhani added. “And we’ve brought in incredible, unbelievable female mentors who provide amazing masterclasses and real tactical knowledge. We can learn from real women in the real world who are real women CEO, because we are all CEOs.”