From being told no by rooms full of men dozens of times, to founding Orlando’s first $1 Billion fintech unicorn, Suneera Madhani was never given a seat at the table — so she built her own.
Madhani says she can’t begin to tell her story without talking about her background. The co-founder and CEO of Stax says her parents played a colossal role in her company achieving unicorn status following a $245 million Series D round and company valuation of more than $1 billion.
“My parents immigrated here from Karachi, Pakistan,” Madhani said. “They were entrepreneurs out of necessity. Neither one of them actually ended up going to college. They had to work from a really young age. They had odd jobs and had to make ends meet.”
After graduating from college, Madhani held different corporate positions and ended up working for a payments company in the small business unit. “I was selling credit card processing, so I was in sales. I literally had to go door to door, to go meet people and get told no, in my face. It was the hardest job that I ever had and taught me so much about myself.”
While working in the credit card processing industry, she saw there was a lack of transparency.
“There were all of these fees,” she says. “Everybody was just trying to take a cut of how the businesses were taking their transactions. Everybody just wanted their hands in the pot and that’s why it was costing small businesses so much money to accept credit cards. I knew that there had to be a better way.”
The finance major and self proclaimed “data nerd” started to wonder why there wasn’t a subscription model for payments, so she and her brother created a subscriptions-based payments processor that charges merchants a flat subscription fee. Today, the company serves 30,000 customers and processes $23 billion in payments through their network.
Madhani also launched a podcast designed to educate and empower female entrepreneurs called CEO School.
“We interview underrepresented founders every Monday, then we get to tactically learn from women who’ve been there, who’ve made it to what we call the 2% club because less than 2% of female founders ever break a million in revenue,” she says. “I became absolutely obsessed during the pandemic over that statistic.”
Today, CEO School has a community of more than 300,000 women across their social platforms.
“It is just a powerhouse community of female entrepreneurs helping each other,” Madhani adds. “And we bring in incredible, incredible women mentors with amazing master classes and just really tactical things. And we get to learn from real women in the real world who are real CEOs because we are all CEOs.”