Women in Business Q&A: Suneera Madhani, Founder, Fattmerchant

Suneera Madhani graduated from University of Florida with a degree in Finance and a minor in Leadership. With a strong passion for business, Suneera sought to gain experience with a top fortune 100 CPG company. After almost three years of corporate culture she knew it was time she took her learnings and applied it to her real passion of entrepreneurship. With a background in business, advertising, and sales, Suneera gained a well-rounded approach to the merchant services industry. After establishing herself in a merchant services career, Suneera realized that business owners are frustrated with their providers due to a lack of transparency and never ending gimmicks. She decided to found her company, Fattmerchant, with the promise to establish a transparent subscription-based merchant services model that offers financial and strategic value to the everyday business owner.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
There are many things about my childhood to adulthood that have defined who I am today and have shaped me as a leader. My father was a serial entrepreneur; he constantly started businesses, built them from the ground up, and sold them once revenues were established. That being said- we moved from city to city, and at a point even country to country; I went to 10 different schools in 12 years. I always found a way to be involved in each of the businesses, which ranged from small business ventures to multi million dollar agencies. I did everything from naming products, to admin responsibilities, as well as cold calling at only 15.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at Fattmerchant?
I graduated from the University of Florida in 2009 with a degree in Finance and a minor in Leadership. Every summer while I was in college, I had an internship - two stints at a marketing internship, one summer at a promotional management company, and one as a corporate shoe buyer for Macy's. In addition, I studied abroad in Rome, learned a new language, travelled, and explored every city I possibly could. All of these experiences helped shape the person I am today. After graduation, I was recruited by Altria, one of the top 50 CPG companies in the world. I was a natural young leader in the company and was on the rise for management positions, specifically in sales management. However, I felt entrapped by working in a corporate environment where decision-making would take months to execute. I wanted to A/B test ideas, drive creative ways of attaining our sales goals, and challenge my leaders, but due to corporate red tape this way of thinking was deemed a faux pas. That's truly what drove me to create my own business. I had a vision that I believed in, and I wanted to build a team that could see the same vision along with me. I want to empower everyone within the company and foster an atmosphere where everyone's ideas matter.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Fattmerchant?
Waking up and getting to do what I love, with a team and environment we love to be in, is the best highlight of my existence today. It may sound extremely cheesy when I say this but it's true, if you love what you do you don't work a day in your life! It's extremely energizing to be working on something so different in payment technology by offering SMBs 0% markup, no contract credit card processing. I love that we're putting money back into their pockets since they've been getting ripped off for years. Growing, building, and scaling Fattmerchant is an amazing challenge and every milestone we hit is an accomplishment. Hurdles arrive daily but they're what makes the race fun; they keep us on our toes with the eye on the finish line.

What advice can you offer to women who want to start their own business?
Just go do it. If you have an idea, and feel extremely passionate about what you can do, don't waste any time. Don't look back, and stay Laser Blind Ninja Dragon lady focused.

What is the most important lesson you've learned by starting your own business?
One of my favorite business philosophies that takes the cake- "There will be obstacles. There will be doubters. There will be mistakes. But with hard work, there are no limits." Enough said.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I'd be lying if I said I already had this figured out down to a tee; it's a work in progress. Right now, a lot of my focus is on the business, but it really is so important to carve out time for yourself and your family. Luckily I have the most understanding and amazing husband ever (who is also an incredible entrepreneur and an inspiration of mine). He has let me run without looking back. Some of my New Year's resolutions this year as well were to get active, so I let loose by attending Zumba classes with friends, definitely a ton of dinners, and my favorite night of the week - date night Wednesdays. You have to take time to make time.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Apart from running out of KCups, an interesting gender dichotomy I've noticed is the perception of power. A man can be stern in the office and be perceived as hardworking and to-the-point, but a women can be perceived as a "bitch." Fortunately, my team and those I have worked with don't look at "gender," we all just focus on the vision and the work that we do.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I have always been a very self-improving person, and I seek knowledge from everyone around me. I believe "mentorship" can be defined very broadly and I am lucky to have mentors in all areas of my life. From formal mentorships through programs like Starter Studio, investors, personal friendships, family. I am blessed to be surrounded by people that teach me constantly.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
As a woman CEO in tech myself of course I admire Marissa Mayer. Despite the controversy surrounding her decisions now with Yahoo, I love that she's representing a powerful woman leader in business in an industry that is primarily male-dominated. #girlpower

What do you want Fattmerchant to accomplish in the next year?
2015 is going to be a benchmark year for Fattmerchant. For the company, we will continue to expand our reach to provide transparency to help the SMBs of the nation with keeping as much money in their pockets as possible. For the team, we are excited about doubling in size to have 20+ individuals by year-end. We're kicking ass and taking names, and having an amazing time doing it.