For many black people who aspire to venture into entrepreneurship and start their own businesses, access to capital remains the number one challenge; this is corroborated by a report from the McKinsey Global Institute.
According to the report, black founders received only one (1) percent of venture investment funding, “while Black Americans are more likely to start businesses than any other ethnic group, they are up against tougher challenges from the get-go.” Generally, blacks have an average startup capital of about $35,000 compared to their white counterparts, who get an average of $107,000.
This implies that black entrepreneurs often start their businesses from disadvantaged positions. However, this did not stop Sulaiman Sanni from pursuing his entrepreneurial dreams to achieve financial freedom, which he achieved before turning 40. He was able to overcome the financial challenges many black entrepreneurs face in raising capital; not only did he raise capital for his first startup, he also sold it for six figures.
Sanni founded WeDidIt, an online fundraising platform, and has assisted more than 2000 nonprofit organizations to raise over $50m. He operated the company for eight years before it was acquired by the Allegiance Fundraising Group in June 2019.
Aiming for greater heights, he is now the CEO and founder of Dollaride, a startup that helps riders to access affordable transportation, empowers drivers to grow ridership, and offers businesses commuting options that are less expensive.
The platform works like a ride-hailing app and allows users to see where nearby licensed dollar vans are operating to enable them to get a ride.
Dollar vans can accommodate up to 20 people while charging passengers a couple of bucks. Unlike Uber, they do not do door-to-door services, but load passengers driving along fixed routes – reminiscent of the informal transport system used by Blacks who could not afford public transport.
“They’ve been around for well over 30 years, and primarily work in the outer boroughs like Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx,” Sanni said of dollar vans to builtinnyc. “Most of the drivers and riders are folks from the Caribbean, Chinese immigrants, folks who are from the Latino community,” Sanni added.
Originally from Nigeria, Sanni grew up using dollar vans. His uncles, who first arrived in the U.S. in the 1980s, were dollar van drivers. It was his experience with dollar vans that inspired him to create Dollaride.
“I personally grew up in low-income housing in New York City,” he said. “I grew up in a transit desert, which is part of a city where you have remarkably limited access to public transportation.”
“As a result, I ended up relying on dollar vans when traveling to school or work. I had lived the problem. So I just wanted to provide that solution to more people who are also living in transit deserts around New York City, and now, potentially, around other cities around the country.”
Sanni recently got $10 million in funding to build New York’s first all-electric dollar van network. The project will commence in January 2023.
“I am proud to be providing the most significant investment yet in clean transportation for historically underserved communities in New York State,” NY Governor Kathy Hochul said, according to a press release.