• Tittykay Cesay

Perseverance and self-belief built this $30 million company

At Ace we look for the best black business success stories, to celebrate, inspire and motivate you. So each week we will share an amazing story, from an entrepreneur from a diverse background, this week we introduce you to Babatope (Tope) Awotona, the founder of Calendly.

In 2013, Tope launched Calendly, a simple, easy-to-use scheduling tool, which allows you to schedule meetings without the ‘back-and-forth’ emails. Instead, it allows users to share their availability preferences within the platform, then create a unique link which they can share, so anyone can swiftly scheduling a meeting with them. Calendly can be embedded onto websites, can collect payments and can be integrated with existing calendars.

He wanted to find a gap in the market and come up with something original, so he decided to take a risk. Maybe it wouldn’t work, but Tope was willing to try with Calendly.

From Nigeria to Atlanta, Tope wanted to fulfil his fathers legacy and become an entrepreneur.

Tope was born in Nigeria, then in 1996, Tope and his family moved to Atlanta, where he completed his high school and university education.

Following his graduation, he worked a few corporate jobs, until he realised he wanted to take the leap to entrepreneurship. This led to the creation of his first three start-up businesses. Although Tope quickly realised however that he was not passionate about his startups.

Looking back, it was the tragic death of his father when he was 12, that first fuelled his desire to become an entrepreneur and fulfil his father’s legacy.

The biggest difficulty was finding funding when Calendly began to grow rapidly.

Once the business started to grow, Tope used his personal money and retirement savings funds to launch Calendly. Although eventually, his initial investment ran out and the entrepreneur began to seek VC funding, to further to support his business. This is when Tope realised that as a black man, attracting investment into his business would not be easy. Tope in an interview with Inc said:

“I had a working product, and customers using it, and everyone said no. Meanwhile, I watched other people who fit a different ‘profile’ get money thrown at them for shitty ideas,”.

In the US, less than 1 percent of venture supported businesses are led by Black people. So Tope had to learn how to stretch each dollar, to maximise his own funding, in order to sustain his business.

Despite the adversity he faced regarding funding, Tope did not give up. He maximised his own funds until eventually, Calendly was able to generate a profit through its paid subscription service in 2016.

As of 2019, the Nigerian-American entrepreneur has built a company worth $30 million dollars, with 5,000,000 monthly users, despite his lack of investment. Perseverance and self-belief took this entrepreneur to create and lead one of the most widely used global scheduling tools on the market.

Today, Tope has a multi-million dollar business, of which he is a majority shareholder because he refused to give up, despite his lack of venture capital.

A key lesson to take from Tope’s story, is to not let a lack of investment into your business deter your entrepreneurial dreams. We constantly see starting raising high levels of funding from VCs, while other literally get nothing. Here at ACE we are working hard to change that, by bringing more funding opportunities to you, Check out our crowdfund to donate to out small business fund and apply to receive funding, if you are a small business.

Always remember, having majority control over your business is one of the most valuable things to have. If you have a great product or service, focus on that and investment will eventually find you.

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