34-year old Amari Ruff had a rough start growing up. As a teenager, he had to balance studies and work to help his mother make ends meet while moving between homeless shelters. But now, he owns a multi-million dollar trucking company called Sudu that connects underserved entrepreneurs to giant companies such as Walmart and UPS.
At the age of 16, his military father left his mother to raise him and his two siblings. They lived in homeless shelters, and Amari at one point, had to commute over four hours a day to continue attending high school while also working.
He eventually landed a job with a company where he negotiated significant enterprise contracts. He helped the business grow to annual revenues of $4.5 million, but was let go from a higher rank that he was promised. He said he didn’t expect it and it was really a low time in his life, but this inspired him to become a successful entrepreneur.
Starting at the bottom
Amari decided to started a telecommunications company in 2010 with just $300 and a 1990 Ford Ranger. However, before long, he managed to grow it to almost 200 trucks and to 5 U.S. locations. While at it, he also realized that there were bigger opportunities to create a tech company to connect underserved entrepreneurs (minorities, women, and veterans) with larger corporations. He then built his own business to fill the void.
In 2015, he launched Sudu, an online marketplace that leverages technology to connect small and medium-sized trucking companies (which make up 90% or the trucking market) to major corporations that ship goods. He chose the name Sudu, which is a Chinese word that means speed and tempo, because he says he believes it speaks well to the speed and efficiency they provide the industry through their technology which is considered as the “Uber” for truckers.
The recognition finally came
Because of his genius, Amari became in demand to speak at international tech and entrepreneurial conferences. He was invited to address the Nelson Mandela Fellows Panel and the Build Your Own Brand conference and retreat.
He also started winning major awards such as the 2016 NMTA Minority Business of the Year, the 2017 Georgia Trend Magazine Trendsetter, and the 2018 Atlanta Business Chronicle InnoVenture Award. He has even been included in the Venture Atlanta Top 10 Startups to Watch list.
Within just three years, his company, Sudu, which is based in Atlanta, Georgia, grew to having more than 300,000 trucking companies within its network, especially minority, women, and veteran-owned trucking companies. He has also been able to cut deals with large corporations such as Walmart, P&G, Delta Airlines, Anheuser-Busch, Georgia Pacific, and UPS.