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 undeserved 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.
Amari Ruff was interviewed and this are some of the answers he gave:
Who was your first big client?
Crazy as it may seem, Walmart was our first enterprise customer. We were so lucky as a small company to gain the support and guidance of such a prestigious global brand like Walmart. The Walmart team embraced and helped us set a strong foundation to scale Sudu. I can honestly say without Walmart we wouldn’t be as far along as we are today.
What has been the toughest adversity you’ve dealt with concerning your business?
Being an entrepreneur building a business is like a rollercoaster ride, so many ups and downs. My toughest challenge was going through the evolution of our team. When you begin to scale your startup, sometimes the position outgrows the current employee and you have to make a change for the better of the company. I had to let people go that I really cared about and that were with us from the beginning. As hard as it may be as a CEO, those are the type of decisions you have to make.
What else does do you do?
I’m a father to, in my opinion, the coolest kid in the world named Cruz. I am a member of the Emerging 100 of Atlanta, which is the younger auxiliary to the 100 Black Men of Atlanta. I also spend a lot of time mentoring at various accelerators here in the city of Atlanta. I am also an avid sports fan (big time LeBron fan and I love my NY Giants) and a sneaker collector.