How We Have Built An $18M/Year Business Providing Payment Processing Solutions To SMBs
Hello! Who are you, and what business did you start?
I’m Austin Mac Nab, CEO and Founder of VizyPay. Based in Iowa, our bootstrapped FinTech provides innovative, transparent, money-saving payment processing solutions to small business merchants across rural America.
With upfront pricing available on the VizyPay website, every product aims to grow and develop local economies through tailored payment solutions delivered with excellent and immediate customer service.
Legacy payment processor companies pay little attention to the needs of small businesses, especially those located outside of major metro areas. Their blanket approach requires small businesses to use expensive technology and complex software, which many mom-and-pop shops cannot afford and is operationally overkill.
On top of that, other companies also charge expensive card processing fees, functionally punishing them for doing business. In contrast, VizyPay purposely focuses on these merchants’ needs by introducing them to simple but powerful payment technology with a low cost of entry.
Created to help reduce small businesses’ unpredictable credit card processing costs, VizyPay’s award-winning Cash Discount Program (CDP) is a first-of-its-kind service that provides unlimited monthly credit card processing for one flat, low fee based on the merchant's monthly processing volume.
CDP leverages proprietary technology that integrates the processing fee into the pricing of products and services. When a customer pays with a card, CDP isolates the built-in processing fee and immediately applies it to the merchant’s monthly processing fees – allowing merchants to avoid up to 100% of unnecessary card processing fees.
To date, VizyPay’s CDP has saved small merchants more than $27 million. To make CDP accessible to any merchant, VizyPay launched the Cash Discount app for Clover POS systems and VizyPOS for PAX POS systems – allowing for easy integration of CDP into the business’s menu pricing with just a tap of a button.
By securing the tech talent in the Midwest, creating transparent products, and targeting rural small businesses in all 50 states, VizyPay's staff grew from one to 110, prompting us to move to a larger, brand-new office.
Revenue also exploded from 100K to 18M in just six years - all without a single cent of outside funding. VizyPay is now No. 209 on the 2022 Deloitte Technology Fast 500 and No. 918 on the national 2022 Inc. 5000 list, making it the fourth fastest-growing private company in Iowa.
What's your backstory, and how did you come up with the idea?
Growing up in California and Iowa, I lived with my hardworking mother and emotionally abusive stepfather as a kid. From a young age, I was motivated to help my mother – a Vietnamese immigrant working several jobs to make ends meet – as much as I could.
Beginning at ten years old, I mowed lawns and sold eggrolls, candy, and more – all of which taught me the sales skills and work ethic I would need to succeed. After graduating high school, I set my sights on finding my path and never went to college.
After spending about a decade excelling as an executive sales director at a payments company, small business owners were forced to overpay for technology that wasn’t well-suited to their business. I felt the payments industry was ripe for disruption.
From there, I started and failed at five businesses, learning and growing each time before putting everything on the line again, risking my hard-earned personal savings and bankruptcy to start VizyPay at age 33.
Joining forces with my neighbor and Managing Partner Frank Pagano and a silent partner, we fully bootstrapped or invested $197K of our own money into VizyPay, with the goal of building programs and services that catered to the needs of small business owners.
Frank was a successful small business owner, and together with my experience in payments, our combined knowledge created a fintech that prioritizes transparency, culture, and support of small business owners. Since then, VizyPay has amassed about 12,000 small business merchants in all 50 states while remaining self-funded and owner-controlled.
Take us through the process of building the first version of your product.
I invested around $100K to start the business. With my Managing Partner Frank Pagano and a silent partner, we boosted that number to $197K. I went door to door for the first 3 to 4 months to build revenue, getting about 20 clients monthly. Then I went back to the office to lead underwriting, tech support, customer services, and recruiting for most of 2017.
Our initial projection for year 5-in revenue was $1.6 million by the end of 2022, and VizyPay ended up way surpassing that with around $18 million by the end of 2022. The biggest lesson I learned was whatever amount of money you think you need to start a business, double, if not triple, that number to set yourself into a good, flexible spot.
You can check out our old website from back in 2017 as well as our old office space.
Describe the process of launching the business.
The experience of bootstrapping and launching VizyPay was a lot of ground at first, but through our hard work, we built momentum much faster than we thought possible. We disrupted the space, recruited many good people, and positively impacted our merchants while staying 100% owner-funded and controlled.
My biggest lesson from the launch is: don't underestimate the marketing power of social media, in our case LinkedIn. It's FREE! Posting on LinkedIn several times a week allowed us to feel and look more significant than we were.
A strong social media presence has helped us show our clients our openness and passion for wanting to help them with their businesses and dreams.
People saw us on their feeds and learned about our services, culture, and small biz-focused approach. This way, we could attract customers and talent faster than we would’ve otherwise, gaining traction until we were the size people thought we were.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
The idea behind VizyPay was to specifically target small rural businesses and bring transparency to the forefront of payment processing. As a company, we value our relationships through clarity, simplicity, and human connection. It’s easy to fall into a robotic system of “checking in” on your customers, however, for us, we build genuine relationships and frequently visit our merchants.
In fact, for VizyPay’s sixth anniversary, we plan on doing a “bar crawl” where we will eat, drink and visit five of our local merchants. We also return the favor by using our merchant’s services in our personal lives and for office events. These actions let our customers know they can rely on us to be there for them.
We are always willing to learn, grow, and even fail as a company. Through the bumps in the road, we have gotten the opportunity to absorb and master how we work with each client and improve the relationship, and in doing so, we keep our client numbers growing.
VizyPay builds its reputation and validates its impact through our prestigious award shelf and by keeping a steady cadence of press releases that keeps our audience and media up to date on the latest news from VizyPay.
Team Vizy also attends industry conferences, a great way to establish relationships with other leaders. In 2023, we were recognized by the Stevie Awards for our customer service efforts that showcase VizyPay’s 1,000+ Trustpilot 4.9-star reviews, 30-second maximum hold time, and more. Our dedication and transparency to our customers increase their loyalty to us, and we’re very proud of our relationships with them in this way.
I also encourage our team to remain very active on social media. Each team member is asked to post once a day on their social media platforms, no matter what it is. Having a solid social media presence has helped us show our clients our openness and passion for wanting to help them with their businesses and dreams.
We embody our company culture, practice full transparency, and believe in the “work hard, play hard” mentality.
We celebrate our client's wins, what’s happening at VizyPay, what our employees are dedicating their time to, and more. However, we also show that we are human and have events, friends, and families outside of work.
Being a part of a small business humanizes us. We like to implement strong and fun employee and client relationships. In 2021 VizyPay established a “Look Local First” day in Waukee, Iowa, to amplify the voices and promote small businesses and entrepreneurs. It’s about walking the walk, not just talking the talk. That will keep your existing customers and bring in new ones, too.
How are you doing today, and what does the future look like?
We’ve done very well for ourselves. I’m proud that within the six years of business, VizyPay has achieved over $4.5 billion in total payments processed. The company’s trajectory is looking great, with a revenue increase of 28% year-over-year in Q1.
CDP has saved our merchants over $9 million in unnecessary payment processing fees in just the first quarter of 2023 alone. That’s an increase of 22% year-over-year, so we have high hopes for that to continue to grow.
Furthermore, our staff numbers have ballooned with our hiring blitzes. We now employ more than 110 people, up more than 23% from the previous year. We pride ourselves on being a diverse group of individuals, each bringing something unique to the table; of the 110 people on Team Vizy, 62% are minorities, and 95% come from outside the payments industry.
VizyPay is fostering the next generation of payments leaders with a staff of 48% Millennials, 40% Gen Z’ers, and 12% Gen X’ers.
We’re not planning on slowing down anytime soon, so I predict VizyPay will continue to excel as a leader in the payments and fintech space and expand our services to more small merchants in rural America.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Through starting VizyPay, I recognized how important prioritizing company culture is because I don’t have a business without my staff. We embody our company culture, practice full transparency, and believe in the “work hard, play hard,” mentality.
Our employees volunteer together, attend concerts together and support each other’s families. On top of that, during work hours, we encourage people to bring their authentic selves and level up together to build a career they enjoy doing. We know a company cannot achieve anything without happy employees, so we maintain our culture.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
VizyPay leans heavily on social media like LinkedIn and Instagram to drive our company presence and build our employees’ personal brands. We encourage the team to be active specifically on LinkedIn for them to build their public persona within their career and industry.
This initiative aims for our team to recognize LinkedIn as a tool to advance their career and boast the great things happening at VizyPay – from our culture to our positive impact on small businesses – plus, it’s all free! Having a heavy LinkedIn presence allowed us to gain traction and momentum, allowing us to grow.
We also leverage public relations. It’s essential that the media know about us, understand what we’re about, and help us to share that unique story far and wide. This is just another tool to expand our reach and get people familiar VizyPay and the ways we are helping small businesses across rural America.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
The tenacious, hardworking entrepreneurs of rural America and the ability to help them and their communities succeed inspire me.
Locally-owned businesses generate way more local economic activity per square foot than big retail stores, employing nearly half of the U.S.’s workforce. It's no doubt that small businesses are the backbones of their communities, but they’re getting left behind technology-wise.
While other payments companies focus on larger businesses in metro areas, VizyPay focuses on helping small businesses save on processing and level up their technology to be more efficient. Knowing that we’re helping small businesses keep their doors open and giving them the same tools and opportunities that the big guys in the big cities have is rewarding in itself.
I’m also inspired daily by our diverse group of people at VizyPay. I’ve taken on a unique hiring process here – every interviewee has to sit down with me last before being hired. We don’t discuss resumes – I throw those in the trash – instead, I want to gauge what makes them tick and if they have the drive and passion for succeeding at VizyPay.
This way, we’ve hired many great, hardworking people not limited by experience or education level. Having people of all professional and cultural backgrounds brings fresh ideas and diversity of thought – driving the fintech to be even more successful and enriching the company culture. It’s exciting to see the growth and opportunity there.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
My top tip is simple: Don't become an entrepreneur if you are unwilling to risk it all.
It takes so much perseverance, dedication, long nights, and early mornings and you’ll experience hardships and stress like you’ve never imagined. Moreover, you must commit 100% and make it your sole focus. It can’t be a side hustle or a hobby outside your regular 9 to 5 – you must invest all your time into it.
Only going halfway will only set you up for failure. I failed five businesses this way by not being ready to go all in. If this sounds like it's not for you, you’re better off not being an entrepreneur. And that’s okay. This isn’t everyone’s path.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We always have a spot for Future Vizonian applications. People are interested in sending their resumes for future opportunities, but we are not hiring.
Where can we go to learn more?
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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