EntreCon 2016: From the Inc list to the next phase


  • October 21, 2016
  • /   Shannon Nickinson
  • /   training-development

Jibril Sulaiman, co-founder of WorkBase and Pay Sell, is already working on his next entrepreneurial venture. Credit: Shannon Nickinson.

Entrepreneurs are always in motion.

That’s true, too, for Jibril Sulaiman, who built Pay Sell Co., a minority-owned software company based in Pensacola, into a business with a spot on the prestigious Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing private companies.

Pay Sell was Number 484 on the list, something Sulaiman says he is honored and proud to have achieved.

Sulaiman will be a panelist at EntreCon, the upcoming two-day business and entrepreneurship conference hosted by Studer Community Institute Nov. 3-4.  EntreCon features 40 speakers and panelists, including seven keynote speakers and 12 breakout sessions. Click here to register for EntreCon.

Sulaiman, 35, will part of a panel discussion on Nov. 4 titled “From Co-Working to Distance Learning: Making Technology Work.”

Change is part of the entrepreneurial landscape, too, and it’s come time for Sulaiman to seek a change as well.

He and his family will be moving to Atlanta at the end of this year to pursue the next iteration of a business model that creates niche ecommerce platforms.

Pay Sell Co (formerly Pay Cell Systems Inc.) has focused on the development of “Cell Pay”, its ecommerce platform for wireless stores, since the company launched in 2011.

In 2015, the company was re-branded as Pay Sell Co. as part of a pivot to develop ecommerce-based platforms in several niche markets. These new brands include RazSum.cash (a fundraising platform that includes seven donation acceptance methods) and Rapfeatures.com (a marketplace for selling song features).

“I’ve said to God, ‘Whichever you send me help on, that’s what we’ll work on.’ But if it’s both at the same time, I’m used to that and we can do it that way,” he says.

His journey goes back to from 2001-2011, when Sulaiman says he ran mom-and-pop wireless stores.

He developed Pay Sell as a way to allow customers to pay their bills on site and over the phone. Early on, the company enjoyed a 10 percent margin from each payment on average.

“We built a platform for customers to make those payments directly through us. And we knew we weren’t the only store having this problem, so eventually we built the system to handle those as well,” Sulaiman says. “The $9.8 million in revenue that we processed is the total volume of the whole network,” which includes locations across the country.

“The bittersweet part of it is, we are pivoting because that $5 per transaction we used to get, it’s $2 now. So that margin is compressed. At this point we’re looking at whether we’ll do acquisition articles and that will free up my time to work on some of other platforms.”

Sulaiman is also one of the founders of WorkBase, a co-working space that opened on Pine Forest Road in May. It includes a space set up as a studio for partners who want to use Facebook live video streaming platform.

Such spaces, while common in larger metro areas, are still in their early times in Pensacola. The Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) is one similar space. It is an incubator run as a partnership between Pensacola State College and the Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce.

CoWork Annex, which will cover the second floor of the Brent Building, is another such space. It’s a plan for a shared workplace environment led by six Pensacola investors — Michael Murdoch, Joel Smith, Bobby Switzer, Michael Carro, Teresa Dos Santos and Ellis Bullock III.

Though the second floor is still being renovated, the Annex is open now in a temporary space on the third floor. They have about 13 coworkers and four private office tenants are using the space. Switzer says they are now shooting for a first quarter grand opening, likely sometime in February 2017.

Pensacola Socialdesk, a co-working space set up by Nowak Enterprises, is a coworking space on North L Street. It’s grand opening is set for Oct. 21 in a building that used to house a credit union. It includes working and collaboration space, conference space, video streaming capabilities, and more.

WorkBase, led by Sulaiman and programmer Chris Hendricks, is a place where small business owners, freelancers, and others who normally work from home to be surrounded by other like-minded small business owners.

In other communities, such spaces become hubs where creative, entrepreneurial minded people gather, share ideas, advice, talents and time.

Workbase will stay open, he says and he pledges to return to Pensacola to share the knowledge, connections and skills he build in Atlanta. Nicole Dixon will step in at WorkBase.

“The community impact (of WorkBase) is important,” Sulaiman says. “People are happy they have a place to work at and be at.”