Oonee: The Company Designed To Be Noticed
Coming back stronger after a rejection is designed for those who strive for success and are unafraid to dust themselves off and try again.
Shabazz Stuart’s story is the best example of this. Despite his troublesome journey, discouragement, and temporary financial struggles, Shabazz pursued his dream to become an entrepreneur - as if no challenge was great enough for him to fail!
Born in a Brooklyn neighborhood, Shabazz knew no other way to succeed than through utter dedication and persistence in achieving his dream.
It was, in fact, a difficult aspect of his childhood that led Shabazz to develop a platform that could mend the issues he had been facing. Waiting for rickety and delayed trains day after day, and hoping to catch the next commute to school incepted an idea in Shabazz’s mind – to redefine, simplify and reorganise the travel industry by creating Oonee - a company abandoning outdated travel means and introducing bikes as an alternative!
A Boy, A Hurdle, A Desire
In the late 80s, Shabazz Stuart was born in Brooklyn, NYC. Being raised by a single mother gave him a special appreciation of the greatest life values – self-reliance, integrity, and courage!
As he grew up in Brooklyn’s semi-flourishing, yet diverse neighborhoods, Shabazz was constantly facing recurring urban challenges. One of the biggest was the train commute, which Shabazz had been riding ever since he was three years old. Namely, back in the 80s, trains were nothing short of frustrating. They were noisy, late, and less than accommodating.
For Shabazz, these challenges weren’t something privileged children had faced, but it was an issue that greatly impacted his childhood. Despite the challenging nature of trains and the lack of other affordable options, the young intellectual managed to excel at school and find his way among intelligent crowds.
When Shabazz was only fourteen years old, he was accepted at Prep for Prep, a leadership development program that selected gifted students and prepared them for enrollment in highly renowned universities. A few years later, in 2007, Shabazz enrolled
at Tufts University to pursue his political science degree, which he obtained with high honors, four years later.
To pay for his bills while studying, Shabazz worked as a census enumerator in Malden Mayor’s Office, a job he found less than creative. It was shortly after that he completely abandoned his position at the company and swiftly transcended to a career in blogging.
To pursue his passion, in late 2010, Shabazz launched a blogging platform called Roundtable Commons. However, once he graduated, Shabazz needed an even bigger mission to commit to, this time to build enough experience to shape his future ambition!
Jumping Between Jobs
Tactically preparing for the hostile entrepreneurial world, Shabazz began exploring new avenues. Cutting his teeth in Community League of the Heights, an organization devoted to improving the quality of residents’ lives, the young intellectual initiated a study that revolved around resolving high school relocation challenges.
Working on the project for two months straight, he promptly jumped onto his next workplace at NYC& Company, to work as an assistant of government affairs. From being actively engaged in government relations to creating strategies for elected officials, Shabazz spared no effort on the requirements his position imposed.
Changing jobs felt productive and needful, and before Shabazz knew it, he sank deeply into an experimental leadership program, Coro New York Leadership Center – the kind that would soon turn him into one of the youngest successful entrepreneurs worldwide!
As he wrapped up his last project, in early 2013, Shabazz began a more demanding job at the NYC Department of Education, as a project manager. Fueling his professional growth, he worked on curriculum development, college counseling, and communication projects for over a year.
Realizing he had to try himself into a few more industries before creating something of his own, Shabazz began working as a Deputy Director of Operations for Downtown Brooklyn Partnership. From a ground-level, Shabazz was overseeing quality assurance and space management and stuck with the company for three whole years.
To accomplish all requirements within his latest company, the young manager ensured government agencies that the company’s services would undoubtedly help Brooklyn to run smoothly 24/7.
Unlike before, Shabazz didn’t resign from the company to pursue another job, but somewhere between the lines, the right business idea had already shaped in his mind!
A Single-Thought Idea
Shabazz's journey began when he was asked to travel from Brooklyn to Tribeca in order to attend a board meeting.
Leaving his house nearly two hours early just to make it on time left Shabazz frustrated to learn upon arrival that the train was out of service. Upset, he took out his phone and called an Uber to get him to the meeting on time. For the situation to be even more alarming, Shabazz had to pay over thirty dollars for his cab ride!
Tossing an idea around in his head, Shabazz realized that driving a bicycle was the best way to fight against the urban traffic jams in the country. Even more, he reflected on his real-time riding experiences, and it was a souring thought - not because the ride was so awful but because his bike had been once stolen and never returned.
To dig deeper into this issue, the entrepreneur-to-be discovered that over 1.5 million bikes are stolen in the US annually. Even more disappointingly, the police were not there to save the day or do something about the rising numbers of stolen bikes country- wide.
Now the ball finally started rolling and Shabazz tapped into the problematic occurrence, assured in his ability to create a safe parking space for all commuters on bikes.
Persistence Always Pays Off
Initially, Shabazz’s idea was to build numerous walk-in kiosks, where bicycles could be kept safely stored. Brilliant as the idea was, Shabazz couldn’t do it alone, given he had no more than $900 in his bank account. Whilst discouraging, he wasn’t ready to throw in the towel, and instead, Shabazz began his quest for investors.
For potential investors, Shabazz wasn’t your typical entrepreneur. He didn’t come from a prestigious family, he didn’t come to work suited-up, and on top of it all, he was a man of colour. Looking into this man’s past, investors noticed a potential leader that bore a very doable business idea in mind.
After several months of presenting the idea all over the place, Shabazz finally got in touch with a Brooklyn-based startup accelerator, Urban X. Surprisingly, the investment committee was not only fascinated by Shabazz’s idea but also poured the first hundred- thousand dollars into the company to help its growth.
Thereafter, the first walk-in kiosk was installed in downtown Manhattan.
Shabazz launched Oonee in 2018. It has a catchy and specific name, given after a type of sea urchin. The symbolism is clear as can be: Oonee’s kiosks are designed to protect its interior and adapt to different environments and circumstances. Not wanting to charge bikers during the company’s first years, Shabazz acquired his revenue from advertising on his available kiosk wall space.
When impactful companies heard about this kiosk located in the heart of Manhattan, Shabazz’s phone began ringing off the hook. Eventually, he accepted the first solid offer he was given, from an Israeli fast-food chain, Burgerim.
Before Shabazz set out to build his next walk-in pods, he made sure Oonee security could not be breached. Deciding to ask users to sign up to the company’s app and provide proof of identity before using a pod, showed fruitful and efficient and it helped Shabazz gather a wide audience of fans and cement his market dominance.
Compiling a team of staffers, Shabazz began building small nimble pods and installed them in functional parking lots for bike riders to use - a simplistic approach to a much more promising vision!
Today, Oonee makes over $5 million in revenue, with its pods located all around NYC. Its headquarters are located in Brooklyn, and the company holds over twenty-five workers whilst pursuing its scaling mission stronger than ever.
With a creative team designing a versatile urban network of walk-in pods for everybody and everywhere, Shabazz’s vision touches every single wannabe businessman and sends a powerful message along the way – no one cares where you came from - as long as you know where you’re going!