A Loan Denial Led This Founder's Mom To Pawn Jewelry To Survive — Now, His Startup Helps Others Avoid That Fate
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Esusu

A Loan Denial Led This Founder's Mom To Pawn Jewelry To Survive — Now, His Startup Helps Others Avoid That Fate

There is very little pride like the one connected to the neighborhoods people are from. Whether you are from Los Angeles, CA, New York City, or across the waters in Lagos, Nigeria – many people have a unique sense of pride in the deep points of connection that they have with the places they call “home.”

While every home is unique, what exists as a universal truth is some of the challenges that tend to exist in those communities. No place is without its share of issues, from disparities in communal resources to the lack of safe and affordable housing. It is at this intersection that Esusu finds its purpose.

Esusu is an institution created to help bridge the wealth gap. A core part of the mission is to alleviate barriers families have to access housing. With the belief that “housing is a fundamental right, and we envision a world without delinquency, housing evictions, and ultimately, homelessness,” the organization is actively working with government and community partners to bring its vision and mission to life.

AfroTech sat down with Esusu co-founder and co-CEO Wemimo Abbey to talk about their work in this space, namely its partnership with Fannie Mae.

Journey To Revelation

Esusu was built out of Abbey’s journey. Migrating from Nigeria, Abbey and his mother worked hard to make a life for themselves in the United States. When they reached the point of pursuing home ownership options, they were turned away because they did not have a formal credit score.

“We walked into one of the biggest financial institutions in Minneapolis, used to borrow money, and were turned away and had to borrow money from a payday loan lender at over 400% interest rate,” Abbey explained.

Emboldened by the words of Tupac from his classic song, “Dear Mama,” Abbey was convinced that his experience couldn’t be the way.

Abbey leveraged that moment at the bank to lead him along a journey that would eventually birth Esusu. With the knowledge he and his co-founder Samir Goel had about the 45 million people in America that do not have a credit score, the two men set out to ensure as many people as possible did not have the same experience as Abbey and his mother.

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A Guide To Reaching Goals

The core way they are achieving their mission of connecting people to housing is by leveraging their technology to give people information and arm them with the resources necessary to achieve their financial goals.

“We [Esusu] walk with large owners and operators, and we capture on-time rental data and report it to the consumer rating agencies. So, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion help establish credit scores. And for folks that can’t afford payments, we give them zero-interest rent relief,” Abbey said about Esusu’s work.

Resources Matter

Resources like providing rent relief are made possible by core partnerships with local and national nonprofits. The latest of these resource connections is their collaborative work with Fannie Mae.

As a part of the partnership, Fannie Mae will incentivize its borrowers to report on-time rental payments to the three major credit-reporting bureaus through Esusu’s rent reporting platform. The rent-reporting platform automatically unenrolls renters when missed payments occur, preventing harm to those who struggle financially. 

As a deeper part of this relationship, Fannie Mae is covering the cost for the first full year of service fees for Esusu’s platform plus discounted prices after that for any borrower who enrolls. The partnership will help the participating multifamily property owners increase on-time rent collections, reduce evictions, and, most importantly, scale their Environmental Social Governance (ESG) efforts.

Honest Acknolwedgement

Fannie Mae acknowledged the harm the organization caused for communities of color. A step to help right some of those wrongs was ensuring people could access and build their credit scores. Abbey and his team took them up on that offer with this partnership.

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“It’s all about equity building, believing the fact that people deserve a fighting chance and believing the fact that whatever happened in the past happened,” Abbey stated.

The Future Is Promising

Since the service is filtered through landlords and provided to the tenants of those units, Esusu hopes that over the next few years, they can provide resources to an array of landlords that span over 10 million rental families and individuals.

“I one day want to say, ‘Hey, Joshua did not have a credit score, but because of Esusu, we established his credit score,’ right? And we didn’t stop there. Right now, something happens — rent relief kicks in. After rent relief kicks in, Joshua is on his way to buy a home. Those are some of the analyses we’re doing at the Esusu,” Abbey passionately stated.