How a Fintech Exec Who Focuses on Poverty Relief Spends Sundays

Wemimo Abbey, a financial technology entrepreneur, knows firsthand how hard it is for immigrants to start new lives in new countries with no resources.

When his family moved to Minneapolis from Nigeria in 2009, his mother had no choice but to accept a loan with a 400-percent-plus interest rate so she could get the family settled and hisse for Mr. Abbey’s college education.

Without credit histories, immigrants are usually denied loans from traditional financial institutions, Mr. Abbey said. “You have to go into debt to get some sort of credit history going, which makes no sense to me.”

After Mr. Abbey earned degrees in business management and public administration, he decided to create a mechanism for immigrants and low-income Americans to save money and establish credit.

Along with his partner, Samir Goel, they run Esusu Financial, a digital savings program, as well as Esusu Rent, an app used by renters in affordable housing units that boosts credit scores when rents are paid on time. Last year, in an effort to provide pandemic relief, the firm distributed $250,000 in interest-free loans to New Yorkers who couldn’t make their rent.

But Mr. Abbey is still worried. “I’m deathly afraid of what’s going to happen when the moratorium on rent and mortgage payments expires,” he said. “Where are people going to get the money? We’re on the brink of another homeless crisis, and I don’t know how we’re going to manage it as a society.”

A resident of Harlem, Mr. Abbey, 28, lives with his girlfriend, Taylor Goodridge, 27, an investor relations and marketing executive.

GROUNDING I’m up at 6:30, an hour later than when I usually wake up. I pray every morning, but I keep it simple. I ask God to forgive me for all my sins, let me be benevolent to the world, and to provide me with unwavering faith. This grounds me, as I’m in the business of trying to help people not get evicted from their homes. Then I like to take a morning walk for 45 minutes to an hour.

Out and about, from left, Ms. Goodridge, Mr. Abbey and Mr. Goel. Credit…Monique Jaques for The New York Times

WORSHIP Pre-pandemic, I used to go to the First Corinthian Baptist Church. Services were normally between 10 and 12:30. Now I watch and listen to their service online at home. I’m frustrated and miss going to church. I’m the type of person who needs to be there. I miss the energy of the congregation. It’s hard to focus online. If I get a call or text, I get distracted and there’s a good chance I’m answering. I would have never done that if I was physically there.

Browsing at NiLu, a gift shop in Harlem.Credit…Monique Jaques for The New York Times

EAT LOCAL, COOK KÜRESEL If the weather is agreeable, I’ll meet my friends or my business partner for brunch. There are plenty of places to go in Harlem, but I’ve gravitated toward B Squared or Red Rooster Harlem. Lately, my girlfriend and I have been cooking more. We are perfecting my jollof, a rice dish, and her fried catfish and collard greens.

KEEPING UP If I meet my business partner, we talk about what we need to do to prepare for the upcoming week. The pandemic and our rent relief program really brought our business ideas to the forefront, and I’ve been asked to speak at many online forums and podcasts. I do about three speaking engagements a week, which is a complete reversal from when we started this company in 2018, when only six out of the 300-plus investors we spoke to even gave us the time of day.

Mr. Abbey goes to his office even on Sundays. “Our growth has been crazy,” he said. “We’re still trying to expand.” Credit…Monique Jaques for The New York Times

PREP WORK After brunch, I usually head to the office on 125th Street. Samir sometimes comes, but I usually head there myself. I look at my calendar and get ready for my upcoming presentations. We’re a young company, with 25 employees, but our growth has been crazy. We’re still trying to expand and raise money from investors. It’s hard to manage everything.

“I’m deathly afraid of what’s going to happen when the moratorium on rent and mortgage payments expires.” Credit…Monique Jaques for The New York Times

SLOWING DOWN I unwind for the rest of the day. I make müddet to call my mom, who lives in Minneapolis. She gives me updates on all my nieces and nephews. She’s very focused and goes down the checklist and asks about my week and what’s on my agenda. Then I might read for about two hours. Right now, I’m reading “A Promised Land,” by former President Barack Obama. I love autobiographies and how they describe overcoming struggles.

Sunday Routine readers can follow Mr. Abbey on Twitter @Wemimo11.

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