Team Top Figure - Transcript
This is a transcript of a “Terrible, Thanks for Asking” episode entitled “Team Top Figure.” The text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future for accuracy.
Listen to the episode here.
I’m Nora McInerny, and this is “Terrible, thanks for Asking.”
Some people just know from a young age who they want to grow up to be when they grow up. Not like how every really little kid says they’re going to be a firefighter or a farmer or an astronaut. It’s like, get creative: There are more than three jobs. But truly, some people, by the time they’re tweens, say things like, “I’m going to grow up to be an actuary.” This is not a joke. I knew a kid like this growing up. Or, “I’m going to be a businesswoman,” like my friend Cara said when she was growing up. And guess what? She is a businesswoman!
Some people are just like that. Some people look around their little kid life and they just SEE what they're gonna be. And some kids look around their little kid life, and they’re like “Hmm, no. I don’t see myself following any of these paths. I don’t see myself climbing the corporate ladder.” They don’t know exactly what they want to do, but they know in their heart that they’re getting somewhere.
Abdi was that kind of kid. He looked at the world and he saw possibilities that other kids didn’t see. He was in middle school when he started his first side hustle.
Abdi: Back then, like, Jordans were really popular, right? I used to stand in line, and then I'd buy, like, two of them. And then, like, I'd sell them and make, like, fifty dollars or like seventy dollar profit on it. And middle school, like... you know seventy dollars is, like, a lot of money, you know? So I'd do that like twice a month. And then in high school I really dived more into like... side hustles and that's when I had, like, my first job. And that's when I realized I truly love being an entrepreneur.
Abdi knew, as he was selling sneakers out of his locker, that he found the thing he loved. Business. Entrepreneurship! Salman found that same passion, but on the internet, when he makes his first toolbar for Microsoft Firefox.
Salman: And it was really awesome. And like it got like two hundred thousand downloads. And it was widely used. And, you know, that was like a defining moment for me, like where it's like nobody knows who this kid is, nobody knows who I am, but they love and enjoy using my product.
Abdi and Salman are now friends and business partners. Their business is called Team Top Figure, and this is what they do.
Salman: So the main thing is really, you know, our agency, what we do is we really help clients scale online through social media. And we help them with their creative work, setting them up with, you know, visually, you know, the right videography and telling their story through running ads. That is one leg of our business. And we also have, you know, for people who want to achieve, you know, financial freedom and really build their own e-commerce brands, you know, that's what we do on a day-to-day basis, really help people do what we do and really help them online.
Their business is the result of their passion for creating, for collaborating. It reflects their ambition and their accomplishments and their origin — because even though they grew up in different cities, they also grew up in similar worlds.
Abdi: I grew up in Des Moines, Iowa and pretty much, you know, the Somali community and like, minority community isn't as big over there. You know, so I went to like a middle school that's predominately like all white, you know? Diversity was very small there. You it was like very, very small percentage. Well, like, some of the kids, since they were all young, I was like the first time that they became friends with, like an African American, especially Somali. You know, there wasn't that many Somalis over there. And... you could kind of see that they weren't used to it,
So starting young, very… at a young age, you know, you kind of feel like the black sheep, you know? Like, you could kind of see that you're an outsider and you kind of don't belong. But like, the biggest thing for me was even at a young age, I started to realize, like... it only gets to you, like, when you let it get to you, you know? So the main thing for me was just like, moving on, like how I could actually make an impact through this, how I could stay positive through how it, could I not let it affect me? How do I not let it affect my grades and all these things? And... we weren't talking about it in school, but like, you can definitely, like, see the vibe. You know, you can definitely see like... you're… you're not like as welcome, you know? There'd be like birthday parties that some of--so-called friends were having, and I wouldn’t be invited.
Salman grew up right outside the Twin Cities in Minnesota, in a predominantly white suburb at a predominantly white school.
Salman: I was always kind of like the odd ball out, like one thing that really allowed me to feel comfortable and safe was in my environment of just being behind the computer and really building projects online. And that's where my passion really came about.
It’s not simply that the two of them felt like outsiders in their mostly white environments, although… yes, there’s that. It’s that they also felt like outsiders within their family units. Abdi and Salman are each the children of Somali refugees. Their parents fled Somalia during the country’s civil war — a diaspora where thousands of Somali people were resettled in Iowa and Minnesota. Which is a fun fact about Minneapolis: It has the largest Somali population in the U.S.! Isn't’ that neat?
When Salman told his parents about how he was making toolbars online and he thought he could work for himself one day…
Salman: They did not like it whatsoever. They were like "It's not making money or anything like that." And it was like, "Focus on your schoolwork. Focus on schoolwork. Focus on your schoolwork. Focus on your schoolwork. This stuff is not going to make you any money." They came from a war torn country here and their only way of success is: go to school, get a job. That's it. That's literally the only route that they saw. They hadn't seen anything else. They hadn't seen any other sort of success, you know? Like, this was somewhat working for them. My dad was able to pay our bills, move us into a better home. And like, you know, he was working constantly all day and night. I’d barely see him, but I'll always be on my computer all day long just building things. And I was like, "OK, there has to be a different way.”
They came to the United States to really, you know, just make it and just to achieve financial freedom, and watching them struggle to work two jobs, and just… you know, the main thing to them was, "Hey, education is the way for success." That was literally the only formula that they were taught. Really, having my dad be a school teacher, that was one thing they preached on us consistently. So really, they didn't really support us to do extracurricular activities and things like that. They were just like, "Hey, focus on school, focus on school, get a job, get a job.
That’s what Abdi and Salman each do. I mean, they have their passions and their side hustles, but they also get good grades, and they work and they help with the bills. And after high school, they end up at the same community college, which is where our two heroes finally meet. In the place where so many friendships are known to blossom: Instagram.
Salman: And while I was working there, I was just on Instagram and I was sharing like, "Hey, I build websites." And then we bumped into each other at Anoka-Ramsey and like he saw that I was like, you know, really vocal about this. And then he was like, "I can really find you clients. Let's work together." And that's how me and Abdi met and, like, he came over to my office and he saw what I was doing and everything, and he was like, "Hey, let me split the road with you. Let's work on this and let’s get clients together." And like, you know, that was a defining moment. Like ever since we've hit it off and like we've just helped so many small businesses in Minnesota. And that was like the first agency we started together called First Web Group.
I found like an office space was like four hundred dollars a month. Like I... I went and signed it. It was like, you know, a twelve-year lease. I don't even have the money upfront.
He meant a twelve-month lease, but the idea is the same:He was betting on himself. And it’s that office where Abdi started working, too. Where the two of them started their own company, a digital marketing agency they called First Web Group. Abdi already had a job, though. He had an internship at a large medical device company, which, if he was really going to go all in with Salman, he needed to quit… which he needed to tell his parents.
Abdi: And as soon as I told them that they were like shocked, you know, they were just like, "No. No. No. No." But it took some convincing. And they were like, "OK, you have one year." You know? "Prove yourself in one year." And that year was really bad. You know, that first year business is not easy. Especially I had, like, no guidance, no knowledge and everything, and it was just bad.
It wasn’t all bad, it’s just… they had some learning curves. Because they were 19 years old, and they were just starting out, and because it’s very, very hard to figure out your value out in the marketplace when you’re not just making things for your friends or your friend’s friends.
One day a guy who owns a home health care company approaches them about a website.
Salman: He came and he was like, "Hey, I need a way for people to find me online. How could you guys help?” And we were like, you know, what should we charge him and all that kind of stuff. Like, we were super excited. We were like, “How about four hundred dollars?”
$400 is exactly their rent, so not bad! But also… not great!
Salman: We forgot that we were going to pay for the hosting. OK, let's just cover it. And then it's like we ended up realizing like we spent like five hundred and sixty dollars, like, on the client.
Salman: But, you know, it was like... it was at a loss, but the thing is, it was like, "OK, wow. Like we can get a client, we just have to know our value." You know what I mean? Like... we have to know how much we should price our products and how we do this the next time.
So they eat that cost. They lose some money. They’ve each told their parents that if it didn’t work out in a year, they’d go back to school and follow the path their parents expect of them. And they really, really don’t want to do that. The guy who got a website for only $400 INCLUDING HOSTING is very happy with the work, and he refers more people, who refer more people. And still…
Salman: We would always be able to just barely make rent. But we had so much fun, but we had so much pressure too as well, you know. It was like... we weren't making any money. We were just like breaking even or at a loss every single month. And like we were doing side hustles, we were like driving Lyft on the side. And like… we were selling phones, too, as well, out of that office. And we would buy broken phones and repair them, and we would use that to pay for rent and website hosting costs and stuff like that. But it was just a grind all year.
It was HARD. And it was also magical. Every day, they woke up and they went to work in a space that was theirs, as long as they made the rent.
Abdi: We had no plan on how we were going to pay the money. We were just like, "OK." And we also had other bills on top of that, too. That wasn't just it. Maybe it wasn't the smartest thing to do at the moment, but it was the most uncomfortable thing we did in our life, you know, especially Sal, because he's the one that put it under his name. But the thing that that did for us was we were just there working every day. That's one thing it helped. You know, it helped like, "OK, today we've got to do this. Today we've got to do this." Because somehow, some way, we've gotta figure this out, because now we have a liability that we have to take care of.
They each played to their strengths and made each other stronger. Salman made the websites. Abdi kept the clients happy. And they kept each other on track, which is really difficult and very important.
Abdi: When you're working for yourself, you have to be self-disciplined. You have to, like, teach yourself these things. You have to tell yourself, "Wake up at this time." You have to tell yourself, "You've got to leave now." You have to tell yourself, "You have to do this." It's doing the things you don't want to do because you essentially don't have a boss. You're the one who's telling yourself these things. And it's so easy to forget that. It's so easy to forget that and just pull out your phone for an extra five minutes. Five minutes turns into ten minutes, ten minutes turns into fifteen. And there's nobody telling you, "Get back to work, get back to work, get back to work!" And that was so hard for us at the beginning, finding that amongst ourselves and telling ourselves, like, "Get back to work! Fix this, fix that!" You know?
Salman: We read Think and Grow Rich, we read Rich Dad Poor Dad. Like, you know, we went to networking events and that's how we met other mentors that would really like, you know, support us and really help us, like, "Hey, you know, hey, I can help you guys and educate you guys on what to do next." And all that kind of stuff. And my mentor was... you know, he's a... African-American, you know, business owner. I met him at a networking event. And, you know, he was just, he saw how we were building websites and, you know, he was seeing how we were really active on social and everything. He coached us and mentored us. And the one thing that really stuck out to us was: Mindset was really the key to success. It didn't matter what we did, didn't matter what we were doing. At the end of the day, we will always remain positive in any circumstance, whether we lost a client, whether we had a bad deal happen. Like, you know, where we didn't make money or anything like that, where we got taken advantage of, at the end of the day, we stayed positive. We would stay true to each other.
Time for a quick break.
We’re back. Abdi and Salman are two entrepreneurs who are building their business. They’re not making a ton of money — yet — but they have a year to prove to their parents, and themselves, that this dream isn’t crazy.
Abdi: Even though we weren't making, like.. much money, we didn't let that really control our situation. We didn't let that control how we operate the business. We didn't let things like that get to us. The biggest thing for us was: Did we do enough today? Did we do more than yesterday?
We lacked, like... previous knowledge in this industry, you know, we were learning as we were going, you know? And that's why, as he mentioned earlier, the networking events were so huge because we just learning so much from that. You know, we were just learning something new every day. That was the thing that we always said: Learn something new every day.
From their mentor, they’ve learned the importance of mindset — to not let anything get them down and to keep pushing their business forward. But it’s not all about mindset. It wasn’t when they were kids, and it wasn’t as young adults starting a business.
The two of them are still Black in a state, Minnesota, that is very white. And not just WHITE but home to The Minnesota Paradox,a term coined by University of Minnesota economist Samuel L. Myers that reflects the realities of the state. That it’s a great place to live... for some people.
Minnesota has some of the biggest income disparities between Black and white residents. Some of the biggest disparities in home ownership. And a big disparity in lending practices, too. A 2015 study of the 50 largest banks in Minnesota showed that minorities were disproportionately more likely to have their loan applications rejected than white applicants — EVEN AFTER CONTROLLING FOR QUALIFICATIONS.
Abdi and Salman don’t know all of that. They just know that when they walk into networking events in Minnesota...
Salman: Majority of them are dominantly white, middle-aged men, networking events we were going to. We would stick out like a sore thumb. Like, we were very active on Meetup.com and very active in Facebook groups. You know, we would always go to like, you know... meetup groups. In the beginning, it was very cold. Like, people wouldn't approach us. They would just think that we were with, like, some sort of school project or something like that, you know? And that was one of the things that really, like, really like messed with our, like, our heads. But we didn't let that get to us, because it was just so frustrating to deal with that. You know? There was not a single Somali or even African person at thes, because they don't really go to these types of bars or anything like that. Like so we would always stick out like a sore thumb everywhere we went. One thing we did is we really kept on going and just really building our business and kept on going and really showing proof of like, "Okay. What we're doing is working." And we just kept on going and kept on going and kept on going. Really, like, we would just get feedback from them, like, "OK, what do we need to improve next?"
On top of their agency work, they also start to develop an app. They don’t have any investment money. They aren’t sure how to approach investors about this project without a minimum viable product, so they start building it. And like everything else, they fund it themselves. So on top of working all day for their clients, they’re also working on this app, going to networking events…
Salman: And right after we'd be hitting Lyft or Uber and then, like, getting more capital for our app. And that's where we realized, "OK, we need some funding to be able to really get this app off the ground." So we were like, "OK, let's at least... let's at least get money together to build a mockup."
We have so much responsibilities while on top of that making sure, you know, working for our families. You know... ah... making sure our business stays alive and funding a new business idea? Like, it was just a lot. You know? And that's one thing we're realizing, we were like, "We need about ten thousand dollars to get this mobile app fully finished."
Ten thousand is a lot of money, but not when it comes to investors. Truly, the venture capital pool was over 13 BILLION — that’s with a B — dollars in 2019. Also, if you don’t know what venture funding is — and um, I did not — it’s private investment money put into high-risk businesses that appear to have long-term potential growth. Things like apps.
Salman: So going into the meeting, you know, like, we were just excited. Like stoked up. we have an idea, a brilliant idea. We went the extra mile. We went into a competition, and we got second place at a startup grind conference that we were at networking. We found this competition just from networking alone. We went to so many of these networking events and, you know, they were like, "Hey, your idea is really cool." And we went into a little incubator and, like, we had a two day sprint where we created the idea, pitched it to judges, and we won second place. So that's the moment when we started to go in like, "Hey, our idea has traction. Like people validate our idea. We can go to investors now and get this app up and running because we are passionate about this and we need this to go."
We went there and they were like, “You guys haven't made any money with the app.” And, you know, like, “Sure, you guys have the right resources and everything, but you guys just don't have enough sales, you know, for us to invest in that.” We were like, “OK, we need to get more sales. We need to give more revenue. That's when we went back to the drawing board and we were like, OK, let's let's go ahead and do that.”
Part of that drawing board was making a hire. Which is risky, because they were barely making it. But they needed help. The person they hire is young, like them, barely out of college. Her role is as an assistant and a jill of all trades.
Salman: So basically, we hired her to really help out with creating content, creating that and really just, like, generating, us you know leads and things like that. That's mainly what we hired her for. Really, just like, "Hey, can you help us create content?" and really, like, things that we need for clients. And sometimes we'll bring you into client-facing meetings where we would, you know, just have her just collect data and things like that. And then we had an idea. It was like, let's maybe have her lead the meeting.
Here’s what happens in these meetings. The app is the same, the idea is the same. But when she leads them, they start closing business. The app starts making money. And yeah, she is good at her job. And also, she is a young white woman, presenting the work of these young Black men to other, older white people.
Salman: And that's when we realized a stark reality that maybe we need to sit on the back burner of our company.
So, maybe that’s a coincidence. Maybe she’s just that good. But when you look at a bigger picture — at that 13 BILLION in venture funding — you will also see that Black-founded companies received only 1 percent of that 13 billion. ONE percent! So that $10,000 they are seeking is like, .00008 percent of the total venture capital pie. It’s nothing!
Abdi and Salman are seeing this happening to their business, to themselves, and they’re also not going to let it get to them. Their app is working, their client work is picking up, and they have plenty of work to do. Remember: They believe in MINDSET.
They’ve just moved into a much better office, with really nice amenities.
Abdi: We just, like, have a routine, you know? So we just do work and work out at like 6 p.m. every day. You know, we're just working out, working out, working out, working out, working out. You know, because, you know, health is wealth. So that gym was just awesome, you know, that it was a part of the membership. You know, it came along with it. That was one huge part for us. You know, we didn't have another gym membership before, we were just like, "Hey, let's just cancel the gym membership. Just work out here every day." You know? It's convenient. You just come right downstairs, take a shower, go home right after. And it was awesome. You know, that was the best part. It was a cozier gym that does all the job. And it also had a shower there. And it was just downstairs of our office. So it made total sense.
Time for a quick break.
Abdi and Salman and their company are all based in Minneapolis. They live that Minnesota Paradox we talked about before. On May 25th, George Floyd was killed by the Minneapolis Police Department. By the end of May and beginning of June, the city of Minneapolis — and cities around the country — were exploding into a civil rights uprising.
The truth about Minneapolis, always listed in those Best Places to Live articles, is that it’s a great place for white people to live. The city is extremely segregated. And the fancy new office that Salman and Abdi rented is in an affluent and very white neighborhood. The kind of neighborhood where multi-million dollar homes line a chain of lakes.
One of those lakes was called Lake Calhoun, named for John C. Calhoun, a proponent of slavery who was a statesman of South Carolina. In other words, he didn’t even GO here! And we named a lake after him?
In 2017, The Minneapolis Park Board petitioned to change the name to Bde Mka Ska, the Dakota name. And some people in the neighborhood went OFF. One guy wrote an op-ed in the Minneapolis Star Tribune titled “Why I funded the lawsuit to save the name Lake Calhoun,” and I quote:
“My motive to fight for Lake Calhoun had less to do with trying to save the name itself and more to do with fighting for fairness and justice for everyday Minnesotans. Everyday Minnesotans just want to be left alone and not bullied into changing the names of our lakes, our streets, our schools, our landmarks and our cities. We’re sick of the ‘holier than thou’ morality tone coming from politicians, media and activists.”
So, I don’t know what he means when he says “everyday Minnesotans” but he lives in one of the most expensive neighborhoods in Minneapolis and funded a lawsuit, which doesn’t sound cheap! He had a whole campaign on Save Lake Calhoun.com until the domain expired and someone snapped it up. So if you visit that website now, it says, “Actually, it’s called Bde Maka Ska,” because obviously, some people, some everyday Minnesotans, unlike those SPECIAL OCCASION Minnesotans you’re always hearing about… are lovely. And funny.
But back to 2020. It’s been a day since George Floyd was killed. Abdi and Salman are at the gym in their office building with their other colleagues, trying to maintain their routine.
Abdi: We were already shaken by the incident that happened and just how sad that he got murdered, especially the way he did, you know? Getting suffocated like that. I don't wish that upon anybody. Like... one of the worst ways to, like, you know, leave, you know, die.
Normally, there’s nobody in the gym but them. But today, another guy comes in. He’s older, white, blond hair.
Salman: You could tell, like, you know, really... right away from his demeanor and everything, you know, looking at us from, like, a side eye. Just like, you know, making us feel uncomfortable. And, you know, we just proceed to just continue working out. And, you know, we were... we saw that he had a weird energy vibe from him. And, you know, we were just working out, you know, just going through rotation, doing our back workouts. He was looking at us oddly. He started working out next to us and just staring at us. You know, it felt uncomfortable.
The few other times there have been people in the gym, they’ve had conversations, made connections. Talked about their business, exchanged information. Making connections is as much a habit for them as working out or reading or working. But this guy in the gym has just one question, basically, which is: “Are you tenants of this building?”
Abdi and Salman and their friends say, yep, yeah, we’re tenants. It’d be hard to get into the building without being a tenant. You need fobs, key cards. And also, who breaks into a building to work out? The man starts to take pictures of Abdi, Salman and their colleagues.
Salman: And that's when we realized, "OK. Nobody's going to believe our side of our story. We need to record it, and we need to have our voice heard." So that's when we recorded and you could see us repeatedly say, "Yes, we are tenants of the building."
But it doesn’t end there. And Abdi and Salman and their friends have to record it. They feel that their safety depends on it, and that even a video might not be enough to keep them safe. The man threatens to call 911, to call the cops, which is threatening in any circumstance, but particularly in a city where Black people make up about 20 percent of the population but are subject to 60 percent of instances where the police get physical. Police use force on Black people seven times more than they do for white folks.
Salman: You know, he asked that question many, many times, like, "Are you guys tenants? Are you guys tenants?" And it’s like, there is no reason that another tenant should go up to another tenant and say, "Hey, show me your key card. Show me your fob,” or “show me..." you know? He could’ve simply sent an email to like the management office. And they could have verified it. And then it would be end of story, like, no issues. And the thing is, in the heat of the moment, we were like, "Let's just... let's just show it to him.” You know what I mean? Like we… but then we realized that, "Hey, come to think of it, we don't need to show him. Like... there is no reason to." You know, it's like we never asked him that. You know what I mean? Like we never came into his space and said, "Hey, show me your key card,” you know? And it's like... he would have felt just as uncomfortable as we did.
They leave the gym when they’re done working out, and they put the video up on their Instagram page. They don’t know who this guy is. They just know that in the building where they’ve paid rent and worked out for the past year, they were asked, by a stranger, where their key card was.
Abdi: All we wanted was just people to see what we go through every day. Simple, you know? And how you handle yourselves when these types of situations happen. Because they want a reaction out of you, you know? You shouldn't give them the reaction that they expect. You've got to conduct yourself with respect. Gotta hold yourself correctly and just... document it. I mean our phones are so powerful. Just pull your phone out and document it, because if we did not record this, people would have not believed us.
This is how we found the story. How you might have already SEEN the story. Because it went very viral. Very, very viral. Say that again. Very, very viral.
Salman: We're just in our, like, apartment and we were just like, "Wow. Oh, my God. You know, like, this is just... overwhelming." Like we didn't know what to do. We didn't know what to say. And like we were… celebrities were reaching out to us. Our phones couldn't stop buzzing. And it’s like this is so new to us. We've never went viral before. So it's like... when this happened to us, we were just like, "OK. What do we do? What do we do?" And automatically the first thing we could think of was like, "Hey, let's not respond to anybody, because number one: The media can take it and spin it, however the way they want to or anything like that. We don't want to say the wrong thing or anything like that. We want our voice to be heard in the right manner." So what do we do? We call our mentor right away. We speak with him, and he's like, "Hey, you know, just remain calm. You know, reach out to the right people. Reach out to. an attorney. Here is his number.” And like, we just went about it, like, as if it was regular business, and like we were like, "Hey, let's record a public statement that was very professional, "Let's just be us,” you know? “Let’s just be who we are and let's just allow our voice to be heard as genuinely as possible."
It doesn’t take long for the internet to do it’s thing, and the internet found out who this guy was: The same man who created Save Lake Calhoun dot com. The same man who wrote an op-ed where he railed against “elites” and claimed to fight for “everyday Minnesotans.”
A man who walked into a gym in his office building, saw some young Black men and questioned them like they could be trespassers. He’s also...a venture capitalist.
Salman: It's really shocking, especially like when we realize, like, wow, like, certain people, like, you know… we could have, you know, just been in the same room as this guy and really have pitched to him, and he could have really simply disregarded us if we had pitched in front of this guy, simply because we didn’t belong, you know?
He could have seen them as peers, as colleagues, as an opportunity. But instead he asked if they were tenants in the building and said he was going to call 9-1-1.
In an email he sent to reporters, he insists that he was not racist, just stupid. But like… here’s the thing. We don’t get to go back and rewrite our interactions and assign intentions that override the impact of our actions. We don’t get to decide what wasn’t a big deal. Because the default settings of the world we live in as white Americans is set to white.
That’s how a person can say that a lake named for a proponent of slavery isn’t connected to slavery, because it’s NOT for a person like that, because the impacts of slavery haven’t adversely affected him. Threatening to call the cops is not dangerous to him because the cops typically don’t kill people like him.
So, there were consequences for this man’s actions...
Abdi: The guy that owns the building took his lease away. You know, he lost his lease. And it's... and till this day, like, we don't wish anything bad for him. We still wish Tom the best.
In that same email to reporters, this man said, "My lease in the office was terminated for the sake of appeasing mob rule.” He also said he was no longer CEO of his company.
He wrote to us too. He says he's pissed off that anyone calls what happened in the gym that day racist. He also says he would be "extremely afraid" of hiring "a Black guy" now. That he doesn't "trust Blacks." And he says that, "the vast majority of white people who speak truthfully in confidence" feel the same way.
He thought he had a good conversation with the guys during their workouts. He's mad they posted the video and he still thinks most of them were trespassers. Abdi and Salman say the guys who were with them are colleagues. In the end, we don't know who the property management company believed, because they didn't get back to us, but they did terminate that other man’s lease.
Abdi and Salman don’t work in the building anymore.
In that original op-ed, this man bristled at the idea that people who want to maintain the name of a lake named for a racist would be called racist. He considered it bullying. He didn’t seem to leave any space for reflecting on what is racist.
We made this episode very carefully. We make all of them carefully. But the reason that we left the most viral part of the story for the end is because most of all, Abdi and Salman and their business deserve to have their whole story told. To not be defined by one viral video, or one interaction with one person, but to be a full story of drive and entrepreneurship and stick-to-it-ive-ness and whatever old-timey phrases you can come up with that mean a person who works really hard for their dream.
A really interesting detail about that day, and that viral video, is that Abdi and Salman and the rest of their colleagues didn’t leave after making that video. They didn’t record the interaction and bolt. They stayed for 45 minutes and finished their workout. And the next day, they went back to work at the office they paid for. Because they know where they belong. And they know what they are worth.
Salman: And it's like something that we really now can just like not only just like inspire so many people that look like us in business. It just allows us to really, really, really, really, really, really, like, set an example. Not only to like, immigrant communities like too as well, but also anybody who's just aspiring to be an entrepreneur. We really want to be that example for that... that kid who goes off and decides to do his own thing. That's our vision with Team Top Figure. Like... you can be a top figure and you can belong in any place and any sort of atmosphere, whether that be corporate, whether that be my office building, a gymnasium, all that.
If you want to learn more about eCommerce, Abdi and Salman have a program for you. They also sell Top Figure gear and you can get in touch with them at topfigure.co.
If you haven’t yet signed up for our TTFA newsletter, you’re gonna wanna do it. It’s pretty okay: TTFA.org/newsletter. We also have a shop on Bookshop.org. Google it. The links are in the show description as always.
Making this episode: I have to thank Phyllis Fletcher. I have to thank Marcel Malekebu for going above and beyond in every capacity, taking on some more racial trauma for the good of public radio and your listening. They’re very talented people, and I’m very, very grateful for their leadership and their talents and... always have a third thing when you’re making a list. That’s what Liz Lemon taught us.
Jeyca Maldonado-Medina, additional production help. Hannah Meacock Ross, still on the team. Jordan Turgeon, still employed. I’m just going to read the credits as people who still have a job. All of us. Knock on wood, don’t ever just say that, Nora. Geez Louise, what’s wrong with you?
I’m Nora McInerny. This has been “Terrible, Thanks for Asking.” I don’t think I usually say that at the end of the show. I’m recording this in a closet. It is 10 o’clock at night. This is later than I normally stay up. I’m sweating. I’m sweating.
I also realize that in this episode I said “Minnesotan” with a hard T. It’s a hard habit to break when you have to say the T— I also used to say “buttons” until people made fun of me, and now I just say it like a regular person, “buddons.” Okay, BUDDONS. But I usually say “buttons.” And Minnesotans? It’s like, when you say it “Minnesodans,” it just sort of gets swallowed. I don’t know. Maybe I’m overthinking it. Again, it’s late.
Our theme music is by Geoffrey Lamar Wilson. We’re a production of American Public Media. If that’s too long to say, you know what, you say APM. People will also, people will get it. They’ll figure out how to Google it and figure out what’s going on.