College of Business entrepreneurial management major Sudarshan Sridharan has found a way to ease the financial stress many small businesses are experiencing as a result of COVID-19’s prolonged effect on the economy.
The sophomore native of Richmond, Va., has put his passion for business building to work for restaurants and shops in Clemson hurt by coronavirus shutdowns. And, as of late, his efforts are helping “mom and pop” operations well beyond the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Over spring break, Sudarshan (pronounced Sue-DAR-shen) and freshman computer science major Jack Feinstein built a website called SaveMAPS (Save Mom-and-Pop Shops), whose aim it is to bolster those business by providing electronic gift cards that consumers can redeem for the real deal.
“Many businesses sell gift cards, but so many smaller operations don’t, and, with SaveMAPS, they can begin offering the cards through our website,” Sudarshan said. “We enable to sell gift cards online, and handle payment processing for them.”
Sudarshan carried 15 credits this semester as a financial management minor. Launching the website and dealing with the interest it drew nationally – including numerous media interviews – challenged his ability to manage time.
“I’ve been quarantined in my building, same as everyone else. So, I wasn’t able to spend time with my friends. Beyond my studies, I redirected my energies toward creating this revenue generator for mom and pop shops,” he said. “I have complete conviction to making this work for businesses in Clemson, and now in many other locations.”
Launched March 20 with a focus on the city of Clemson, SaveMAPS has now spread to 18 states, 48 cities, and more than 700 businesses in less than two months. The website has also had about $65,000 worth of payments processed.
“I live downtown with a view of College Avenue. When the quarantine went into effect, the streets were like that of a ghost town,” he said. “These business owners bring so much value to the community and something that’s totally out of their control should not be putting them out of business. Many of these businesses don’t have cash on hand to weather a storm like this, so I thought of a way I could help. My solution was bringing the right technology to their aid.”
Consumers wanting to support a business can go to SaveMAPS.io, find the state and city of their choice and click on a restaurant. They will either be directed to the restaurant’s gift card site or they can purchase one through SaveMAPS. Buyers will be emailed a gift card number, which can be redeemed for a gift card at the restaurant.
Sudarshan is no stranger to the business world. In high school, he started a blockchain-focused investment company; and, more recently, launched Second Reality Interactive, a virtual start-up that creates digital watch parties for electronic sports tournaments.
“E-sports is a huge space that has tremendous potential. My concept enables fans to live stream e-sports tournaments around the world and virtually watch them as if they’re all together in the same room,” Sudarshan said.
“I figured out I could run a company through the block chain experience. So, when I got to college, the idea of entrepreneurism became very appealing to me,” he said. “Call it youthful optimism, but I really want to do something in my life that will be a net-positive for society. I’m hoping SaveMAPS is a step in that direction.”
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