Clemson Students Start Business to Save 'Mom & Pop'

Apr 14, 2020

The coronavirus quarantine is hitting Clemson's downtown bars and restaurants as hard as anywhere. But a group of university students is doing something to make sure they can stay open when the quarantine ends.
Credit Town of Clemson

At 19, Sudarshan Sridharan is no stranger to the business world. The Fort Mill native served as the director of the Youth Project before he turned 18, overseeing projects by young people to combat homelessness in the Southeast.

He then cofounded a cryptocurrency and blockchain consulting firm before moving on to his current for-profit business, Second Reality Interactive, which powers digital watch parties for eSports events.

The Clemson University student runs another company as well: a not-for-profit online business that just launched less than a month ago as a way to help Clemson’s downtown restaurants survive the weight of a quarantine that has left the usually bustling city quiet.

“I came back to Clemson and I saw the Wednesday of spring break that the whole town was a ghost town,” Sridharan says. “I’m talking to my friends, and they’re just devastated.”

A lot of Sridhran’s friends worked in the restaurants that make up so much of Clemson’s downtown. When the pandemic shut down the city’s small businesses, they were cut off entirely from their incomes.

So Sridharan launched Save MAPS, or Save Mon and Pop Shops, “a not-for-profit online directory that

Sudarshan Sridharan, 19, is the main architect of Save MAPS.
Credit Save MAPS image

enables people to buy digital gift cards from their favorite restaurants,” as Sridharan puts it.” And for the restaurants that don’t have the infrastructure to issue and sell gift cards online, we provide all that and process payments for them.”

Sridharan and his growing crew of techies helping him run the business don’t make any money off the operation, he says. He just wanted to help restaurants downtown, where he lives, stay in business.

Sridharan says he’s actually not a tech guy, though he did put together what the platform for Save MAPS would be so that he could present his idea to the Clemson City Council and the Chamber of Commerce. He says they were immediately behind the idea, so he reached out to his fellow students for some tech help.

The team’s elegant solution to a problem touching every corner of life has a secondary benefit – it’s upscalable.

“All of that really helped us to get off the ground and drive a few thousand people to support local Clemson businesses,” he says. “Once that happened we started getting requests from students who were in Charleston [and] New York. They wanted to see their cities and their towns added.”

So Save MAPS started listing restaurants in other towns and beyond. The business operates in seven states and in 15 cities in South Carolina.

You can find out how to support small businesses in your cmmunity or register a business to be listed online at Save MAPS.io.