MARLBORO, NJ – As Marlboro Township School District students Raghav and Vaibhav Herugu traded in-person classes for online learning amid the coronavirus pandemic, the brothers also traded quarantine boredom for an impactful project to help sustain the local economy.
Enlisting the help of their parents and a close family friend, the pair founded Local Main Street, a website and phone application aimed to connect local residents with local establishments, many of which still struggle to get on their feet after the state shut down various non-essential services in March.
The website sells vouchers for nearby restaurants, spas, music schools and handmade goods. The vouchers do not expire and will help small businesses keep their doors open until customers feel safe enough to go outside and use their services.
“During the COVID-19 crisis, we saw a lot of businesses shutting down and struggling to survive, so we just tried to find the best way we could help,” said Raghav, an incoming eighth grader at Marlboro Memorial Middle School. “Since our school was shut down, we were attending an online school. That was a blessing in disguise, because our school was only in the mornings, so we could spend the evenings working on Local Main Street.”
Local Main Street is currently partnered with 28 small businesses, including Black and women-owned establishments. The platform is a voluntary effort and 100% of the proceeds from gift vouchers go directly to the business owners. While many participating businesses hail from Marlboro or neighboring Freehold, Matawan and Manalapan, other establishments partnered with the project are based in Brooklyn, Atlanta, Houston and Los Angeles, to name just a few.
“We want to create awareness among people about this idea so that more businesses can benefit from this so that we can expand,” said Raghav. “If you buy a gift card, most gift cards are for big businesses like Amazon or a bunch of clothing stores that are big. There are no gift cards that are for local businesses, so we want to make gift cards for local businesses.”
To learn more about the website or to register as a small business, click here.
This article originally appeared on the Marlboro-Coltsneck Patch