CAMDEN – Truth be told, says Eddy Yeung, he once dreamed of being a surgeon.
“As cliché as it may sound, I really enjoy helping people and thought there was no better way to do so than saving one’s life as a surgeon,” says the graduating computer science major at Rutgers University–Camden.
Yeung’s focus changed, however, when he saw a YouTube video of Bill Gates talking about the impact that learning to code could make throughout the world.
“I realized then that I could still help many people around the world from just my bedroom,” says Yeung, a first-generation college student and recipient of a Bridging the Gap grant at Rutgers–Camden.
Fittingly, the lifelong Voorhees resident is now utilizing his computer science skills to aid struggling New Jersey businesses in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When the pandemic first started to greatly impact our everyday lives, I wanted to help out any way that I could with my tech skills,” says Yeung, who adds that all proceeds go directly to the businesses.
At the outset, Yeung recalls, he scoured Reddit and other forums where engineers were creating an array of innovative projects, but none matched his skill set. He then stumbled upon the site SaveOurFaves, where he learned how damaging a three-week closure could be for a small business and discovered the initiative’s concept of providing “mini loans” to businesses through the purchase of gift cards.
“I didn’t see anything for New Jersey that had something like this, so I decided to make my own,” says Yeung, who credits his Rutgers–Camden education for teaching him the fundamentals of computer-science theory and algorithms, which have become useful in his personal projects and job interviews.
Yeung explains that he wanted to focus primarily on the technical side of SaveTheGarden’s website development and connected with designers Eileen Zhang and Rebecca Fu via a Slack channel. Despite being located throughout the country – Zhang is based in California and Fu is in New York – the trio used a tool called Figma to collaborate simultaneously in the design process.
“I find it even more amazing that both of them are not from New Jersey and still decided to help me,” says Yeung.
As they got down to, well, business, Yeung realized that gathering the list of New Jersey businesses was the most difficult part of the process. He then reached out to the helpmainstreet.comteam, which provided a comprehensive list. Businesses continue to be added now and owners who don’t see theirs listed can email Yeung to be included.
“The only thing I need is the name of the business, their address, and a link to their gift card page,” says Yeung, who notes that the site will soon be updated with an easy-to-use submission form. “If they need help setting up a gift card page or anything else, we can do that as well.”
Yeung also hopes to add a feature to the site highlighting a business of the day, as well as more donation options. He is also exploring potential ordering options.
“Apparently, some food delivery services take an extraordinary amount of a restaurant’s revenue, so I’d like to find a solution for this,” he says, adding that he and his friend plan to survey business owners on more ways the site can be of assistance.
With his classes now complete, Yeung plans to devote even more time to improving the site, as well as to find more opportunities to use his computer engineering skills to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
In July, he will relocate to Boston to start a new job as a software engineer for MassMutual. While there, he hopes to reconnect with entrepreneurs he has met in the city and start his own business. He is also considering pursuing an MBA.
For more information, to offer suggestions on improving the site, or to purchase gift cards, email SaveTheGarden at email@example.com.