A student goes to purchase two six-inch Subway subs and while paying flashes a shiny, black, metallic card — signaling his exclusive membership in a club that provides discounts on everything from haircuts, to ice cream, to hookahs.
It’s not the coveted American Express black card, but that’s what it’s designed to look like. It’s Ann Arbor’s newest discount card called LegendsCard that was developed by four University students. And while it won’t give you access to thousands of dollars, it will make one of those two six-inch Subway subs free.
With about 200 cards currently in circulation, LegendsCard is looking to be the next big thing on campus.
“It’s a discount card, but we like to think of it more of like a student lifestyle card because it has everything a student would need on campus,” said LSA junior Jonathan Kaufman, one of the co-founders.
So far, 34 local businesses have committed to offering 10 to 30 percent discounts for cardholders, who pay $15 for the membership. According to LSA freshman Nathan Pilcowitz, another co-founder, the name of the business, LegendsCard, is a reference to the title of the new divisions in the Big Ten Conference.
Pilcowitz, Kaufman, and the other two co-founders LSA junior Artur Fruman and LSA freshman Joshua Kaufman, Jonathan’s brother, grew up together in the West Bloomfield and Bloomfield Hills area. Their friendships and shared entrepreneurial mindset inspired them to start the LegendsCard business this past summer after Fruman read an article about a similar venture at the University of Pennsylvania.
During the summer, the four friends got LegendsCard up and running despite funding and timing problems. They’ve used their personal funds to start the company, but Fruman said managing the coding for the website along with studying has been difficult.
Pilcowitz and Joshua Kaufman also worked at a venture capitalist firm in Chicago this summer, where their entrepreneurial interests were fostered. With the skills they learned from their internships and the firm’s encouragement, Pilcowitz said the four friends jumped right in.
“Business plans are out,” Fruman said. “We didn’t even come up with a business plan.”
Instead of the traditional business planning steps, Fruman said they produced a one-page description on the business and strategy. Part of that strategy includes seven-inch signs near cash registers at participating businesses informing patrons that the card is accepted there. The students have also used social media to get the word out, with the LegendsCard website and Facebook page listing the participating businesses.
Though LegendsCard has 34 business partners and counting, it’s suffered a few rejections. Amer’s Mediterranean Deli on State Street and the S3 Safe Sex Store on South University Avenue turned them down, Fruman said, on the principle that those establishments never offer discounts.
Still, the setbacks haven’t diminished the students’ motivation to find more partners. They’re currently working on signing local bars such as Scorekeepers Bar and Grille and Good Time Charley’s, and they have their sights set on Revive and Bert’s Café as well, Fruman said.
Fruman and Pilcowitz agree the business is not all about making a profit.
“I think our main goal was to start a business, (to) see how we can do it,” Fruman said. “The money really definitely comes secondary.”
Jonathan Kaufman said they make agreements not to sign with their clients’ biggest competitors. For example, because LegendsCard has partnered with Rave Cinemas on Carpenter Road, they won’t attempt a deal with Goodrich Quality 16 Theater on Jackson Road.
Social Work student Kristen Houck said she’s never heard of LegendsCard but would be interested in investing in a good discount card.
“I’m on campus a lot, and I spend a lot of money on food, so anything that would help me save money in the long run would be great,” Houck said.
Ahmad Almusawi, one of the managers of Rendez Vous Café on South University, said he’s seen a lot of customers use the card. But Maher El-Awar, manager of Smoka Hookah on South University — a LegendsCard affiliate — said the card hasn’t brought in any customers yet. But he has sold some of the free cards he was given — affiliates get 15 free cards to distribute — and thinks it will be good for business overall.
“A lot of people seem to be talking about it,” El-Awar said. “There’s a big buzz about it.”
In the future, the founders hope to expand to other universities.
“We’re going to be the first discount card to franchise to other campuses,” Pilcowitz said.
They’re also investigating other ways of developing their business.
“Eventually, we’ll have an app where you’ll be able to locate yourself and see all the discounts around you,” Pilcowitz said.