Gift cards are an easy birthday present to buy but they often go unused. Kwame Kuadey created the Gift Card Rescue marketplace so people could sell them instead of throwing them away. Kuadey appeared on season one of Shark Tank and made a deal with Robert Herjavec and Kevin O’Leary. The company later shut down and is worth $0 as of 2023.
About the Founder
Originally from Ghana, Kwame Kuadey immigrated to Washington, DC, to expand his horizons. He studied economics at Middlebury College and earned an MBA from Johns Hopkins Carey Business School.
He spent seven years working in the management division of investment bank, Citigroup. In 2014, he became a member of the EO Baltimore, an influential business network in Maryland and now serves as the President.
Kwame then taught entrepreneurial finance as an Adjunct Professor at Johns Hopkins University. In 2018, he founded Thrive Company, a business consulting firm dedicated to helping local businesses with their branding and marketing strategies.
Founding the Company
The Ghanaian entrepreneur started his gift card exchange back when he was still pursuing his MBA. A school project was given to him, and he thought of starting a business that helped people recycle unwanted gift cards.
Kuadey developed GiftCardRescue.com and served as a marketplace where people could sell their gift cards, and other users could purchase them for a portion of the original price.
The business officially kicked off in 2008 and had a great start. In months, it made more than $55,000 in revenue. Amazon saw its potential, and a representative of the leading e-commerce platform even reached out to partner with Kwame.
Shark Tank Appearance
Season one of Shark Tank came out in 2009, and Kwame Kuadey was one of the first entrepreneurs that were given a chance to pitch their startups on the show. He was seeking to raise $150,000 for a 30% equity stake.
Kwame stood out among the early contestants thanks to his MBA background. Some of the startups that appeared on the reality show were uninvestable and often came in with crazy valuations. The show also struggled to attract high quality businesses as contestants had to give equity to the production.
Kevin O’Leary was the first to make an offer but wanted 50% for $150,000. Back then the Shark’s offers were very greedy in comparison to today. After Kwame countered, Herjavec proposed teaming up with Kevin and investing $200,000 for half the company. After some careful consideration, the entrepreneur accepted the deal.
After Shark Tank
Shark Tank truly put Gift Card Rescue on the map after the episode aired. However, after the show he didn’t close the deal with Kevin and Robert as the revenue quickly jumped from $250,000 to $2 million!
Regardless, Gift Card Rescue went on to become one of the fastest growing startups in the US and made the Inc. 5000 List in 2013 and stayed on it for four consecutive years. The company’s revenue grew to $10 million per year according to BizJournals.com.
Despite the growth, Gift Card Rescue was struggling to keep up demand and customer complaints were piling up. In 2016, a lender froze their bank account and the company was shut down overnight. Before closing down they averaged 2.4 stars from 1,837 reviews on Trustpilot.
The closure took employees and customers by surprise as the business appeared to be healthy. Gift Card Rescue was able to expand rapidly but wasn’t able to generate enough cash flow. Today, GiftCardRescue.com is still active as someone acquired the domain name. Currently, Kwame Kuadey is the CEO and Founder of Thrive Company.