From the May 1997 issue of Startups

New products for small and homebased businesses.

Putting For Dollars

If you're looking to start a business that's already tried and true, miniature golf may be the way to go! Playing miniature golf has been a favorite family pastime since 1927, according to Gary Knight, executive vice president of Lomma Enterprises Inc. It's one of the few events the entire family can participate in together.

Lomma's golf courses can be customized to be portable or permanent, depending on your particular order. They offer a wide variety of themes--from the traditional 1950s'-style course with windmills, churches and barns to today's most popular putting-green-style course for serious golfers.

Lomma's professional design department will help you customize your miniature-golf course, so you can have a full outdoor facility or an indoor location. This means you can set up your miniature-golf course almost anywhere--inside a mall, at a hotel, at a carnival, or even on a pier.

Lomma offers a nine-hole course for $9,900, while their 18-hole-course prices run the gamut from $12,000 to $25,000, depending on the customization of the course.

From Lomma Enterprises Inc., Scranton, PA. To order, call (717) 346-5559.

Hands-Free Communication

Nowadays, people spend a huge amount of time in their cars. They eat in them, sleep in them, and, with the advent of the cellular phone, they conduct business in them.

Communicating from your car can, however, be quite difficult when you have to compete with noise from outside traffic. Also, with one hand on the wheel and the other on a jelly doughnut, how can you safely reach for the phone?

The Stratus On-The-Go telephone headset can easily solve both of these problems. Made for cordless and cellular phones, the product has a noise-canceling microphone which eliminates annoying wind and traffic noises. This lets mobile businesspeople enjoy stress-free, hands-free conversation. Weighing less than an ounce, the Stratus On-The-Go headset can be worn either around your ear or as a lightweight headband. Suggested retail price: $80.

From ACS Wireless Inc., Scotts Valley, CA. For ordering information, call (800) 995-5500, or visit their Web site (http\www.acs.com).

Penmanship Counts

Many computer keyboards today boast wristpads which prevent painful, strained wrists. However, what comfort is available to those who still grip a pen for hours on end? For those individuals, cramped fingers can be a real pain.

Introduce your customers to the Sensa "Designer" pen, which carries the writing implement into the 21st century. Beautiful and practical, each pen is richly colored and partially trimmed with 24k gold plate. What's unique about this pen, however, is its plasmium-gel-filled touch-response gripping system, which molds itself to the user's fingers--relaxing them and reducing writing stress by more than 50 percent. The result is hours of cushioned comfort. The Sensa pen also has "memory" and will return to its original form moments after use.

The Sensa pen comes in six colors: obsidian d'or, champagne, carnelian red, cerulean blue, viridian green and noir. Wholesale price: $34.50. Suggested retail price: $69. Minimum order: 12 pens.

From Willat Writing Instruments, Los Angeles, CA. To order, call (800) SENSA-4U.

Blurt It Out

Everyone, at least once in their lives, has gone to a party where the conversation has dwindled faster than the chips and dip. The antidote for this social speed bump? Blurt! The Webster's Game of Word Racing, a party game perfect for anyone wanting to pick up the pace at such a gathering.

Quick: What's the nut of an oaktree? What's a thin, pointed weapon that looks like a small arrow? If your customers can "blurt" out the answers in a split second, they'll be naturals at Blurt!

To play, teams or individual players read aloud one of the "Defunitions" printed on each Blurt! card. The first player or team to call out the correct word moves the number of board spaces indicated on the dice. Blurt! is for three to 12 players, ages 10 and up.

Wholesale price: $17.75. Suggested retail price: $29.99. Minimum order: one case of six games.

From Patch Products Inc., Beloit, WI. To order, call (800) 524-4263.