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Street Wise

His educational games inspire at-risk kids.

Name and age: Kermit Heartsong, 37

Company name and description: Quantum Gameworks Inc. creates and markets 42 educational word and strategy games and puzzles. In the geography game, for example, kids and adults travel the world and learn about various cultures, economies, monetary systems and philosophies.

Based: San Francisco

Number of employees: 9

Founded: 1990

Start-up costs: $40,000

1998 sales projections: $3.8 million

The target: Kids and their parents--especially at-risk kids, whom he mentors in his community

The father of invention: Heartsong invented a word game to broaden his vocabulary after college. Then, while volunteering for an outreach program for children from San Francisco's rough neighborhoods, he found that word games engaged their interest and facilitated learning.

Game plan: Heartsong personally created half of Quantum's games; the other half are licensed from outside inventors. "We want our games to be fun, enlightening and educational. We spend a lot of time perfecting the play structure."

Stamp of approval: Heartsong gets letters and calls every day from parents who praise what he's doing. "Our games encourage family participation. [Parents] want the fun, the joy of playing games with their children."

Shelf life: He's landed the games in specialty retail outlets throughout the United States and Canada, including FAO Schwarz, The Nature Company and Zany Brainy. Soon, Heartsong expects to have his products in stores across Asia, Australia and Europe.

What's in store: "To grow and diversify our product line, to expand marketing and distribution, and to continue to make new games and puzzles." The business will also broaden its charitable contributions.

In the works: A line of children's books

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This article was originally published in the February 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Street Wise.

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