By G. David Doran
Names and ages: Lance Rake, 45; Deborah Rake, 40; Kermit Krantz, 40
Company name and description: The New Deal Playing Card Company manufactures and markets the Ergo Card, poker-sized playing cards ergonomically designed with a rounded, wavelike shape that fits the curve of the hand. The company also produces Kid Kards, which are Ergo Cards with colorful backs drawn by art students at the Lawrence, Kansas, Arts Center. A portion of Kid Kard's sales goes toward a scholarship fund for these students.
Based: Leawood, Kansas
Start-up costs: $100,000. "Thirty thousand dollars of that went to obtain a patent on the idea, and the rest was for manufacturing, inventory and advertising," says Ergo Card inventor and University of Kansas industrial design professor Lance Rake.
1997 sales: $125,000
1998 projections: $1 million
Hands-on training: "I experimented with a number of different curves, thinking the market for this product would be senior citizens with arthritis," says Rake. "But what I found is that my kids would pick them up and shuffle them, and they liked the way Ergo Cards felt. It's difficult for kids to learn how to shuffle--it's kind of a tricky, fine-motor coordination activity, and the shape of these cards naturally guides their hands to where they need to be so it's a lot easier to learn."
In the cards: New Deal is now marketing custom-made Ergo Cards with promotional backs featuring corporate logos and advertising slogans.
The New Deal Playing Card Company, 2620 Cranley St., Lawrence, KS 66046, (888) 268-3325.