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The Big Picture

Wanna see it? It's in the cards.

Joe Kivett plays cards for a living. No, he's not a Vegas card shark. The Orlando, Florida, resident produces card stunts for big events. Audiences hold up cards that together compose huge images-such as Dr. Seuss' Cat in the Hat at the 1997 Florida Citrus Bowl or the Dallas Cowboys' trademark star at the team's 1999 Thanksgiving game-and event promoters and even advertisers cheer the enthusiastic response.

Kivett got his start in 1990 while employed by Disney, where he still works in entertainment production. As part of his job, he created a card stunt for the Super Bowl halftime show. "I figured it out by trial and error," says Kivett, 36.

Kivett's first card stunt went so well that Super Bowl producers asked him to design another in 1992. That's when he decided to start Jacob-Davis Productions (named after one of his brothers). "It was like a dream come true," he says. "But doing this [is so unusual, it] isn't something you could even dream about."

Since then, Kivett and his part-time staff (including his mom and brothers) have made card stunts for various sports teams and corporations-even the U.S. Postal Service. Not only are the card tricks fun for audiences, but they can also be great advertising.

Kivett's biggest challenge in operating his business is dealing with the time crunch. Because he works full time at Disney, he produces no more than five shows per year, grossing between $120,000 and $200,000 annually. But that's the way he likes it.

"If I were doing this full time, I could produce 20 shows a year, but that would be oversaturation,' he says. "It would take away some of the magic, and I don't want that to happen.

"I love the feeling I get when the audience cheers for something I've created.'


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This article was originally published in the April 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: The Big Picture.

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