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Steve Richardson

63, Chief Tormenter of Stave Puzzles Inc. in Norwich, Vermont

Description: Luxury handmade wooden jigsaw puzzle company

Start-up: $10,000 in 1974

Sales: 2002 projected sales of $2 million

Posh puzzles: Stave puzzles have received major attention for their unique shapes, fine artwork and tricky designs. A definite luxury item, puzzles start at $95 and go as high as $15,000.

Opportunity rings: Making cardboard puzzles in the early '70s, Richardson was intrigued by a request for a wooden puzzle the customer was willing to pay $300 for. He learned fancy puzzle company Par Puzzles had gone out of business, but a client base of a few hundred wealthy people in the East Coast area-think Rockefellers, du Ponts, Mellons-remained. Richardson went to business.

Reinventing the puzzle: Flat, standing or 3-D, Stave puzzles can be personalized by cutting pieces with specific names or shapes. Richardson also invented the trick puzzle: His Champ product has 32 contortions but only one correct solution.

Cause célèbre: Bill and Melinda Gates, Barbara Bush and many other high-profile families and celebrities are loyal customers. Richardson says, "What's extra special is they get to know us, trust us, love and hate us."

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This article was originally published in the September 2002 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Steve Richardson.

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