Street Wise

His educational games inspire at-risk kids.
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the February 1998 issue of Business Start-Ups magazine. Subscribe »

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.


Number of employees: 9

Founded: 1990

Start-up costs: $40,000

1998 : $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 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 .

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 outlets throughout the United States and , including FAO Schwarz, The Nature Company and Zany Brainy. Soon, Heartsong expects to have his products in stores across , Australia and .

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

In the works: A line of children's books

Animal Attraction

Sugar and spice and everything mice.

Names and ages: Nicolette and Matthew Collins, 34 and 37, respectively

Company name and description: Wild Zoo Design creates fun, colorful furniture for toddlers. "We haven't taken an existing design and scaled it down," says Nicolette. "We design things from a child's point of view."

Creature comforts: Beds, chairs and dressers look like teddy bears, dolphins, rabbits and more.

Based: Bend, Oregon

Founded: 1996

Start-up costs: $250,000

1998 : $760,000

All abroad: The couple left their native England in 1985 to run businesses in the Caribbean--Matthew in architecture and Nicolette in graphic design. They eventually combined their talents to launch Wild Zoo Design and relocated to the United States after determining Oregon was a top spot for secondary wood products manufacturing.

The color of money: "We came to the States with all these great ideas for furniture in bright, funky colors," says Nicolette. "But then we realized the market didn't quite take to that. Once we toned things down, sales picked up." In fact, the couple just doubled the size of their manufacturing facility.

Safe and sound: The bookshelves remain stable--even if scaled by a toddler. And dresser drawers have holes instead of knobs, so little hands can open them more easily. Says Nicolette, "As parents of a toddler, we know how many ways [kids] can hurt themselves on things and what their needs are."

Contact Sources

Quantum Gameworks Inc., 620 Folsom Ave., 3rd Fl., San Francisco, CA 94107, (800) 832-5624

Wild Zoo Design, (888) KID-U-LUV,


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