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Go, Speed Racer!

One entrepreneur lets customers design and race remote-controlled cars.


What: Store that lets customers design and race remote-controlled cars

Who: Blake Harper, David Domm and Rocky Jones of Experience Enterprises

Where: Chicago

When: Started in 2005

Startup Costs: Nearly $2 million from investors

David Domm, 31, has no problem summing up his store's appeal: "All boys love cars." Along with his friends Blake Harper and Rocky Jones, both 32, Domm is co-founder of Raceline Motorworks, a concept store that allows kids to design, build and race their very own remote-controlled race cars.

"If you're trying to appeal to boys ages 4 to 12, and you want to have a successful concept, you want to choose a large toy category," Harper says. "Cars and vehicles is one of them."

It's an idea Harper and some friends came up with while attending the University of Chicago's MBA program. In early 2005, he teamed up with Domm and Jones to start Experience Enterprises. After putting together a business plan, they recruited an advisory board who helped them get in touch with investors and overseas manufacturers for the cars in China. Starting their initial round of fundraising in summer 2005, they secured close to $2 million in seed money and opened their store, Raceline Motorworks, in Vernon Hills, Illinois, last August.

Kids can choose from 10 different types of cars--everything from monster trucks to exotic sports cars, ranging in price from $35 to $135, depending on the sophistication of the model. With the help of Raceline staff members, they can build and customize their cars with different colors, decals and tires. They're even given Raceline driver's licenses. And then it's off to the races on either of the store's two racetracks.

Jones says future Raceline stores will feature different racetracks. "There could be a kind of circuit so [customers] could master each course along the way," he says. With plans to expand to over 100 stores in the next five to seven years, Raceline is placing a big bet on little drivers.