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Amped Up

Cigarette pack-sized amplifiers

This story appears in the February 2000 issue of Business Start-Ups magazine.

They say too much TV rots your brain, but that's certainly not the case for 32-year old Bruce Zinky, whose "cigarette amp" raked in $700,000 in sales last year. When too many Get Smart episodes and James Bond movies propelled this electronic tinkerer/guitar player into an intoxicating whirlwind of shoe phones and martini transmitters, inspiration manifested itself through a mini amplifier housed in an empty cigarette pack, aptly dubbed the Smokey Amplifier.

"I've never smoked," admits Zinky, "but the idea of [an amp] that was the right size and resembled something completely different was perfect." After crafting a few prototypes for his guitar buddies back in the `80s, Zinky set aside the invention for a career with Fender Musical Instruments. In 1997, a friend grew nostalgic for the battery-powered amp, so Zinky, now equipped with manufacturing and buying know-how, and partner Annette Yurchak, 26, made Smokey Amplifiers into a business.

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