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The Company Giving Common Objects a Sleek New Design Slice aims to make everyday items both nicer to look at and easier to use.

By Jason Ankeny

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

TJ Scimone didn't set out to build a cutting-edge startup--at least not in the literal sense. The founder and CEO of Campbell, Calif.-based product design firm Slice originally targeted the housewares market, developing ultramodern interpretations of kitchen staples like vegetable peelers and cheese graters. But when a pocket-size ceramic blade for opening CDs, DVDs and other shrink-wrapped items became his most popular product, Scimone pivoted, vowing to make common tools like box cutters and scissors both sleeker and safer.

Slice Precision Cutter"Box cutters are scary and antiquated tools--most of them are dangerous and ugly," says Scimone, a serial entrepreneur who launched Slice in 2008 to fund long-term care for his autistic son, Alex, and who donates a minimum of 1 percent of all product sales to help fund autism research. "We wanted to make them safer and more functional, but also nicer to look at and use. People often think that just because something looks good, it doesn't work well. Consumers should have the best of both worlds."

Products like the Precision Cutter, winner of the Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design Good Design Award, epitomize the Slice ethos. Created by Karim Rashid, one of the five rock-star designer partners in the Slice stable, the Precision Cutter boasts a zirconium-oxide-based micro-ceramic blade that lasts longer than traditional steel blades and never rusts. Rashid's streamlined, ergonomic design exposes as little of the blade as possible to reduce the risk of injury, but thanks to its thermoplastic housing and rubberized finish, the ballpoint-pen-like cutter fits so comfortably and securely in the hand that users can carve out intricate shapes with surgical accuracy.