Monday, March 05, 2007

Moonlighting trucker uses $700 cash and credit cards to launch laptop biz that now makes $1 million.

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The trucker story starts here

For an idea conceived by an entrepreneur while he moonlighted as a truck driver making nightly runs throughout California, Safe Kids Card, Inc., has come a long way in a short time.

The Safe Kids Card is a wallet-sized, mini CD-ROM that serves as an all-in-one identification card for children and holds such information as photos of the child, a digital fingerprint and other medical and personal information that is easily accessible in case of an emergency.

Thirty-four-year-old Jeremiah Hutchins launched the company in August 2002. Franchising began in March 2003 and within nine months there were 15 Safe Kids Card franchises in operation across the country offering a product whose technology and effectiveness is superior to traditional plastic ID cards.

Today the Powell, Wyoming-based company has 45 franchisees in 19 states and the District of Columbia, along with master franchisees in Canada, Australia and Ireland.

Hutchins, who describes himself as having an “entrepreneurial spirit,” was already in business with a partner selling digital business cards using the same technology as the Safe Kids Card. He moonlighted as a trucker at night, hauling everything from Campbell’s Soup to Little Debbie snack cakes.

Hutchins listened to AM radio as he drove and the airwaves were filled that summer with talk surrounding the high-profile trial of a man involved in the kidnapping of a 7-year-old girl in San Diego.

“All the people on the radio shows were talking about if they had only had a better picture of the girl or if she only had better identification maybe it would have helped,” Hutchins said. “It was a hot topic.”

Realizing the many shortcomings of various forms of child identification, Hutchins began working with a software engineer who developed the initial technology that took advantage of the mini CD-ROM format. Hutchins started pitching the product to day care centers, was met with an enthusiastic response, and the Safe Kids Card was launched.

Hutchins started Safe Kids Card with $700 in cash and five of his wife’s credit cards, all the money he had after returning from a two-year stay in Hawaii, where he worked at an auto parts store and as a tour guide on a walking trail.

There are a multitude of companies that focus on plastic ID cards for children. Unfortunately, it is a format that is outdated and, because the plastic ID cards provide only a minimal amount of information, they have proven ineffective in both medical emergencies and in helping law enforcement recover a missing child.

Conversely, the Cross Match fingerprint scanner used by Safe Kids Card to obtain a digital fingerprint is the same used by the FBI and police departments. Also, more than 100 categories of information can be included in a Safe Kids Card. The cost of the card generally ranges between $13 and $15.

“Nothing surpasses the quality we can offer as far as biometrics and software development,” Hutchins said. “Our product has already been upgraded five times since its launch and we are the only concept to digitally store biometric fingerprints.”

With system-wide revenue of $340,000 in 2005, Hutchins had Safe Kids Card surpass the $1 million mark last year.

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