Introduction: How to Make Your Fortune at Cards

About: Eldest of five, son of two doctors, 10 years in Graphic Design and marketing, then retrained as a Biomedical Materials Engineer, don't ask me why, I think it was because I had always wanted to design artificia…
Round where we live Get Rich Quick Schemes are so popular that they're just called GRQs. The trouble is, that most GRQs have almost zero chance of success. To make money you have to do a bit of work, to get rich quick, you need to rob a bank, win the Lottery, or marry into it (I am reliably told) and you know what the odds are against you being able to pull of any of those tricks.

So how does an honest guy or gal, who hasn't found an heiress or a sugar daddy and can't face doing five to ten in the joint, make their fortune. Well this instructable shows, how with a little bit of ingenuity and a tiny amount of work, you can make your own card game up and sell lots of packs of it to make big money. It's not that difficult, and sell a million packs and BINGO, before you know it, you'll be a mutimillionaire and despite the odds of that being slim, they are million's of times better than the odds of getting hitched with the ex-Mrs McCartney or pulling off a successful bank heist.

And if you doubt me, well I've done it and so I know what to do and what not to do and you can see the result of my labours (and what could be similar to yours) at dadcando - Plop Trumps. This instructable might just be the thing that sets you off down a path of a successful entrepreneur... I think there's room for a few more millionaires, don't you?

All you will need is:

  • An idea
  • Some start up cash, can be as little at $40, but more is better, up to $20,000
  • Good blagging skills
  • Digital camera
  • Some design skills (but not much)
  • Computer drawing package and photograph manipulation applications
  • About 3 to 6 months
  • Courage

Step 1: Have the Idea

Three little words... have the idea... probably the biggest stumbling block that you're going to have to overcome.

But it's not as hard as you might think, given that one of the world's greatest inventors, Edison said: "Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration", and he was the guy that came up with the light bulb, which as we all know has been very useful as the universal signal for "having an idea" amongst other things, so it's simple maths, if the idea is only 1 percent of the problem, then coming up with the idea shouldn't take long. Ideas are all around you, it's picking the right one that counts.

If you want to make a new card game, play loads of different card games. Ask people that you play with what they like about the particular game you are playing, and what they don't like about it. Ask your friends, ask kids, ask your kids (if you have them. Listen to what people say and think about it. When I was trying to come up with a new game to sell on dadcando, I originally had the idea to make a new type of Trumps game and because Top Trumps is famous in the UK, I was going to call mine Pop Trumps and make it about famous dads. I was talking to my kids about it and they said it was a bit lame. The 11 year old said,
"Why don't you call it Plop Trumps and make it about poo."
And there it was, a brilliant idea thrown out by the creative mind of a child.

Plop Trumps is perfect as an idea because it has what experts call the Anchor and the Twist. Niche, funky products (and in fact most new products) work when they are recognisable but at the same time do something clever or new. People like what they know, but they need a new spin on it to be really excited. In the UK, and perhaps a few other countries, everyone knows Trump card games and the leading brand is Top Trumps, so a parody of that brand and the whole genre is bound to be fun and interesting, especially if it tackles a fascinating subject that is vaguely taboo.

So there we have it, simple, recognisable but different... recognising the idea was the key, it will be the same for you.

Ideas can come at any time and in all shapes and sizes and can strike you at any time, here's a picture of me having an idea for a new board game called "Capsize" where you have to get round the course capsizing as many times as possible in what looks like perfect conditions. (All new ideas should be ecologically friendly ones).

It pays to have a small notebook at hand to write ideas down, so that you can capture them. The act of writing them down makes it easier to process and move on to the next idea, or build on that one, rather than having to keep remembering the first idea.


Be careful though of ideas that only you think are brilliant but nobody else does.

You'd be surprised how many people design a new product that only they and a handful of others actually want or need. Sometimes budding entrepreneurs spend thousands and end up selling only one or two products. It is difficult, because truly revolutionary products and games have no real precedent and so it can prove very difficult to accurately gauge the potential success of a product. One way to do this is to consider other similar things that people like and buy and think of the reasons why they buy them. If your idea fits with these then it has a better chance than one that doesn't.

Step 2: Make Sure You Can Do What Is Needed to Make the Idea a Reality

For me and the creation of Plop Trumps, there was one major potential block to it all coming out... photographing the subject matter... poo.

Our equipment might let us down, the subject matter might not look any good, or we might not be able to find enough examples of poo as we needed.

For starters the picture on a typical trump card deck is quite small so almost any digital camera these days should be able to take an acceptable picture. I have a compact 8 Mpix one, so the pictures looked like they would be more than good enough for what we needed.

Could we take enough photos of poo and make them look good enough to work as a set of cards? We did a little bit of research and found that unlike standard playing cards, Trump card games have between 36 to 48 cards per pack. We reckoned about 40 pictures would do it, so the first test was to take a picture and see if the results were good enough to publish.

Luckily we have a pet leopard gecko that produces a rather benign, dry and inoffensive poo. We got a piece of this put it on a little sand from it's cage and did a trial run.

Here we are taking the first picture and the result (this is a big file. Eewww! you can bits of his locust lunch in there... eh up, that's another poo we could photograph... locust poo!

Part of testing the idea is telling a few friends. be careful if you have an idea that you think can be copied, or should be patented, then telling a whole load of people opens you up to be copied and makes it impossible to patent (one of the criteria necessary to meet when making a patent application is that the idea must not have been told to anyone, i.e. NOT MADE PUBLIC). Still it is a good idea to test out what you are thinking a bit, just in case you have missed some vital thing that stops you doing what you want to.

As part of the testing I phoned up the company who make the leading brand of Trump card games, Top Trumps, and asked their marketing director a few questions.

I told him that I had an idea for a new trump card game and was he interested. He said no they weren't interested, and it was not possible that I had a new idea that they hadn't though of already. I then asked if he minded other people doing trump card games ( I personally believed that it was difficult if not impossible for him to stop people making trump card games as many types exist in the world and such games were in existence before his company made Top Trumps the leading brand. I just wanted to know what his policy might be. Of course at this point I did not reveal the exact idea. I quoted a couple of competitive examples. Again he replied in the negative. They understood that other trump card games existed and seemed ok with it.

Great, now all I had to do was take another 39 pictures of poo and I would be ready to clean up.

Step 3: Start With the Easy Things

Now begins the 99percent of the effort, so you may as well get going on the easy bits first.

With my kids and any of my friends who weren't too grossed out to talk about it we brainstormed a list of animals to act as a guide for all the poos we would need.

At the same time we started to discuss the criteria, what sort of things would be easy to categorize poos under and what sort of things would make the game fun to play. With trump type games you compare category statistics of cards one at a time and see who wins. No card should be able to be beaten on everything, because whoever holds that card will always loose, by the same token, no card must be able to win on everything, because the person who holds that card will always win.

A good game as millions of permutations so that each time it is played it can be played differently. As our list of possible poos grew, I started to think about the challenge of taking poos of wild or exotic animals either found a long way away from where I lived or otherwise in a zoo. Given that a zoo for humans is the reverse of a prison, and the inmates are either rare or dangerous, I knew that trying to blag my way into on of them was going to be hard. I started with the easy poos.

Locust (the live gecko food) and then cricket (a bit small but still gecko food, so we had plenty of them), dog (loads of that about), horse (my partner has one), worm (loads of those all over the lawn and the flower bed), rabbit, sheep, cow, hamster and rat quickly followed, and before I knew it I was one quarter of the way towards my goal.

As I started taking pictures, I also started researching some factoids. Great trump card games not only give you the criteria to judge each card, but also give you a few snippets of information about the subject, so I started looking things up that related to the animals in question and where possible their poos. I bought a few books on the subject to see if I could get any facts and figures from them, but discovered that despite living in a world almost covered in poo, there is very little written about it.

I also drew up a list of definitive criteria so that I could measure each poo against them when I was taking the photographs. Some trump games seem to think that more criteria is better, but for a good game about 6 criteria seems to be the best amount. The criteria we all agreed on were:

Frequency, length, width, smelliness, hardness and yuk factor.

For your game you will think of others no doubt.

Step 4: Work Out Your Manufacturing Route

Having established that no one wants to buy the idea off you for an amount that would make such a transaction interesting, you are left with the only other route to market - getting them made yourself and selling them. Most companies these days outsource their manufacturing to experts. It is called "contract manufacture" and the beauty of it is that the chosen manufacturer is set up to make your product and can not only make a good job of it, but also make anything from a few to many thousands of products for you.

This is where the whole project gets interesting. A very important part of any new product is the market, and establishing the market need is vital to the success of any new product. Apart from the market need, price is also a big factor in determining success. However low price is NOT as big a factor as you might think. People want value which does not translate as cheap.

Look at the price of other similar products. In this case, packs of cards range in price between nothing (free promotional give aways) and a few tens of dollars (very exclusive sets for collectors), but within our market prices range from between $4 and $12, which included nice standard playing cards at the bottom end and quality tarot cards at the top end. In the UK the price break comes at about five pounds (5 GBP) and that means that a 4.95 price sounds like it will really fly, especially if the idea is strong.

Now the only way to really trial the market is with product. You can get one pack of cards made but they will cost you $30 to $50, and will be digitally printed, so not quite as good as the real thing, and much too expensive. Prices quickly drop and if you order 100 or 200 packs then prices come down to a respectable figure and low enough for you to test the market. At this point you are not going to make a killing, just test the market, but then you will only be investing a few hundred dollars.

If you can afford it and you are confident that you can sell a few hundred packs, then you are much better off having a few thousand made, the cost comes down dramatically and you can have the highest quality, properly printed cards manufactured, which will then allow you to sell them to retail stores and on-line merchants and so increase your market reach.

The web is a brilliant tool for matching up entrepreneurs and manufacturers. before the web people like you and me had little or no access to any manufacturer that wasn't listed in our local phone book. Now you can (and should) search on the internet and get a number of suppliers to quote for your project. To do this it might be handy to have at least one card designed (but be careful not to give away your idea) which you can use to get quotes.

In most cases the important features are:

  • how many cards in each deck
  • how many deck you want in your first manufacturing run
  • how many colours on the reverse
  • how many colours on the face
  • do you want one of their standard reverse patterns

To get the cost down, it is likely that you will be manufacturing in India or the Far East. This will add costs of shipping and customs and duty to the prices you are quoted. In addition to which, if you place a largish order, your own country's Excise and Duty guys will want to make sure that you are registered with their systems and permitted to import the stuff (in the UK this means that you need to have a VAT number or what is called a PseudoTURN number) be warned that getting these numbers or getting registered can take a few days to get and if your stuff is waiting in the docks to clear it will not be allowed past customs until you have the right numbers. More of this in a later stage.

Step 5: Take the Rest of the Photos

If you thought that the rest of the instructable was hard, it was easy compared with the next step. How do you convince a zoo owner to let you in to their zoo before it opens and then let you in to the animal cages before the keepers clear up the previous nights manure production, so that you can take pictures of the animals' poos.

Problems to overcome:

  • You sound, at best weird, and worst vaguely perverted
  • The animals are dangerous and possibly expensive
  • What's in it for them?
  • How can you talk to the right person that can make the decision?

Although these issues are related to making a card game about poo, which I have already done, the points highlight typical problems that face all budding entrepreneurs who want to do something strange and don't have a lot of cash to throw at the problem. Remember, every penny you spend comes off the bottom line and offering to pay to get access to things you need isn't any guarantee that you'll get what you want. What you really want is people who like you, like what you are trying to do and are willing to help. So in the same order you overcome the problems by:

  • Explain what you are doing and without saying too much, why you are doing it. If there is a legitimate reason then there is no way they can think they are dealing with a crank.
  • In the case of animal poo, all you want to do is take a few photographs of something that is going to be thrown away and so you don't really need to interact with the animals, likely as not they will be in a separate part of the enclosure while the keepers do their business clearing up the animals' business, so that's your opportunity, and you are going to be very quick and unobtrusive.
  • Nothing guaranteed is in it for them, but you can say that you will make sure that when you promote your product, their kind assistance will be recognised in any publicity material... everyone likes a bit of cheap or free promotion.
  • The secret to cold calling to get to the right person is to do your homework. Find out who the person is that you need to speak to. Look on the web or go to the place beforehand and research it. Be polite and courteous at all times, never leave a voice mail unless you have rung at least 10 times, learn when NO means no, and work out a script before you call so that you actually sound like you know what you are talking about. The best thing is to be able to get your initial point and request across in as few as two or three sentences.

Once we had got in to the zoo and taken a few shots, the keepers got really interested in the idea and offered all kinds of help. Here's a picture of my middle son and me with the zoo's new baby lion. About ten minutes before this shot was taken, the baby lion bit my son on the bottom... now there's something you don't have happen to you everyday... it's amazing when one little idea can lead.

The places I looked for poo were:

  • The street
  • The garden
  • Animal rescue centre
  • Pet shop
  • Friends houses
  • Zoo

Step 6: Design the Packs and Merchandisers

Poo is a potentially dirty subject, so I wanted my packs to be as fun and as clinical as possible. I also wanted them to look nice and be a real gift that you would get a lot of fun and pleasure out of. I thought white corners would look good and a bright (although poo coloured) background would be perfect. I wanted the design to be completely different from Top Trumps, the leading trump card brand, because I didn't want to be in trouble for passing off (that is when you make a product that other people might mistake for another brand).

If you are selling only on the web, to individuals, then you will only need to design packs, if you intend to sell in stores, you will have to design a merchandiser, or box to hold more than one pack. Check out stores near you for the sort of thing that would be acceptable. in most cases the packs are arranged in 12s.

Most dozen boxes are square and flat with the packs arranged in three rows of four, naturally I wanted to be a little different, so I packed them in a stack. I figured that this could go next to a till or with the hanging slot, hang on a display next to other products.

Make sure you check that your Idea will fit with any standard point of sale (POS) furniture and hangers etc.

Step 7: Sort Out Any Regulatory Issues and Start Spending Your Money

As an entrepreneur, before you start making any money, you have to spend some, and boy are there a load of opportunistic people out there ready to take it off you. It's as if when you want to make something, everyone pricks up their ears and decides that you're fair game for their little entrepreneurial activity in the fee for service department.

You might have already had patent fees, trade mark registration fees, lawyer's bills, but if you have managed to get this far on your own, you'll certainly start spending the folding stuff now. If you intend to sell via any retailer, they will require a barcode. This is a stock controlling number that is unique to your product - worldwide ! and allows the retailer to manage their stock. For this you will need to be registered with an authorized barcode number supplier (only one in the UK, called GS1) they'll want $200 off you to register and then $200 for your first year's fees and then guess what, you need a special piece of software to convert the barcode number (of which you now have 10,000) into those little bars (it can't be that hard I was thinking) well, there are only a few authorized barcode creation software houses and guess what... they'll have $200 off you thanks very much for their tiny bit of software.

If you're selling via the web, you'll need stickers, envelopes, stamps and of course a verified paypal account or some other form of etailing means of cash collection, which can take time to sort out.

This is also a good time to start finding out what Customs and Excise boxes you have to tick. Remember that your own country's customs and excise departments are (in most cases) paid for by your taxes and are there to help you. They often have helplines and loads of helpful literature. Government in general would like to encourage entrepreneurs and commerce so don't be scared, ask and make sure that you have filled in all the right forms so that you are not doing anything illegal.

Step 8: Place Your Order....!

Yikes this is it. If you are ordering a fair few cards, this is when you spend your lifesaving on the crack pot idea you have been boring everyone with for the last few months. It is a thrilling moment. Check and double check the artwork before you send them off and pay. If you make mistakes and typographic errors (my favourite trick) it can be expensive to repair later. Ideally get someone else you trust to go over the work one last time before you click send!

Make sure that you have agreed the delivery terms with the manufacturer and where appropriate the acceptance criteria. Make absolutely sure you have agreed the specification of what you are getting. The right number of colours, cellophane wrapping, tear tab, full colour merchandiser, the weight of the card, the exact number of cards and packs you have ordered. If you have selected proofs, check these very carefully, it might be a pain to change something after you've ordered it, but it's better to do this at proof stage than when you have taken delivery.

Step 9: Start Talking to Retailers, Get Your Own Retailing Up and Running

My intention was always to sell via dadcando. The web is a brilliant tool for individuals to sell to individuals.It has opened up commerce to the masses in the way that Gutenberg movable type printing presses opened up information and book reading over 500 years ago.

Before eBay, if you wanted to make and sell your product you either needed a shop or a wholesaler and then you had to beg them to take your product and supply it to them at a price that they wanted to pay. Now days in the big wide world of high street retailing it's not much different. A typical high street chain will want to tell you how much they think they can sell you product for and then they will want to buy it off you for half of that, minus the VAT (or other sales taxes) and any other discounts they can dream up... early payment discount (still only paying for the product 60 days after you delivered it to them), placement discount (i.e. you pay them to put it on the shelf), discounts for ordering larger orders, sales or return (i.e. they won't pay you for any product they can't sell) and to cap it all, they may well want you to pay for the shipping to each of their outlets. PHEW! it's a wonder that anyone can afford to do business with the high street retailer.

Enter the web: brilliant, you put an advert up, people find it by searching and then you ship it to them. The buyer pays for shipping or contributes towards it and pays the full price. The buyer usually gets a cheaper deal because he or she is buying direct... everyone wins.

While you are waiting for you cards to arrive, you can be sorting out your eBay advert and phoning up any web based retailers that you think might be able to sell your product.

I was able to get interested in stocking Plop Trumps. They loved the idea and were happy with the price I quoted them. But I also have my own website dadcando, so I was able to make up a nice selling page there as well.

Step 10: Take Publicity Shots of You and the New Product

You need to be able to publicise your new product and to do that you'll need some really nice photographs of it. Playing cards are hard to take photos of because they are thin and if they are white then they can look a bit weak, but with a bit of care you can make them look as nice as they are in real life.

It's time to get your digital camera out again and use all the skills you learned taking pictures of the poo to take some nice pictures of the packs. You'll probably benefit from being able to retouch the images on a package like Photoshop to make sure that they look their best.

Get a friend to take some nice pictures of you holding the cards or some kids paying with them. Most newspapers like the human touch, they know that their readers will need a person that they can engage with.

You will want to write a nice bit of copy to go with the pictures. For me it was tough, poo is so ripe for gags that I had to really stop myself. The cards themselves contain no offensive language so I had to stop myself making all the jokes and puns that I wanted to, because that would give the wrong message, and let's face it I am doing enough to challenge the world with the whole concept in the first place!

Step 11: Get Some Publicity

Publicise you product. I used to work in advertising, but for me and the little guy, advertising is not such a good deal. Think how much it costs to place an advert and then ask yourself how many units you are actually going to sell off that one advert. Post on line, tell your story wherever you can.

Go to your local press, TV station or newspaper, local press has a vested interest in writing stories about local people and it is an obvious thing for them to write a story about a local entrepreneur making a real product, especially if it is interesting.

Step 12: Mail Out to Happy Customers

This whole instructable has been about making dreams come true. You want to make some cash, you need to get your ideas out there and realise them as real products, but don't forget your customers, they see a product they like and they want it and you are fulfilling their dreams of ownership, or if they are giving the product as a gift, your are making them feel good by supplying a product that they think will bring happiness to someone they love.

Make the shipping something that they will enjoy as well.

I was always impressed by and the way that they included a free pack of sweets in every pack they shipped. Every time I ordered and received a parcel from them, I felt special in that they had thought to give me a little gift, it made me feel loved as a customer. Because my product is quite cheap, I couldn't afford to put sweets in with every parcel so I thought of something else that could make the parcel special. I have to print an invoice with every pack so instead of making this boring I printed a special project on each one so that if the recipient opened up the invoice label they would find a little fold up origami shirt inside with instructions. The shirt was designed to be like a zoo keeper's shirt but the badge on the pocket says Poo Keeper.

Take great care when shipping to make sure that the customer gets their stuff quickly and it is in good condition when they get it.

Remember if you build a brand then the next product you sell will be even more successful because you will have all those happy customers from your first time round, ready to come and buy things from you.

Step 13: Make Your Fortune

Well maybe. Get happy selling stuff to people that you know will make them smile and maybe just maybe will pay the bills and have a huge amount of fun doing it.

Becoming an entrepreneur is easier than you think these days, so what are you waiting for.

If you want to sample the results you can get your own pack of Plop Trumps here,here, hopefully it will inspire you to go out and make your fortune on the cards.

Good luck.