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New Entrepreneurs Piece Together Puzzle Company With Gradual Series of Steps

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When an idea strikes that might become the foundation for starting a new company, teaming with a friend is often a sure way to trigger the launch. Entrepreneurs that team together help each other cover all the details.

That’s the key ingredient in Artifacture Studios. The business has evolved over time as a collaboration between two friends in Dallas, TX. Shane Selman and Michael Reilly worked as web developers, but entrepreneurship held substantial appeal.

Using their own savings and personal borrowing, the self-described nerds initially provided custom laser work for artists and businesses. After Selman lost his job in the middle of 2010, the Artifacture founders decided to attain steady revenue by creating their own projects. Initial ideas included a paper model of the Eiffel Tower and popup wedding invitations.

Finally, the Artifacture team found Frabjous, which is a sculpture and geometric puzzle consisting of 30 identical pieces what create a 3-D star. The puzzle was designed by George Hart, a reasonably well-known sculptor and former chief of content for the Museum of Mathematics in New York. The Frabjous pieces connect only at the corners. The trick is weaving them together without any intersecting.

Reilly simplified the design and Artifacture licensed Frabjous from the Museum of Mathematics. But, the Artifacture duo had no idea how to market a mathematical puzzle or even if anyone would have an interest in purchasing one.

When a new customer arrived in early 2012 at Artifacture needing design and manufacturing services, he noticed the Frabjous puzzle. The customer introduced Reilly and Selman to Kathryn Cook, owner of the Learning Express toy store in Dallas. Cook agreed to sell the Frabjous on consignment for 90 days.

So far, Cook has sold a few puzzles and provided some advice to Reilly and Selman. Artifacture is planning to reduce production costs and lower the product price. The company isn’t profitable yet, but revenue is double the first year level. Frabjous puzzles are selling on the Artifacture website, Amazon.com, ThinkGeek.com, and at museums.

Reilly and Selman are hopeful for the future despite a decline in US puzzle sales of 22 percent over the past decade. Fortunately, a positive buying trend exists for higher priced sophisticated puzzles, such as Frabjous. The Artifacture team is planning to expand its selection by licensing more of Hart’s puzzle designs later this year.