Funding dreams on credit: Vintage arcades

Part 5: Michael, Michelle Ware inserted cards into their gaming business

Vintage arcade games


Gene Hamilton
Gene Hamilton

Kenny Golde
Kenny Golde

Geir Ness
Geir Ness

Jeremy Jones
Jeremy Jones

Michael and Michelle Ware
Michael and Michelle Ware


Dreamers: Michelle and Michael Ware

The dream: Starting a business making vintage arcade games

How they used credit cards: Paid for business and household expenses on their lowest-interest credit card while getting their business started. They maxed the card out at $25,000 and also took a $10,000 personal loan.

How they paid off the debt: They paid only the minimum amount due until the business took off, then began working to pay off the balance. They got out of debt three years after starting the business.

Advice for others: "If you plan to leave your job to start a business, open a credit card before you leave," Michael says. "I always tell people, 'Get a credit card now because you're not going to be able to get one later.'"

The back story: The dream started when Michael built a 1980s-style arcade for his wife, Michelle, so she could play Ms. Pac-Man. Then friends and co-workers began putting in orders. "People thought it was really cool - they wanted to play all their old favorite games," Michael says.

In 2004, when Michael found out he might get laid off from his job at Intel, he decided to launch his dream business. "Michelle said, 'You can go ahead and try this, but I don't want to put the house at risk,'" Michael says.

Before he left his job, the Wares got two credit cards with high limits and a personal loan for $10,000. "I made sure we had a lot of cushion," he says. "Credit cards gave us the flexibility to borrow what we needed."

They began making a profit, and slowly started paying down their debt. When they began getting the arcade cabinets manufactured, Michael had to make a trip to China and they had to pay $40,000 to order an entire container-load of cabinets.

Today, the Wares have six employees. They have paid off their debt and have swapped out their lower-interest cards for rewards cards. They make most of their purchases on rewards cards, pay them off each month and use the points and miles to take a vacation to Hawaii each year.

They're happy they used plastic to start their business: "For us, it was a matter of balancing the risks with the rewards," Michelle Ware says.

See related: Main story: 5 who funded their dreams on creditSmall-business owners are more credit savvy than consumers

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Updated: 01-22-2019