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Whatever you print them out on had better be waterproof and scratch/scuff resistant, unless you like unhappy customers.
You can do the designs in any of the usual layout programs: Illustrator, Corel Draw, InDesign. Perhaps you can use the other sign software like Flexi, I just don't know those programs. I never recommend Publisher due to my own intense dislike for bad MS behavior.
Something else you can research is being a distributor for Carlson Craft business products, which would give you a wholesale source for foil stamped and thermography business cards as well. There are other business card companies that have similar dealer set-up, like Business Cards Plus (have used them, they are in Michigan), and I believe there is one called Business Cards Tomarrow (never used them).
I do a great deal of business cards, My customers love to have the same concept for their signs/lettering and their cards. Believe it or not, I design them in Gerber Graphix Advatage, draw a 2 X 3.5" box and go to town. I think of it as a little sign really. I then export to .eps and send via internet to Business Card Express (wholesle printing in New England) or to Carlson Craft, who offer multi colored thermography for a good pice, also foils and full color. I love getting a call from a realtor or someone for a 1,000 card reorder - I push a couple of buttons and make additional income. When someone comes in about cards - I show them my portfolio first before the sales tools the companies send me, people really like my cards a lot, very eyecatching!
I used to work for a printing company - they just offset printed them on 8.5 x 11 card stock and cut. Sure you could print on smaller equipment, but the cutter is key. We're talking big heavy duty cutter to be able to cut 500-1000 cards all the exact same size. Big $ I imagine. Outsource like the guys said above. I worked with Business Cards Tomorrow at another company - the markup was like 50% and they were easy to work with and had a 3 day turnaround. They had the "fill in the blank" templates you could use or you could send them your own layout. Was easy money in most cases.
We use BCE for thermal printing, a local printing company for flat cards with spot color and for full color we use silkcards. BCE is just like Business Cards Tomorrow in that they will send you a dealer kit and it's basically fill in the blank.