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Friday, May 19, 2017

Would You Like a Cat with Your Coffee?

Sometimes entrepreneurship is combining things that already exist to make something new.

Before you label me, I am not a crazy cat lady. I’m not even a cat lady. I tried having a cat once – that experiment lasted about a week. The cat was clingier than my friend’s ex-boyfriend and pretty much killed the whole idea for me. I have an honorary Godcat who’s basically my spirit animal, and she refuses to touch noses with anyone but me and two other people, but that special relationship only works because she lives hundreds of miles away.

That being said, cats are fluffy, so I like them, and I like it when the homeless ones are adopted. I’m like most people in this regard.

An entrepreneur looks at successful businesses and says, “I can combine these and make something new.”I also like coffee. I am also like most people in this regard as well.

Combine those two things in your head. Then, to see it in person, go to Taipei, Sydney, Montréal, San Francisco, New York, or, most recently, Atlanta.

Atlanta’s first cat café just opened in March, and it’s a totally local effort. The project was funded on Kickstarter (thank you, technology and market voices). The name, Java Cats Café, was chosen by future customers. All the resident cats are from the local no-kill shelter PAWS. The coffee is from downtown coffee shop Ebrik Coffee Room, and the food is from The Gathering Restaurant, which trains and educates the homeless in the culinary arts so they can find jobs.

All these partner businesses are successfully accomplishing good things in their own right, doing their own thing. But an entrepreneur looks at successful businesses and says, “I can put these together and make something new.”

That’s how Java Cats was formed. So I went to see it.

Southern Cats and Coffee

It’s actually kind of complicated to start a cat café in the US. The cat room and the coffee room have to be totally separated, with multiple doors between them, to comply with food and health codes. The cat room has to be a certain way to comply with animal protection laws. You can only have so many people in the cat room at a time, and you can only have so many cats. It’s a lot of hassle, but it’s possible, and the result in Atlanta is a furnished cat room accommodating 20 cats and kittens at one time, with a wall of windows between them and the coffee room so the coffee customers can watch the cats.

I went with three friends: two previous cat owners thinking about adopting new pets, and a previous dog owner who insists he doesn’t want a cat, even though he was playing with them at the café the whole time.

If Atlanta follows up on Java Cats Café’s success with a dog café, I’ll be set.Everyone was very friendly, all enjoying hanging out with soft, fluffy animals, the coffee that came with the cat room registration was very good, and their coffee menu was fancy enough for a standalone boutique coffee shop.

Even at 6:30 p.m. on a Saturday, there were a lot of people there. About 10 of us were in the cat room itself, while more were hanging out in the coffee room. There was even a couple on a first date (hopefully the cats were good luck). As time went on, a group of people congregated at the cat room window, waiting for their turn to come in and, hopefully, find their new pet.

The cats themselves were predictably lazy. To be fair, we went at the end of the day, and they are cats, but I think everyone was hoping a cat would “adopt” them. This certainly hasn’t been the case the whole time though: after just two months of business, three dozen cats have been adopted, and the momentum doesn’t seem to be stopping now that kitten season is in full swing.

Java Cats got five ginger kitten siblings the other day, and two have already been adopted. One of the perks of running a business at least partly reliant on nature’s patterns is being able to depend on having your product at certain times of the year!

If Atlanta follows Los Angeles’s lead and follows up on Java Cats Café’s success with a dog café, featuring dogs less clingy than exes, I’ll be set.