We had the good fortune of connecting with Cindy Pennington and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Cindy, every day, we hear about how much execution matters, but we think ideas matter as well. How did you come up with the idea for your business?
As Sigmund Freud once stated, “time spent with cats is never wasted.” I started fostering after I adopted my first cat, Kitten, as I did not want her to be lonely. While shelters and rescues provide much needed help and find so many homes for animals, the environments can often be extremely stressful for the animals. Cats are very sensitive animals and being in cages (at a shelter or at an adoption event) can be extremely difficult for them. Because of the stress of being in a shelter can cause, potential adopters may not get to see the cat’s personality shine. After fostering dozens of cats, I have learned how different a cat’s demeanor can change from being in a cage to being in a home. A scared and shy cat in a cage could actually be the biggest sweetheart given the right environment. That is when inspiration struck and I started doing research and trying to find a way to bring cats to people in a more comfortable and relaxed setting. I had never heard about cat cafes before I started researching this business idea, but the more I learned about it the more I realized this business model fit just what I was setting out to accomplish. After that, I started visiting cat cafes across the nation, talking with cat cafe owners, and launched my Kickstarter for The Casual Cat Cafe. I wanted a place where people could visit and experience cats in a more natural, home-like environment. I wanted a place where people could spend time with cats and adopt a cat if they wanted to. Not everyone can adopt cats and a cat cafe gives them the experience without necessarily having to adopt. I also wanted a place for cats who were having a difficult time getting adopted at shelters and rescue events. So in essence, the idea for my business came from my love for cats, fostering, and wanting everyone to experience the joy cats can bring to one’s life.
Please tell us more about your business. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today business-wise. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
With only one other cat cafe in the entire DFW area, we are pretty unique just as we are. What I am most proud of about our business is that we are built on positivity. We exist to improve the lives of homeless cats while providing a fun atmosphere for people to de-stress and just enjoy cats! The past 3.5 years we’ve been in business has been very challenging but also very rewarding. Our biggest struggle honestly has just been figuring out how to bring in enough revenue that the business can sustain itself, especially in such a unique landscape. People are used to being able to walk into a shelter or walk into a Petsmart adoption event and see the kitties or even pet them through their cages free of charge that some people are very put off by the fact that we charge an entry fee. Many people do not consider that a city shelter is able to operate on tax payer funds, pet stores doing adoption events do not rely on those events to operate, nor do people always consider the amount of money in rent, utilities, supplies, employee expense etc it takes to operate a 1,000 square foot cat lounge and that the experience in a cat lounge far outweighs petting a cat through a cage at an adoption event. Without the entry fee, we do not exist. We are trying to connect cats to loving forever homes but we still have to pay all our normal business expenses. We also want to be able to charge a rate we feel is fair both to our customers and our ability to operate. We understand not everyone is going to be able to afford the cost to play with cats for an afternoon so we also try to run promotions to lower the cost when we can. Most people are very understanding and we are usually able to overcome any negativity by gently explaining what the entry fee is for and without it we actually could not exist. The biggest reason running the cat cafe has been a challenge is because I also work a full time job, one with a very heavy busy season half the year. I’ve never taken a paycheck from the cat cafe and pour any revenues back to the benefit of the cats. The reason my business exists is to make the world a better place, not to earn a bunch of money. We are very excited to launch our new line of subscription boxes! We thought of this as a way to stay connected to our customers during the pandemic by bringing a bit of the cat cafe home to them. Each box will feature a US cat cafe as well as 4-6 cat themed items for humans and their furry friends. We share a portion of proceeds to the featured cat cafe as all small businesses, especially those that rely on the physical presence of customers have been impacted by Covid.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Oh man, between my full time job, running the cat cafe, and also running my own non-profit rescue I do not have time to entertain friends (do I even have any of those these days?) much less have some time to myself to experience things in the city. If I had to list a few favorites I would definitely take them to my favorite Indian restaurant, Nanglo Indian And Nepalese Restaurant in Euless and if price was not a factor I’d love to pick one day to have lunch or dinner at Fearing’s in Dallas. Other notable spots would be Feedstore BBQ, or finding a nice tea room. Unfortunately, my favorite tea room spot did not survive the Covid closures. Places i’d probably go would include walking up and down main street grapevine, taking a stroll in river legacy park or the Fort Worth botanical gardens, and maybe checking out either the Dallas or Fort Worth Zoo.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I’d like to shoutout to all the wonderful rescues, rescuers, and shelters we have partnered with over the years to help match so many kitties to wonderful homes as well as being able to put so many smiles on the faces of our community. Thank you to the City of Hurst Shelter, City of Euless Shelter, Kool Kats, Many Paws, Tall Tails Rescue and Transport, Panther City Feral Cat Coalition, We Treasure Felines, and many other individual rescuers out there helping save lives and bring positivity to the world!