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RapidChat: Kati Palmurkar

It's been over a year since we last chatted with aspiring cat cafe owner, Kati Palmukar. After struggling to obtain sufficient funds from her Kickstarter campaign, she managed to press on with help from her family and friends. As of August 17, 2017, Happy Cat Cafe became the first and only cat cafe within West Michigan.
Kati Palmukar

It's been over a year since we last chatted with aspiring cat cafe owner, Kati Palmukar. After struggling to obtain sufficient funds from her Kickstarter campaign, she managed to press on with help from her family and friends. As of August 17, 2017, Happy Cat Cafe became the first and only cat cafe within West Michigan.
Rapid Growth: A year ago when we last chatted, you were still struggling to raise sufficient funds to get Happy Cat Cafe off the ground. How did you manage to press on?

Kati Palmukar: We had to be creative financially. Besides still working our regular jobs and saving, we borrowed from family, friends, and my husband’s boss. We brought the cats into the space temporarily for Happy Cat Yoga events to raise funds. We took out a home equity loan. 

Emotionally, there were times when I thought the cafe wasn’t going to open. It was difficult to press on, but I just kept visualizing the feeling I would have when we opened our doors; I knew it was going to be worth it. 

RG: Now that the cafe is officially open, how are things going?

KP: The response has been so positive, and I’m so thankful to everyone that has come to visit since our opening. We’ve had twenty adoptions and we are so proud of that number. The first few weeks were crazy; we were fully booked every day. Weekends continue to stay very busy, but on a Tuesday afternoon, it’s a quiet place to study and relax with a room full of cats. 

RG: How closely were you able to follow your original plan?

KP:  My plan was to open as the first full-service cat cafe in Michigan with a food service license. I had to compromise on the coffee shop at the opening. We just didn’t have enough money to finish all the work and buy the equipment. A majority of the time spent opening the cafe was on designing and implementing systems that would allow for the cats to live in the same space as a coffee shop. We decided to emulate the self-serve coffee bar of other cat cafes in Michigan to get us on our feet, and we are now reinvesting our profit finishing the work in the kitchen. We were already able to finish our plumbing work and have started to buy equipment and supplies to start the coffee shop. It wasn’t my original vision, but I think it’s a win-win for us and the cats. 

RG: How has the Grand Rapids community responded to the concept of a cat cafe?

KP: I think almost everyone agrees with our mission to find cats forever homes, and the response has been better than I could have imagined. Everyone has been so supportive and patient, but I think they are also proud of to a have a business of this kind in our city. It’s pretty cool. 

RG: Previously you stated you were planning on working with the Humane Society of West Michigan. Who did you end up partnering with?

KP: We ended up partnering with Carol’s Ferals, another local rescue shelter. We love the Humane Society of West Michigan, but they have generous donors and major backing. When Carol emailed me to come visit the facility, I was moved by their mission to end feline overpopulation in West Michigan through awareness; education; and trap, neuter, return (TNR). While they do adopt out “friendlies," it’s secondary to their care for community cats. I just saw a great synergy between our two missions and a great chance to educate the public.

RG: You host a lot of events in your cafe. Which have been the most successful?

KP: Besides yoga, which was popular before we opened, I would say Cat & Canvas. It’s basically a “paint and sip” class with cats. We’ve sold out almost every class so far, and the actual class is so much fun! The cats really enjoy helping Lynn teach painting to the class, as well as knocking things over and getting in the way. The results are amazing as well; it’s really fun to see everyone’s unique eye and aesthetic. 

RG: What are some of your upcoming plans for 2018?

KP: In 2018, I’d like to build on our foundation to create a menu that will draw people specifically for our coffee and tea. We’d like to play with unique and fun flavors, as well as try some new items that I haven’t seen in a lot of shops in Grand Rapids. I want to create events and activities to that keep us fresh and offer opportunities for our guests to interact with cats like never before. We plan to expand our merchandise selection, online store, and commission art gallery in the cafe area. 

Jenna Morton is the RapidChat correspondent for Rapid Growth Media.
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