RapidChat: Kati Palmukar

Described as 'half coffee house, half animal shelter, and all fun!', Happy Cat Café aims to shed some positive light on the animal adoption process. But with only one week left in their all or nothing fundraising campaign, owner Kati Palmukar is in need of further public assistance to get her idea off the ground.
Described as 'half coffee house, half animal shelter, and all fun!', Happy Cat Café aims to shed some positive light on the animal adoption process. But with only one week left in their all-or-nothing fundraising campaign, owner Kati Palmukar is in need of further public assistance to get her idea off the ground.
Rapid Growth: You're hoping to open Grand Rapids' first cat cafe. To date, how much money have you been able to curate for Happy Cat Café via crowd funding?
Kali Palmukar: As of today (September 11th), we are at $10,865, but we get none of that if we don’t reach our goal of $25,000. It is an all or nothing type of deal.
RG: I have noticed that a lot of individuals are taking their ideas to Kickstarter to help fund their efforts. Why do you think more and more people are turning to this, versus a more “traditional” method, such as obtaining a loan or finding investors?
KP: First and foremost, with more traditional methods of business financing you need to have established credit. This isn’t particularly an issue for us, but it may be for some other people – especially if that loan has a rather high interest rate. And if you have some type of an investor, they own a part of your company. We want to keep it in our names.
Overall, Kickstarter is a much more interactive way to fundraise. You’re not just backing the creator; you’re backing the creative idea you want to see in the world. You can pledge to something, regardless if you live in the city or not; it is a global platform.
RG: Is there any sort of project approval process for Kickstarter?
Yes. You need to be approved before it goes live on the site. They provide further support by allowing 2-3 awesome projects to be chosen as ‘Staff Picks’, in which Happy Cat Café was recently selected for! From this, our campaign went out a newsletter. We have gotten around $2,000 from people that are simply affiliated with Kickstarter, and because they think that it is a good idea.
RG: What other steps are involved to get Happy Cat Café up and running? If you don’t reach your fundraising goal, do you have any alternative plans to fall back on?
KP: Depends on how close we get to the goal. It’s kind of a way to test the market. The whole cat café concept has really only taken off in large cities; Grand Rapids would be the smallest city that opens a cat café.
We would definitely have to rethink the concept a little bit, but we are really passionate about the idea. I feel like we have such a great audience, but there is the possibility that Grand Rapids just isn’t ready for us.
One thing we may do is set up an online store where people can purchase t-shirts, cat bow ties, homemade cat toys, and such other things, that can help generate income to get our business off the ground.
RG: What is it that inspired you to develop this concept?
KP: To back things up a bit, I went to college for biology and my specialty was animal biology. Moreover, my family always had cats growing up and they were something we could all bond over. We all loved the humor surrounding their unique personalities, and it’s for good reason that they are the kings and queens of the Internet!
One of my other passions is social media marketing; therefore I wanted to use one of my skills to make one of my passions successful.
RG: Do you have any prospective shelters or rescue organizations that you plan on partnering with?
KP: We are currently working on a potential partnership with the West Michigan Humane Society, but we are willing to work with any shelter in any way we can. We plan to operate the café side for profit, and the ‘cat side’ for non-profit. What this means is that you can come into the café to buy your coffee, then donate $2 if you want to enter the room that houses the cats. That money, as well as the revenue accrued from adoption of the cats, would go back to the shelter.
RG: Why would Happy Cat Café make Grand Rapids a better place?
KP: Not only do cats have many scientifically proven health effects (that are positive), animals in general enrich our lives, and we want to be able to put a positive spin on the process of adopting them. Many people are apprehensive on visiting a shelter and we want to make pet adoption more approachable to them. Not only that, it’s sad to see the cats stressed out in their cages at the shelter. At the café they would be provided with a more home-like environment in which they get to interact with people and be socialized. The cats themselves are the salesmen in this scenario!
RG: Any last words?
KP: As we sit in Madcap Coffee, I can’t help but think to myself: “wouldn’t it be nice to have a cat sitting on my lap right now?” It might not be quite as productive, but how can you say no to that face? I hope that in the very near future you can stop by for a cup of coffee at Happy Cat and enjoy your company.

Jenna Morton is the RapidChat correspondent for Rapid Growth Media.
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