Are you thinking about opening a cat café? While the cafes are becoming more popular with entrepreneurs and those who frequent them, it takes time to go from a business idea to a grand opening. There are steps you’ll need to take to make it happen. However, we know you can do this if this is your dream!
Some of the steps below are easier than others, but all are necessary on the path to becoming a small business owner with your very own cat café.
The 10 Steps to Open a Cat Café
1. Build a Solid Business Plan
The first step to opening any business, not only a cat café, is creating a well-researched and thought-out business plan. This plan will become the foundation of your business model as it takes shape throughout future steps. It will also help you find funding, whether it’s through small business grants or bank loans designed for startups.
Any business plan will contain sections that are essential to your business and industry but, at the very least, will show that you’ve researched similar companies in the area for possible competition and what vital services you can provide to your community. This document will most likely be extensive and may be the most time-consuming step.
Possible sections within your business plan include:
2. Find a Great Location
Having the right business location is crucial to the success of your new business. For example, a cat café located in a primarily industrial area may not enjoy as many customers as one located near a busy mall or a college campus.
Because the location is so important, you should take as much time as needed to research nearby areas and what other businesses are thriving there. You may even want to work with a licensed commercial realtor who can assist with your search, even if you only plan on leasing the location.
3. Secure All Proper Permits
Every city and state will require permits for small businesses, and each type of business may need different licensing to operate. For example, a company that serves food will need a food service license, and you’ll need to ensure that all your staff is trained in proper food handling. Depending on your location, they may even need to take a class and secure a permit personally that you should keep on file should your cafe be inspected by the local health department.
4. Manage the Business Financials
You’ll need to set up a legal entity and register to collect and pay taxes. Business checking and credit card accounts allow you to operate separately from your personal accounts and reduce liability, especially for tax reasons.
Until you can afford to hire an experienced bookkeeper or accountant, you’ll need to learn how to manage the books yourself. Taking a Basic Bookkeeping & Accounting course through the Small Business Administration will give you the skills to manage the business’ income and expenses confidently.
5. Reach Out to Local Rescues
The goal of a cat café is to allow your customers to enjoy the companionship of the kitties in your care. Many pets are sent to or even born in shelters and rescues, and you would make the most impact in your community by working with these organizations or your local humane society.
If you choose not to adopt the kitties outright, you may opt for loaning them, then letting your customers know that the cats in your café are up for adoption. Even if a cat is never adopted, they still enjoy their life in your beautiful café instead of a shelter.
6. Care Plan for Your Cats
Whether you decide to adopt or foster the cats in your care, you’ll need to ensure they get the best care possible. This includes basic needs like good food, access to plenty of fresh water, and maintaining enough litter boxes for all cats that are cleaned several times daily.
You’ll also need to keep a trusted veterinarian on call to ensure all your cats are spayed or neutered and always up to date on their vaccines. You’ll want quick access to vet care if any cat needs care for an illness or injury.
Caring for your cats should also include strict “house rules” for your customers that are posted in several locations and are easy to see. Your staff should remind any customers about these rules should they violate them. Example rules include not picking up the cats or waking cats that are sleeping. If you allow children in your café, you’ll need to remind them not to chase or be rough with them.
7. Create a Delicious Menu
Since part of the reason your customers choose your business is because of the menu, you’ll need to create one that appeals to them. Essential menu items are a great place to start, but are there any seasonal or local favorites you should consider? Getting creative with unique items they can only get at your cat café is one way to ensure customers come back or invite their friends.
8. Set Up a Marketing Strategy
Any business needs a good marketing strategy. Creating a stunning website and social media profiles should be the first step, but how will you use those to carry your brand message to the right people? Marketing can be a full-time job all on its own, and you may think about outsourcing this to an agency or freelancer if you don’t already know someone who has a passion for it.
Here are a few things to consider when marketing your business:
9. Hire and Train Staff
You can’t run a business without people who know what they are doing. While you can train some staff, it will be easier to get going if some of those you hire already have some experience. This is especially true with management positions and baristas. Even just one experienced barista can help train the rest of your staff. Remember, you’ll need people to manage the counter, make the coffee or food items, manage the café, and keep the place clean.
10. Schedule a Grand Opening!
Once you’re ready to open your business, you want to make it exciting! Open for a short time to get some customers who can start spreading the word about your new business and your upcoming grand opening. Be sure to advertise that you’re open now, but there’s something big coming up. Your celebration can be a short event of just one day, or you can make it last a week. This is your party, and you worked hard to make it happen, so have fun with it!
There you have it—the essential steps to opening a cat café. Depending on your location or personal situation, you may run into some additional steps along the way. Still, the 10 crucial steps above will get you from your original idea to your grand opening celebration. We wish you the best of luck on your path to entrepreneurship!
Featured Image Credit: Phatthanun R, Shutterstock
- The 10 Steps to Open a Cat Café
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