With the launch of Crumbs & Whiskers LA, we decided to catch up with our founder about her journey from the original Crumbs & Whiskers Kickstarter to opening her second location in Los Angeles.
I’m the Founder of Crumbs & Whiskers, but I think a more appropriate title would be 'Chief Troublemaker' because of the things I get our company and myself into.
There’s no typical day - I just work with the areas of the business that need my attention the most. One day that could be interviewing new hires, the next it could be interior design, the next it could be plotting the future, and the next it could be cleaning smelly cat vomit.
The short version of the story behind Crumbs & Whiskers is that I’ve been an animal lover my entire life, and when I visited a cat café in Thailand, I knew immediately that this was what I wanted to do because it combined my love for animals with my love for art, design, and business. Being able start my own business and help animals?! YES PLEASE.
I'm most grateful for my Kickstarter backers because Crumbs & Whiskers wouldn't exist today if it wasn't for them. I've met a lot of our backers and they are such amazing and inspiring people.
If I had to describe myself in 3 words, I'd say spontaneous, creative, and adventurous.
The first thing I do every morning is write down my thoughts. I usually wake up mid-thought about a new idea I have for Crumbs & Whiskers…and it’s gone in an instant if I don’t immediately write it down.
My biggest "Is this real life?!" moment with Crumbs & Whiskers was a few days before we were opening our first location in DC – reservations to Crumbs & Whiskers had just gone live, and our entire system crashed. Not because there was a glitch in the system, but because so many people were trying to book that our reservations software couldn’t handle the volume. By the end of our first day in business, we had over 2,000 customers. I remember staring at my computer screen in complete disbelief and wondering how that happened.
I actually teach my team to treat every customer like they would treat their newest crush. If your crush walked into your place of work, wouldn’t you want them to be super impressed with you and have the best time ever?! I know it sounds like a super creepy customer service philosophy, but it totally works.
I’ve definitely been guilty of burning myself out. I just don't know when to stop. It's something I still struggle with everyday.
Usually when I’m feeling out of it, I travel. When I'm in a slump, I just need to explore someplace that operates in a totally different way than I’m used to. It’s incredibly inspiring, for me, simply to sit next to a waterfall in a forest or have a conversation and learn about someone else, somewhere else.
The best part about owning your own business is being able to make all the rules.
The hardest part for me is constantly making so many mistakes and being okay with that. I still beat myself up over every mistake, but I've now started thinking "Okay, how can I make the least costly mistakes possible?"
I read a lot, so the best advice I've ever received wasn’t technically given to me. But a few years ago, I read something from one of my favorite authors, Tim Ferris, that completely changed my life and the way I make decisions. He said, “Don’t ever choose unhappiness over uncertainty.”
My favorite thing about Crumbs & Whiskers is our social mission – that’s where the real magic is. I love that Crumbs & Whiskers gives shelter cats a better life and increases adoptions.
The secret to business - and life, relationships, and anything else really - is to never stop learning. Every time I've thought, "Oh I've got it all!" is when I've landed into deep trouble.
I think the best mistakes are the ones you let other people make, but that you get to learn from. I read a lot, so I’ve got a long list of others’ mistakes that I’ve taken to heart.
When Crumbs & Whiskers first opened, a big mistake we made was our seating capacity. It was way too high. For a space with 20 cats, we were seating 40 people, which is crazy to think about. That lead to a lot of brutally negative reviews, upset customers, logistical nightmares, and extremely stressed out cats. We did that for a couple months because I'm so stubborn and in all the craziness of things, I didn't realize that was our biggest problem...but then one day it hit me that most people visiting Crumbs & Whiskers were having a bad time. So we cut down the number of people we allowed in the space by half, raised our prices, and sent out personal notes to every customer in those last couple months with a heartfelt apology and an invitation to return to Crumbs & Whiskers completely free of charge. I really wanted to make it up to every single person who was disappointed in us.
In the last year, I've learned the importance of the "boring" stuff - things like business processes, logistics, protocols, training programs, company policies, company culture, employee feedback, etc. A business isn’t just about your product and marketing, which is the fun, exciting stuff – you have to also focus on operations, people, processes, reporting, efficiencies, and so much more. I honestly hate that stuff and wish I could only work on our product and marketing, but I've learned the importance of those things the hard way.
I have so many crazy cat stories. Once, while we were repairing our bathroom walls in our DC location, a cat snuck into the wall and got “stuck” there. Our entire team spent hours trying to get him out, but none of us could. We started freaking out and calling everyone – the fire department, animal control, police, my mom….everyone. No one could get this cat out and we were so terrified for the safety of the cat. Then, at around 11 PM, the cat just waltzed out of the wall….HE WAS NEVER STUCK. I’ll never forget that day.
A fun fact about me is that I'm actually allergic to cats and I hate coffee. And yes, I own a cat cafe...
My favorite thing to do is yoga.
If I could have a superpower, it would be never doubting myself and having rock solid faith in myself. In my opinion, being limitless in your beliefs about what you can achieve is a superpower. I struggle with self doubt and would love to have the ability to never doubt myself for even a second ever again.
If I could have a frivolous superpower, it would be the ability to stay young for as long as I want.
Right now, I'm most excited about the launch of Crumbs & Whiskers LA! This is what I love the most about entrepreneurship - creating cool new things that didn't exist before.