Crowdfunding

For This Cat Cafe, Crowdfunding With Kickstarter 'Was Never About the Money'

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For the two lady entrepreneurs who launched New York City’s first permanent cat cafe, using Kickstarter was always part of the plan. But as sure as they were that they would raise money on the crowdfunding platform, they were equally sure that raising money wasn’t the point.

“We had both agreed that money wasn’t the end goal at all,” says Christina Ha, one of the co-founders of the Meow Parlour, which opened on Manhattan’s Lower East Side in mid-December. Like other cat cafes, Meow Parlour is a space where people can cozy up with a few feline friends.

Instead, Kickstarter was a way for Ha and her co-founder Emilie Legrand to get early adopters into the space to help them work out the operational kinks before opening to the public. The Meow Parlour works on a reservation basis, with guests able to book anywhere from half an hour to five hours at a time. The first Kickstarter donors were offered the chance to reserve a timeslot before the cafe officially opened -- a win for cat lovers in the city and an opportunity for the founding team to improve their processes ahead of their public launch. Ha and Legrand needed to get a sense of consumer behavior in a cat cafe. How long do customers stay? How do cats deal with people?

The crowdfunding campaign was also a way to make people aware that the cafe would soon be opening. Ha had learned about the marketing benefits of crowdfunding when she managed a campaign to raise money for the expansion of her Macaron Parlour to a second location in New York. “We went way past our Macaron Parlour audience to other people who wanted different kinds of rewards and ways to participate, even without having been a customer,” she says. That was invaluable.

The Kickstarter campaign for Meow Parlour hit its $2,000 goal in less than 24 hours, and went on to raise $6,500 total. Ha and Legrand had to go back and add more perks, once the pre-launch reservation spots were booked.

Watch this video, complete with adorable cats, to learn about the less obvious benefits of running a crowdfunding campaign and get some helpful hints on how to prepare for running a crowdfunding campaign.

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Edition: December 2016

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