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Why we scrapped our jobs to launch a cat café

Thursday, 9 January 2014 | By Rose Powell

Anita Loughran was toiling away in an uninspiring job and her husband Myles was struggling to find full-time work when they decided they were ready to start out on their own and pursue their passion: to launch a cat café in Melbourne.

 

They’d come across the idea of cat cafés in Japan during their honeymoon earlier this year. Anita told StartupSmart that when they were discussing what they wanted to do with their lives, it was the idea that kept coming up. So they went for it.

 

“I was complaining about my job and Myles turned to me and said ‘Well, let’s just do something we actually want to do’, and then we both started grinning because we knew it was to open Australia’s first cat café,” Loughran says.

 

The biggest challenge getting the idea off the ground was convincing Melbourne City Council that they were serious about the idea.

 

“It took a lot of back and forth to show we were serious and trying to make them understand what a cat café is. Then there was about three months of negotiating to make it work,” Loughran says.
“It was very difficult, but eventually they worked out we weren’t crazy and we’re all curious to see how it turns out. It could get some tourism to Melbourne too.”

 

In order to comply with food safety regulations, the cats and the café will be in separate parts of the café. The cats will be rescue cats from animal shelters.

 

The Loughrans will begin hunting for premises of over 200 square metres in the Melbourne CBD next month. They will need to refurbish the space significantly to meet its new requirements.

 

“In traditional cat cafes, the cats are free to roam around. But ours will need to be separate; the idea with the cats is to raise awareness about shelter animals. Animals de-stress people but a lot of tenants can’t have pets, so this is a way for city dwellers to have a relationship with animals,” Loughran says.

 

The quirky and new nature of the idea has driven the Loughrans to try alternative ways of raising funds. They’ve launched a crowd funding campaign on platform indiegogo.

 

“We knew the cat cafes in London and Paris had struggled to get bank loans, and we didn’t think we’d be able to get one here. No one would take us seriously because of the project,” Loughran says.

 

They’ve raised just under $5,500 so far, 12% of their total goal of $45,000.

 

Loughran says with only 17 days to go, she’s not overwhelmingly confident they’ll raise it but they’re going to go ahead anyway.

 

“If our only shot was this campaign, I’d be terrified,” Loughran says. “But we can run other campaigns, approach banks and we have our own savings so we’re going to open regardless.”

 

She adds they plan to open in July, and they’re looking forward to introducing the idea to Australia.

 

“The most difficult thing so far has been the majority of people in Australia don’t know what a cat café is. It’s still becoming a thing worldwide, and we want Melbourne to be part of that.”

 

Loughran shares their plans for the cat café in the video below.