After experiencing the joys of a cat café overseas, Mike and Vicky decided to bring the concept to New Zealand. Despite encountering numerous challenges, two years ago the pair opened The Cat Lounge, the first cat café in the country. They spoke to us about the ways Plus has helped them on their journey.
Tell us a bit about your business and how you got started?
After seeing examples of cat cafes overseas in Tokyo we were excited to visit a local cat cafe, only to discover there weren’t any in NZ!
Now, I don’t like not getting my own way. So, we decided that if no one else was going to do it, we would step up and bring this exciting concept to NZ.
Between us we have business, banking, management and hospitality experience and we were confident we could pull it off, or at least give it a damn good try!
We've now been in business for over two years and have had numerous successes over that time.
What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered operating a small retail business in NZ?
There have been many, many challenges…
1. Being turned down for finance.
2. Reading in the food control laws at the time to discover that only one cat was allowed at any business premises, purely for pest control. However fortunately in 2015, changes were slowly happening in the background by MPI (Ministry of Primary Industries) in which meant we could do it.
3. Trying to design and launch a "first of its kind" in New Zealand with no one to turn to for help/advice.
4. Staff can also be a bit tricky to find for the limited hours we need them for. For example, as we work in the business ourselves, we need to hire staff just for the days we aren’t working, and it can be tough to find someone keen to work one to two days a week.
5. One of the hardest things we found was trying to get in to a site to actually do this. There was almost nothing that ticked all of our boxes. When we did find something that could work, the landlord wasn’t too keen on us moving in 20 cats.