Welcome to Club Cat®

OUR TALE

Our evolutionary tale begins with a single helicopter cat parent whose needs weren’t being served by the existing pet services market.

Meet the human behind Club Cat!

Founder & Chief Cat Officer, Shana Martin.

Club Cat Franchising | Our Tale

 

How did you conjure Club Cat?

SM: I conceived Club Cat after many years of struggling to find a place to board my cats when on business or personal travel. The only options included putting them in a cage or enclosure. This just wasn’t acceptable to me. I wanted them to be in a big enough space that they had options for their various moods and personalities.

When I traveled, I had to rely on busy and therefore often unavailable neighbors and friends to come feed my cats. Professional pet sitters were completely out of the question because I didn’t feel comfortable with people I don’t know in my house when I wasn’t there. Besides, would they even remember my cats should the big earthquake hit? Or a nearby fire forcing evacuations? This was highly concerning given I live in Southern California where earthquakes and fires are not uncommon.

Everything changed one night while teaching a business course at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa. I showed my students a new series of videos about a doggy daycare that transformed the dog kenneling industry in 2000. All I could think about was how desperately Southern California needed a transformational experience for cats. I went home and wrote the business plan for Club Cat under the name “Kitty Oasis” and on business trips, I would visit different pet hotels to get ideas of what worked and what didn’t work for me. There were so few cat-only hotels across the country that it was clear that Southern California wasn’t the only region that desperately needed an amazing cat hotel like Club Cat. Virtually every city I visited had no appealing options!

 

Were you concerned there wasn’t going to be enough demand for luxury cat-only accommodations given there weren’t other luxury cat hotels like Club Cat on the market?

It turns out there is explosive demand for luxury cat-only accommodations! But at the time I was curious as to why there were so few cat-only pet boarding facilities that weren’t cat clinics. Let alone cat-only hotel franchises. I did some primary research and the demand seemed to be there. But I also know that there is a huge misperception when it comes to what cats really need in terms of care.

When I began to build Club Cat in earnest, I discovered groundbreaking research from that same year. A 2017 Oregon State University study revealed that domestic and shelter cats, when given the choice, overwhelmingly chose human interaction over food and other types of stimulation. With this and further studies since, the myth that leaving a cat for days on end provided they have an automatic feeder and a litter box is fine for kitty was debunked. Anyone who has come home after being away from their cat and has gotten the cold shoulder knows this!

Couple this research with the fact that cat parents are obsessed with their furry feline companions. The sheer volume of cat videos that go viral on social media each day affirms this truth. Cat parents, like dog parents, want the very best for their cats. Since we opened in March 2019, we have seen demand increase for cat-only accommodations even through the pandemic. This is truly a recession and pandemic proof business!

When did you dust off the business plan and make Club Cat a reality?

SM: In 2016, I left my brand marketing position at a large, multibillion dollar company in the pharmaceutical industry and went freelance in order to spend some more time with my kids. A close friend and fellow MBA alum from UC Irvine had recently left her management career with Disney and we were tossing around business ideas for fun. She and I had so many creative ideas! Oddly, none enticed me. It’s kind of like when you meet the right person. Why keep dating attractive prospects when you know exactly who you want to spend the rest of your life with? That is how I felt about Club Cat.

Did you always know you were an entrepreneur at heart?

SM: Oddly, I had absolutely no inkling that entrepreneurship was my true professional calling before I built Club Cat. But it totally made sense. I spent over 25 years in various business and management roles and while I learned a lot that helps me as a business owner, I never felt like I was truly fulfilled professionally. I yearned to feel that deep connection with my work that so many of my friends and family members felt with theirs. Fortunately, once I built our first Club Cat hotel, I finally knew entrepreneurship was my calling.

Why did you decide to expand through franchising Club Cat instead of owning and operating?

SM: I initially outright rejected the franchise model. My preconceived notion was that franchising my brand meant losing control over it. As a former professional marketer, I was not going to let that happen to the beloved brand I birthed and grew. Once we became operational, I realized how much of myself I pour into Club Cat’s first location in Irvine. After hearing from so many of our customers that we need to open a Club Cat closer to them (it is not uncommon for our customers to drive 2-3 hours to drop off their kitties at Club Cat), I realized that the best way to serve customers across the state and country was to offer franchise opportunities to people like me, helicopter cat parents, who desperately want to make a difference in the lives of other cat parents and their kitties.

Club Cat beat the odds and survived the pandemic as a brand new business. What is your advice to potential franchisees who are interested but concerned about events outside of their control?

Do your due diligence, take calculated risks, and trust your instincts. I did exactly that and while it was a scary time as a new business owner, I trusted that the market research I did over the years to build Club Cat would also sustain it. And it did!

The reality is that doing your homework is very important but you just can’t always plan for every scenario. A SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunity, threat) analysis is critical to every business plan but virtually nobody had “pandemic” listed under threats prior to 2020. I certainly didn’t. And yet, I opened Club Cat on March 1, 2019, exactly a year before the pandemic shut everything down around the world and continued to cripple travel for months thereafter.

Our first year was steady growth. By month four, we were in the black with our monthly spend. By March 1, 2020, our first birthday, all of our bookings cancelled due to life coming to a halt, especially in California where the strictest lockdowns were enforced. However, we increased our bookings each month after and our first and second year turned out to be very similar in terms of revenue. Come 2021 and our growth was exponential. And demand has not slowed down since.

The bottom line is that truly luxury cat-only accommodations will ALWAYS be in demand. It is an underserved market. Club Cat Franchising’s goal is to change that and meet that demand all over the United States and beyond. Finally, a place worthy of your feline!