We can’t get enough of pudgy cats hanging out in boxes, following Grumpy Cat-types on Instagram or freaking out about a newly opened cat cafe that serves meow-carons. Sure, you’ve made it a (secret) part-time job to find the best cat videos and cat-themed gifts on the Internet, but can you really turn your passion of all things kitties into a full-fledged company? This week, in our How to Quit Your Day Job series, we chat with Dorian Wagner, a self-professed crazy cat lady who is proud of the moniker. Dorian recently launched CatLadyBox, a monthly subscription box service filled with cat-inspired goodies for both owners and cats. If you’re crazy about kitties, Dorian’s venture will inspire you to open your own feline-friendly business and create the dream job you’ve always wanted.
Meet the Cat Pro: Dorian Wagner
Dorian is a cat lover who dedicates her time to cat rescue, fundraising and posting cat videos on her long-running blog, Your Daily Cute. She runs Santa Paws Drive, an annual toy and treat drive for shelter animals, and oversees the Cute Transport Network, a Facebook group that helps kitties from shelters and rescue groups get forever homes. Dorian is passionate about helping felines find homes and embracing crazy cat-lady culture. In fact, she’s actually the official crazy cat lady, as deemed by the Internet.
Dorian came up with the idea for CatLadyBox while working full time as the director of marketing for an online travel company. She planned on working on CatLadyBox at night after she finished her day job, but soon realized that the demands of launching her passion project required more than just weeknights. “It was both terrifying and exciting to walk away from a very good job for something that was still relatively unsure, but it’s the best decision I’ve ever made, and I’ve never looked back,” says Dorian.
1. Rely on a strong support system. Through her many volunteer gigs and blogging, Dorian built a warm circle of supporters and friends for her business. When Dorian was first launching CatLadyBox, her cat-focused community was a source of tremendous encouragement. “I can’t express how incredible all of them have been and continue to be every day. You can’t overestimate the power of having people behind you,” says Dorian.
2. Buy goods from indie artisans. A fun aspect of Dorian’s job is curating a box of “stylish, cat-themed shirts, jewelry, accessories, art, home décor, books, mugs, stationery, exclusive products and much more” by scouring through Etsy, Instagram and Facebook for great products to feature. Dorian purchases items from artisans she’s met at trade shows or indie businesses who contact her directly. “We also work to create exclusive designs just for CatLadyBox. These are some of the most fun because this is the only place you can get these items!”
3. Provide great customer service. As a small business owner, Dorian knows that her customers are the life blood of CatLadyBox. She loves hearing from her customers, especially when they share pics of their furry friends. Taking care of customers “means going the extra mile sometimes, throwing in a little extra surprise when you can and being super responsive when people email.”
4. Embrace being your own boss. While Dorian admits that she works long hours, she cherishes the flexibility she has with running her own company. “I’m not tied to someone else’s cubicle or to the set hours someone else has decided I should work,” says Dorian.
5. Be inspired by your passions. “CatLadyBox was born out of my love for cats, my passion for cat rescue and my determination to change the way the world thinks of cat ladies,” says Dorian. At the end of a grueling 14-hour day, reconnecting with her reasons for starting the cat subscription-box company pushes her forward. “Things aren’t always going to go as planned. It may take a lot of creativity and a lot of scrambling and a lot of work, but if you care enough, it will all happen.”
6. Break down stereotypes. A common stereotype is that lonely women live with a horde of cats. CatLadyBox is a celebration of a woman’s love for her feline friend, just as Dorian intended. There are two levels of subscriptions: the regular CatLadyBox, with items just for the cat lady herself, and the Crazy CatLadyBox, which has items for the cat lady plus a couple items for her cats as well. The items are meant to be unique, “treat yourself” gifts. “My hope is that more people will adopt cats because they won’t be afraid of being labeled crazy, which will help save more cats lives. Thousands of cats are dying in shelters every day, and if we can get more people adopting them and realizing how great it is to have a cat (or a few!), then we can make a big difference in that number!”
Purrrr-rfect Your Skills
1. Volunteer With Cat Rescues and Shelters: Connecting to your love of cats, as Dorian can attest, can give you a much-needed boost when running your own cat-themed business. Visit VolunteerMatch.org, plug in your location, click Animals or search for “cat” and find tons of volunteer opportunities in your local area. Bonus: You’ll also get that warm and fuzzy feeling while caring for fuzzy felines. (Free)
2. Learn How to Run a Successful Subscription Business: Subscription School offers dozens of online guides, videos and webinars on how to start a subscription-based company. Topics covered include Building the Perfect Box: A Guide to Product Procurement, Four Best Practices for Facebook Page Management and Communicating With Customers — Dos and Don’ts. (Free)
3. Turn Your Talent into a Business in 12 Steps: If you’re like Dorian and have a natural passion in a particular niche community, take the time to learn how to transform that specific interest into a custom company. ($149 for an online class)
What career would you like to see covered next in our How to Quit Your Day Job series? Let us know in the comments!
(Photos via Stephanie Sonju/Sonju Photography)