Anyone who has ever loved a cat knows that those badass mini lions are bossy, cuddly, unpredictable and the OGs of side eye. Whether you’re the owner of an adventure cat who can hike better than most people or your love of black cats is strong beyond Halloween, you totally embrace your crazy cat-lady lifestyle. Some #girlbosses have turned their feline fancy into full-time jobs, like Dorian Wagner who runs CatLadyBox, a subscription box for discerning cat ladies. In this week’s How to Quit Your Day Job series, we chat with Deena Malkina, the CEO of KitNipBox, a subscription service for the cats themselves. Deena shares how she made a career switch to a purr-fect dream job.
Meet the Cat Company Pro: Deena Malkina
A graduate of Harvard Business School, Deena had a career working in product management at different tech companies such as Symantec and MarkLogic. The skills she learned while on the job and at school gave her a fantastic foundation to jumpstart her dream company, KitNipBox. The monthly subscription service company delivers high-quality cat toys, treats and other goodies. Plus, the cardboard box is also a great bed/toy/scratching post for Garfield. She combines her love for felines with her business acumen for a fun day job that involves scouting out the best products for finicky kitties and working at cat cafes with her KitNipBox team.
Tips for Getting Started
1. Find your market. Deena and her team recognized that BarkBox, a dog-focused subscription service, was a great innovation in the pet space. “We saw a tremendous market opportunity due to the fact that cat owners have historically been underserved,” says Deena. The KitNipBox team knew that cat fanatics were just as great in number as dog owners, so they decided to try a pilot program of monthly cat goodies. Ever since the launch in 2013, customers have been so excited to have the service. “Customers have been asking us where we’ve been all their lives ever since.” (Photo via @smoothiethecat)
2. Vet for your pets. Finding the right products to deliver to her devoted customers isn’t easy. The vetting process for a product to make it in the box is rigorous. Less than one percent of items that the team tests out actually end up in cat houses. “We do meticulous research and analysis of each and every item we select to ensure it has overwhelmingly positive reviews and a proven track record of quality and safety,” says Deena. (Photo via @cola_thecat)
3. Kitty up. Before Deena launched KitNipBox, she cut back and simplified her own lifestyle so she could save money for the new venture. She also made sure that she could support herself financially when she’d have a few months without new income. “Build up some savings to get you through the initial startup phase,” suggests Deena. That way, you’ll feel more secure about changing career paths if you know that you’ve got a kitty of money to rely on while you work on your passion project.
4. Play like a cat. Deena loves working with her team whether they head to cat cafes or bust out of escape-the-room challenges together. Having a blast as a team, recognizing the strengths of each employee at KitNipBox and watching her team grow in their respective roles has been so rewarding for the CEO. (Photo via @mausi.meow)
5. Give back. Every month, KitNipBox donates a portion of its proceeds to different animal welfare organizations, such as the San Francisco SPCA, Brooklyn Animal Action and Animal Care and Control of NYC. By supporting more than 100 animal causes like trap and neuter programs, shelters and small rescue groups, Deena and her team align their company’s focus on cats with giving back to those in need.
6. Take a calculated leap. Before quitting your steady paycheck, set up some systems before jumping into something brand new. “Start out with smaller experiments to prove your concept before quitting your day job,” says Deena. Remember it’s okay to take your time and build your way to your business before giving it a go.
7. Revel in your success. Starting your own biz comes with a lot of hard work, pluck, determination and passion, but when you hit major milestones, you should revel in the awesome things you’ve achieved. “Every time we ship our monthly boxes, we love seeing excited customer photos and videos. We sold out of our co-branded holiday box with Reddit in 80 minutes. Within just one year of operations, we became profitable,” says Deena. Take a moment to celebrate your work, then get back to hustling.
Purr-fect Your Skills
1. Learn How to Run a Successful Subscription Business (Free): 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.
2. Money Management for Your Small Business ($29): Get strategic tips from financial coach Shanna Skidmore. She’ll walk you through how to manage and track your monthly expenses, understand the numbers of your business and give you money management advice to make tax day a breeze. (Photo via Brit + Co)
3. Volunteer With Cat Rescues and Shelters (Free): Connecting with your love of cats, as Deena 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.
What’s your dream career? Tweet us @BritandCo to let us know, and we could feature it in the next column!
(Photos via KitNipBox)