In October of 2017, I found myself at a huge turning point in my life. I had made the decision to leave my job of four years and try consulting which my husband already been doing for the past 2 years. I landed a few projects to finish out 2017 and start 2018, but I had always been interested in having a business of my own as well. One evening, my husband was teasing the cats with a toy that I had made from the remains of the many destroyed cat toys they left in their path. After flinging it around for a bit, he looked at me and said “Where did we get this one? It’s really well made.” I replied back that I had made it and then proceeded to show him how I put it together. Then he asked me, “Why aren’t you selling these?” It was a valid question, the toy I had made was still looking brand new and both cats found it stimulating even though it had been introduced several months ago. With that one little comment, Cat Tail Toys was born.
In January of 2018, I spent hours walking around pet, craft and hardware stores waiting for creativity to strike. Finally, it did in the form of the Princess Fairy Wand, the Ribbon Teaser and the Old Ball and String. I stocked up on different colored materials, sawed my sticks down to size on my patio like a crazy person and started building a few sample toys. March 2018, I officially launched my website, sent an email announcement to everyone I knew and made social media posts to announce the products. I immediately got a positive response from my network, and ever a few orders! Shortly after I made my first visit to Houston's cat café, the El Gato Coffeehouse. I spent the afternoon testing out my toys on their resident cats and taking pictures. When I got home, I emailed the owner, asking if she would be interesting in carrying my toys in the meowchandise area. She graciously responded that the cats seemed to like my toys and she would be interested in giving them a try. With that I made my first wholesale order.
My next step was to prove mass market appeal. I started looking for conferences and conventions relating to pet products and stumbled across Pop Cats. Pop Cats was promoting their second annual conference in Austin, TX in late August. I signed up for a table and started working on my production plan. Having never experienced something like this before, I had no idea what to expect. I decided that I would take about 200 toys with me and decided if I sold 60 I would be thrilled.
On August 24, 2018, my mom and I drove from Houston to Austin with my car packed with toys. Once we arrived and my booth was set up I decided to walk around and meet the other vendors. After being cooped up in my guestroom making toys on a folding table for the past few months, I had almost convinced myself I was crazy for even trying this. Until I met the other Catrepreneurs. They were the most welcoming group of people! I suddenly felt like I had found my tribe. People who were as crazy about their cats as I was, and it only got better once the attendees started showing up. On Saturday, opening day, I remember being very nervous. This was it, I was either going to be a smashing success or a huge failure. As the doors opened, people started to filter in and browse the booths. Within the first five minutes, I made my first sale. Relief started to pour over as I sold another and another. By the afternoon, there were people wandering around the hall with my toys poking out of their bags happily bouncing around. I even had people seeking out my booth because they had seen other people with my toys. At one point I had a line with shoppers patiently waiting to purchase my creations. As an entrepreneur, there is no better feeling in the world than knowing people want to buy your products. By the end of the weekend the vases on my table were mostly empty. Upon returning home and taking inventory I realized I had sold 160 of the 180 toys I had taken with me. Blowing my 60 toy goal out of the water.
After Pop Cats, I basked in the glow of my success for a short time before I was back to the drawing board. Now that I had proven I could be successful, I needed to start mapping out my path for the rest of 2018 and into 2019. In December, successful found me again at Snow Cats in Denver where I sold all of the 80 Jester’s Hat, I had with me on day one and I was officially accepted to CatCon, the largest of all the cat conferences.
With 2019 off to a great start and the 1st anniversary of Cat Tail Toys just around the corner, I look back at what I have accomplished with awe. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would ever own a cat toy company, but perhaps I wasn’t dreaming wildly enough.