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Scratchin’ Out a Cat Livin’

The story of Valencia-based Cat Livin is the classic story of entrepreneurism in America: A would-be businessperson sees a need in his or her own life for a product that doesn’t exist; fills that need with an improvised product; then, figuring there must be others in the same situation, takes the product to market. “There was definitely a lag time, however,” said Cat Livin creative director and co-founder, Angela Moser. “We had been using our climber for about eight years or so before we decided to start manufacturing them and selling an entire line of design-quality products to retailers and online to consumers.” Cat Livin designs and manufactures high-style (think Pottery Barn or Crate and Barrel) scratch-able furniture, toys and accessories for cats. “Dogs have everything,” Moser said. “Dogs have cool beds, cool collars, tons of toys and tons of other things, but unless you wanted fluffy, furry pink feathers or shag-carpeted condos, there was nothing for cats.” Moser is quick to qualify her complaint about the lack of diversity of products in the cat market as it relates to the ubiquitous shag-lined kitty condos, given the fact that her husband currently works for one of the largest makers of such products. “Not that there’s anything wrong with cat condos; they definitely have a market.” But, Moser said, there is also a market for high-end, modern, clean-line cat products. “Jeremy and I sat down and sketched out a design when we were renting our first condo,” Moser said. “It was small and we wanted something our cat could use to climb on and scratch that would be durable, but that would go with our modern, cutting-edge aesthetic. Then, we built it ourselves.” Jeremy is Jeremy Moser, co-founder and president of Cat Livin, as well as husband of Angela. Both Mosers have degrees in design, and share a love of contemporary, rich-in-texture interiors. “At every party, every get-together, friends would say, ‘I love the climber, you guys need to sell these,'” Moser saidduring an interview at the company’s headquarters, a two-story home that is decorated in a manner worthy of a two-designer residence. Cat Livin also has a warehouse in Wisconsin. Invested savings In 2007, the Mosers decided to heed the beckoning of their friends. Investing all of their savings, to the tune of $70,000, to buy inventory and establish marketing and distribution infrastructures, they founded Cat Livin. Sales growth has been building at a steady 100 percent in the two years since the company’s inception. More than half of the business comes from Internet sales direct to the consumer, while the rest comes via 200 retail boutiques in Southern California. “We’ve thought about selling to Pottery Barn or other large chains, and we may do that in the not-too-distant future, but right now we wouldn’t be able to mass produce on that level,” Moser said. To date, Cat Livin has had its products manufactured in China, but that’s about to change. “There’s a lot of hassle involved in working with the Chinese,” she said. “It’s almost impossible to do quality control for a company of our size. It may be different if you’re bigger and can be right there, but we’re switching over to a company in Van Nuys.” Moser said the new Van Nuys-based supplier may cost more on the front end, but what may appear to be an extra expense, could end up as a savings,or at least a wash. “There may be some truth in the idea that eliminating the hassle and the time spent dealing with the problems in China could actually cut out some unseen costs.” Moser said her biggest challenge at the moment is growing the company’s product line. The current line includes a door-hanging cat scratcher-and-climber (multi-perch, heavy-gauge sisal); ottoman (sisal-upholstered, with a discrete cat-den interior); wood-and-pillow cat bed; “The Wedge” cat scratcher (wooden with sisal inlay); “The Rat” stylized catnip cat toy); as well as “The Garden” stylized cat-grass feeder, and a handful of other products. “They’re good-looking products,” said Karena Martin, co-owner of The Urban Pet in Los Angeles. “It’s really hard to find great cat products, and we’re really excited to be selling Cat Livin’s climber here.” Flagship product The day we contacted Martin, she said The Urban Pet had set up a large, new display of Cat Livin products. “If I could have anything new from them, I would love to see a sleek new cat scratcher for the floor, in addition to the door-mounted climber,” she said. “We love their stuff.” Actually, Cat Livin’s flagship product, the one that started it all,”The Climber”,is about to undergo a major overhaul. “Instead of being covered with the sisal, it will be a wood-type design with sisal inlaid, and even more modern looking than the current model,” Moser said. “That’s the fun part of this,getting to sit down and come up with new designs, and I have so many ideas floating around in my head. Plus, it’s the pet industry, which is known for its friendliness and fun atmosphere.” According to Moser, the pet industry has not been as hard-hit as most others during the recession. “We’re at a crossroads at the moment,” Moser said. “Our product line is growing and we’re changing suppliers to a domestic source; and we’re really confident about future growth.” If the right company wanted to buy Cat Livin, Moser said she and her husband would probably sell at the moment. “I’d want to stay on as a creative director or in a similar capacity; but I’d rather just find someone who wanted to invest.” SPOTLIGHT: Cat Livin Year Founded: 2007 Start up Capital: $70,000 Revenues in 2008: (first full year in business) $92,000 Employees in 2008: 2

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