Chris Raimo is co-founder and CEO of Happy Cat Hotel Franchising Incorporated. Eleven years ago, Chris left the restaurant and construction industries to make his own luck in animal care. Chris and his wife started a dog walking company that has since served over 2,400 families and currently employs 25 people. That experience led to the conception and development of the Happy Cat Hotel in 2014, which is now an emerging franchise. For more information, please visit the Happy Cat Hotel website here.
1. You are the owner and founder of the Happy Cat Hotel & Spa. What can you tell us about it?
The Happy Cat Hotel is a luxury cat hotel and grooming spa with feline exclusive retail space. Each cat gets his or her own hotel room, of which we have 3 different sizes, and each is individually themed—“Weekend in Purris, “Uncity Kitty”, and “Mew Orleans” just to name a few. Regardless of its size, each room features climbing apparatuses, burrows, perches, windows that look into the other rooms and the rest of the facility, as well as full panel glass doors for a bright, open environment. But big, fun rooms are just the beginning. The true goal is to create an environment away from home that will stimulate and enrich each cat so that it can more quickly and successfully acclimate to its environment. Not only are the rooms engineered to stimulate our guests, but our approach from A-Z is designed to enrich them as well. Our kitty concierge’s sole responsibility is to see to our guests’ comfort, rotating throughout the day and interacting with the cats at their tolerance level—whether young and spry and on the hunt for laser dots or elderly and lazy and appreciative of some quiet time with soft petting. We adapt the care program to suit them.
Because this is such a unique concept, we don’t want the kitty parents to miss out on the fun, so we provide a full spectrum experience for the cat owners as well. Hotel tours, online bookings, amenities upgrades, webcams, and daily picture text updates are among the services we’ve implemented to take care of our clients even during peak seasons.
2. What makes the Happy Cat Hotel & Spa unique from other boarding facilities? How is the Hotel “disrupting the CATus quo?”
Short of your here-and-there local “cattery” there is nothing quite like The Happy Cat Hotel. The majority of the pet industry’s marketing up to this point has been directed toward dogs, and while there may have been a time when that made sense, we were not convinced it still does. The cat-owning population has grown in the last 10 years, and the level of enthusiasm for felines has increased dramatically. Cat veterinarian, product, service, and breeding expenditures have all increased since 2008. Even YouTube cat video addiction dominates its canine counterpart!
I don’t think our success has been about seeking out a small niche of people who might find our services appealing, but rather validating the pet preferences of a large group. By creating the Happy Cat Hotel & Spa culture and experience, we are saying, “YES it’s okay and very important that you desire enrichment for your cat! Let us validate your concerns!”
For us, we “disrupt” the catus quo by doing the following every day:
Deliver the best experience imaginable
Innovate to make the system better
Sacrifice a bit of yourself
Resolve issues as they arise
Understand your customer
Prepare every day for the next
Teach but don’t preach
3. What have you learned from opening the Happy Cat Hotel and how has it influenced your plans for the future?
Not only has our hypothesis that cat owners want cat-focused care been proven, but it has been validated everywhere we have presented the concept—online, through colleagues, at conferences, at business networking events, and of course, through our customers. As a result, our expertise was in such high demand we decided to franchise the concept. Our systems and processes were already developed as part of the local unit experience, so we were already halfway to the goal. Now that we are officially an emerging franchise, the demand for units has surpassed our development pace. We have about 3 months of franchise development details to implement before awarding a unit, and we already have about 100 soft queries with 20 hard applications in the pipeline. This journey is proving to everyone that cats are where it’s at!