Beginning the Design Process
It's all about research, research, and more research.
As a background to this post, I'm starting a new passion project and I wanted to take some time to lay out my process. Since this is something that I'm doing on my own time, I don't have to worry about deadlines or budgets or anything like that. I can simply enjoy myself and dive into my process and specifically research. For a while now, I've wanted to start my own business of a cat café. It's a really long term goal, I'm thinking 10+ years, but I figured I can start getting into the process now so that I'm fully prepared when I want to take the steps to become a business owner.
So to begin the process, I like to start looking at what's already out there. Where are these cat café's, why are they so popular, who goes to them? Some of these questions were easy to answer, some were not. There's not a lot of statistical analysis of cat cafés in the US or really even in other countries. No one is tracking who is coming in and playing with the cats or why, and if they are, they certainly aren't freely sharing that data.
Taking a quick look at what's already out there (this is just based on a handful of google searches), I can already see there's a lot going on. A lot of these cafés look like they rely on beautiful and unique interior design and the allure of cats to entice people into their shop. Their online presence relies heavily on social media, specifically Facebook and Instagram, and it can be difficult to get a real feel for the café without actually going. As for the branding, these are heavily photo centric designs. Some use clipart cats to further their brand and add a playful element, but generally most places rely on photographs of their cats. For the focus on photography, there's a surprising disconnect between the online presence of these shops and the in person experience of visiting a cat café. For example, look at KitTea. Their website uses a cute illustration on the home page with their logo. Everything is very blue. Now take a look at any of the picture of the interior of a café above. Can you guess which one is KitTea? The only indication of branding in the interior of the café is the logo on the window in the first picture.
The branding isn't consistent across all platforms.
That's thankfully something that's relatively easy to fix and something that I want to really focus on as I develop my brand. I want users to know what they're going to get when the visit the shop online and in person. Now that I had done a little bit of base market research, I like to get into the little details and ask the harder questions. What are some potential problems that cat cafés, specifically in the US, tend to have. The primary concern was the cats' comfort. Cats need a stable, comfortable environment with lots of room and they aren’t pack animals. They require daily maintenance and there is a slew of food safety and health concerns when have a cat café. All in all, this is pretty manageable stuff. I still decided to go ahead and get some more insight into my potential client base through an informal online survey. This was simply shared out through a variety of my own personal social medias including Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. I asked the standard age and gender questions and then started to get into more specific questions.
To begin with, I wanted to know what kind of pets my audience had and if any of them had been to a cat café. These questions help me narrow in on my users and help me separate data later. I also added in some more generic questions like, "Where do you go to find information on local attractions, restaurants, etc?" and "Do you purchase items other than drinks at a café such as mugs and travel mugs, food, stickers, etc?" to get a better feel for what my users like and how they get information on it. These questions will also help guide my business plan in the future since it helps me to determine if it's a good idea to sell extra merch on top of the experience of the cat café.
You can see from some of the numbers, I'm starting to get some solid trends and interesting splits in the data. For example, there's an even split on people who go to coffee shops all the time to sit and relax and people who only drink coffee at home. Similarly, while most people wouldn't avoid cat cafés at all, the main reason one would, is due to cleanliness concerns. These responses help guide not only my business plan, but also my branding. My users want a less expensive experience that they can sit down and enjoy. They aren't necessarily interested in additional expenses. For a survey to be successful, generally you need at least 5 participants. I'm currently at 13, but most are female so I'd like to have more. If you're interested, you can take the survey here, it takes just 2 minutes and you can contribute to helping me build a successful business!
So now that I've started to focus in on my audience, I can also start to build my business plan. I'm not an entrepreneur, so this is uncharted territory for me. I've started by laying out a basic model to help think about my customers, partners, revenue, and costs. But I'm anticipating I'll need to get more specific in this area further down the line. Currently, I'm focusing in my efforts of developing a brand. The beginnings of my target audience is beginning to look like females between the ages of 25-40 who either have a family or are freelancing/looking for a place to relax and work. Stay tuned for the next blog post where I'll go over my target audience, brand universe, user profiles, and the initial stages of developing an identity!
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