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Adopting a Cat to Scaling to 7+ Figures in Revenue Selling Cat Backpacks
Emily Miethner is the Co-founder of Your Cat Backpack, a direct-to-consumer and wholesale pet product company specializing in travel products for cats. As a serial entrepreneur, she is also the CEO and Founder of both FindSpark, a community for employers to connect with young professionals, and MCG Social, an advertising company focused on helping brands grow their businesses through social media. Emily’s most recent venture was flipping a house in the Catskills.
Emily graduated from Hofstra University with a bachelor’s degree in design. She is an Adjunct Professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology and the School of Visual Arts and has been a featured speaker for multiple events, conferences, and universities, including The International Youth Leaders Assembly at The United Nations, SXSW Interactive, Columbia University, and more.
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
- [01:54] Emily Miethner talks about building a brand centered around travel accessories for cats
- [08:08] How listening to consumer feedback can help you enhance your products
- [12:41] The key to using pay-per-click advertisements to increase profitability
- [18:46] Emily discusses hosting virtual events and panels at cat conventions to increase community outreach
- [23:11] How promotions and bundles can elevate new products
- [26:55] Emily details growing her social media and highlighting products through user-generated content
- [32:49] How does Emily balance the demands of product development?
- [40:24] Ways to build a sustainable e-commerce brand
In this episode…
To build a great brand, consumer feedback and audience engagement are crucial. How can you create a better brand and a better product? Is it possible to connect and build a virtual community centered around your products?
The cat’s out of the bag: growing your brand and product means optimizing your system processes and putting your audience first. However, many entrepreneurs enter their brand ready to cut corners, unaware that longevity comes from cultivating relationships. Emily Miethner is a connoisseur of cat enrichment products and recommends that you prepare your business by putting in the time and effort to create remarkable products that meet the needs of your customers. Be the cat that got the cream, and listen to this episode as Emily shares her insights with you!
In this episode of the Quiet Light Podcast, Joe Valley sits down with Emily Miethner, Co-founder of Your Cat Backpack, to discuss how to create better brand awareness and fan-favorite products. Emily talks about curating products based on consumer feedback, promoting your brand and connecting with your audience through virtual events, and creating products that enhance the lives of pets and their parents everywhere.
Resources Mentioned in this episode
- Emily Miethner on LinkedIn
- Your Cat Backpack by Travel Cat
- Travel Cat Virtual Summit
- Travel Cat on Instagram
- Quiet Light
- Quiet Light on YouTube
- Joe Valley
- Mark Daoust
- Quiet Light Podcast email: [email protected]
- The EXITpreneur’s Playbook: How to Sell Your Online Business for Top Dollar by Reverse Engineering Your Pathway to Success by Joe Valley
- Enventys Partners
Sponsor for this episode
This episode is brought to you by Quiet Light, a brokerage firm that wants to help you successfully sell your online business.
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Hi folks. It’s the Quiet Light Podcast where we share relentlessly honest insights, actionable tips, and entrepreneurial stories that will help founders identify and reach their goals.
Joe Valley 0:29
Hey folks, Joe Valley here with Quiet Light. Thanks again for joining us for another episode of the Quiet Light Podcast today we have an e-commerce entrepreneur, doing some I can’t even pronounce the word entrepreneur today. Oh boy, this is gonna be a rough podcast, folks. Because you know, I don’t edit. You’re gonna hear all my stumbles and falls and mistakes and goose. So we’re gonna have some fun. We’ve got an entrepreneur that’s done some pretty incredible things with cats and accessories for cats and communities for cats. And, you know, taking cats for walks and traveling with cats, all these things that I didn’t know you could do. She’s also a public speaker. She’s been on stage across the country. Lots of very interesting stuff here. Her name is Emily Miethner. Emily, welcome to the Quiet Light Podcast.
Emily Miethner 1:16
Thanks so much for having me.
Joe Valley 1:18
All right. So my podcast booking firm, pamper them Mitko introduced you to me. And the opening line says, Emily is an energetic serial entrepreneur with a fancy story on how they became the number one cat travel brand in the world. What does that mean, fancy story?
Emily Miethner 1:40
That’s a great word. I mean, I think we have an interesting story, for sure. Well, I like I said, very happy to be here, big fan of the podcasts that listen to a bunch before being on as a guest. So very exciting. So I started travel cat with my husband, actually. And as mentioned, we’re actually both entrepreneurs, serial entrepreneurs. And we were inspired to start the company, after we rescued a kitten on a whim. Neither of us had ever been cat owners before, although I have had a lot of pets growing up. And we never discussed getting any sort of pet, let alone a cat. And so in our journeys to quickly become the best cat parents that we could, we realized a couple of key things. One is that, you know, a lot of people told us, you know, you’re busy, but cats are easy, you know, they sleep all day, you know, you don’t have to take them out for walks like it’s just, it’s easy, right? And what we found, though, is that really actually to raise a happy and healthy cat, they do need a lot of interaction and stimulation and enrichment. They don’t just sleep all day. And the second thing we found is that there really weren’t and still are not a lot of brands dedicated to cats, specifically, that cats really in the pet world are sort of second class citizens to dog dogs. And yes, yes. So you know, with, again, our entrepreneurial backgrounds, we decided to start travel cat and to create and sell products that make it possible to travel and go outside with your cat safely as a way to give your cat extra stimulation and enrichment. And also to just create a better and less stressful experience when you need to travel with your cat like going to the vet or moving or you know, going to visit folks. So our number one product is our fat cat backpack, which holds up to 25 pounds of cat. We also sell cat harnesses and a bunch of other cat accessories as we grow our line to ultimately have, you know, provide anything you may need to go outside with your cat.
Joe Valley 3:57
Alright, let me jump in and just sort of jumped to the punch line for those folks that are going. Okay, so what Who the hell buys a backpack for the cat who takes her cat for walks all of this stuff? Let me just say that they have done multiple millions in revenue. Emily and her husband. They’ve sold in 75 different countries. And they’ve sold more than two more than 50,000 customers. So now you want to start listening. Pay attention to this because what you’ve done Emily’s pretty impressive you’ve created something new all together, right? What were their cat specific backpacks prior to you and your husband coming along to solve a problem that you personally had?
Emily Miethner 4:45
Not really and certainly not a brand like we’ve built you know, you can look on Amazon and you can buy cheap backpacks you know, cat backpacks or you know, results that come up when you search cat backpacks. You But but none of them have a brand like we do. And that’s been a huge part of our of our success. And our really insane growth is that we’ve taken ownership of leading the charge of this white space of helping people realize, like you mentioned yourself, you’d never heard of this before, that you can actually take your cat out on a harness and a leash, you know, or in a backpack as a way to get them mental and physical exercise, essentially. And it’s certainly not the same as taking a dog out. And we don’t claim it to be. But we have put in a lot of time and effort and resources and resources into creating resources and programming to make sure that people realize that this is possible and how to go about doing it successfully.
Joe Valley 5:48
Yeah, and that is your community that you’re talking about. And I want to get to that in a few minutes. Because what you’re done with your community, and virtual events that you’ve done with cat owners is just insane to me that you’re hitting it out of the ballpark the way that you are in building that community. And then the offshoot of revenues from it’s just incredible. Take us back though to when you first created this product came up with this idea. Tell us about the first iteration of the bat, the cat backpack? And what what it was made of? Did you rip up an LNB? llbean? backpack and and modify it? How did you come up with the first variation of it?
Emily Miethner 6:24
Yeah, so our lines started off really small. And we still feel like it’s pretty small. I believe at this point, we have about 20 products 2025. And product growth is a big thing that we’re working on this year. But yeah, when we started off, it was really one main backpack that we focused on that fat cat backpack. And you know, right off the bat, we, you know, found you know, we didn’t invent the cat bubble backpack, but we definitely have the most high quality premium ones. So you know, right from the bat, we knew we wanted to Yeah, just make it really safe, secure, fun. And also, you know, again, something that we’re doing is just, you know, even having the name travel cat, it shows people right off the bat, this is for cats, this is you know, we have the only cat backpack and harness on the market that you know, has the word cat on it, in addition to a little cat icon within our logo, you know, so that’s something that you know, we just really committed to always be for cat people, like we get asked all the time, oh, are you going to expand into dogs? Can you put a dog in here? And our answer is, you can’t Yes, you can put a dog and other pets in this backpack. But it’s you know, everything we do is meant to be around cats. So the backpack was first
Joe Valley 7:43
the dog who feels silly because it’s in a cat backpack, right? And it’s got a cat logo on it. It’s like putting a little Oh, yeah, girls dress, they’ll feel silly. I
Emily Miethner 7:50
mean, I you know, the cat people are used to that, right, like how people are used to sort of retrofitting things or again, you know, pet you know, there are there brands that have the word pet, but they’re not specifically for cat. So our backpack, that fat cat backpack was our first then we you know, we have other products that we’ve created completely from scratch. One that we can’t keep in stock is called the navigator cat backpack, we, you know, developed that with a lot of feedback from people who are doing more than just, you know, sort of a walk around the park really meant for more serious hikers, it’s got a lot, it’s very feature rich, high quality. And, and we have a travel litter box, in addition to the harnesses. And we also have created more and more products that you can just use around the house as well like cat beds, but they all have some sort of collapsible, foldable element to them so that they’re good for for instance, if you’re going on a road trip, and you need to pack some beds for your cat, you don’t want them to take up a lot of space, they you know, collapse down or they fold up and then they’re easy to put out, say in a hotel room or an Airbnb, so everything has some sort of, you know, travel element to it.
Joe Valley 9:03
And how long ago was it that you first launched the initial backpack?
Emily Miethner 9:09
The end of 2017,
Joe Valley 9:11
the end of 2017. So 1819 This is a well aged business at this point. How long did you run with just one or two or three skews before you started expanding? Ah,
Emily Miethner 9:23
you know, it took it took a maybe half a year to realize like Oh, of course you should be selling harnesses as well. You know what an obvious next step. And through there we’ve added products pretty thoughtfully and slowly. I you know, I would say and, you know, but now this year as we’ve really solidified our marketing and a lot of systems and operations, product development is a huge part of our growth plan. So for instance, we have a product coming out this month called the trans parameter. We really embrace the cat puns. I And then that is a more a more sort of common type of carrier, that you can say take on an airline, it’s one that people are more used to seeing. So we are, you know, making more products like that, that we hope will have, you know, a wider, more broad appeal. But again, it’s very feature rich, it’s developed as a lot of requests from people. We’re calling it the ultimate common carrier. So it has a lot of features that make it easy to get the cat in and out. And it also has four different ways that the human can carry it from over the suitcase, backpack. handlebar or, you know, crossbody so yeah, developing more products that have a bit more broad appeal is a part of our growth plan as well.
Joe Valley 10:43
Do you have any products that are consumables in any way in your growth plans?
Emily Miethner 10:48
Not yet. But we are developing more and more harness styles and patterns. So that’s not consumable. But it is the idea of, you know, giving people something new and interesting to come back to and to always keep checking for so our harnesses sell for between 25 and 30. And people sort of almost see those as clothes and away at class. If they’re buying, you know, an extra small, you can assume at some point, they’re going to size up to at least a small. So we develop, we’ve been developing more and more limited edition drops and styles. So for instance, our most popular Limited Edition right now is called the 90s. Cat. And it’s got sort of like a saved by the bell pattern to it. So that’s, that’s something we’ve been doing to just, you know, keep keep keep customers coming back. Because, you know, our products should last forever, you know, so Exactly, we’re
Joe Valley 11:43
Yeah, exactly. And your plan will be to eventually exit someday. Right? I think we discussed this a little bit. So I asked about the consumables because the valuations in the dog space, when it comes to consumables, whether it’s a shampoo a supplement or food are absolutely insane. I don’t know if it’s the equivalent in the in the cat space. Just simply I’m assuming that the dog market is much larger than the cat market. Is that accurate or not?
Emily Miethner 12:12
Cats are actually growing more quickly than dogs. All right. All right. So yes,
Joe Valley 12:17
someday, you know, look at those consumables, ingestibles, topicals, anything. And if anybody listening has some expertise in this space, definitely reach out to Emily. All right, back to the marketing aspect of it when you first launched this. Did you go the typical? Well, Amazon’s low hanging fruit? Let me try it there first, or did you open up your own website?
Emily Miethner 12:41
We started with our own brand. So we only got into Amazon about a couple of years ago. And we’ve been very strategic with it, we actually price our products a tad bit higher on Amazon. So you know, but of course, we didn’t want to miss out on that channel opportunity. But yeah, we launched with our own brand and really started by focusing on organic social media and community building and Google Google ads, were really the first two things to kick off, you know, building up our customer base.
Joe Valley 13:15
So you were doing pay per click in the pet space, specifically cat space, did you have just incredible margins with your product to make that work? Because I can’t imagine it’s cheap to do pay per click in the pet space.
Emily Miethner 13:29
Well, we were targeting some pretty specific keywords. So that you know, that was a big part of the success but but we have always had very good margins. We have always been profitable. That’s something we’re very proud of we’ve and we’ve never taken any sort of outside investment money we’ve gotten financing through things like we actually got Shopify financing in the very beginning when we needed when we first got to the point of needing money to buy more inventory and we’ve gotten some local loans we’re based in New York and so we found some really good loan programs for just regular loans and also purchase order loans which have worked out very well for us so we have gotten financing but no outside are no no investors. So we have you know, full ownership of our company and profitability as we grow continues to be a huge priority.
Joe Valley 14:23
Did this start out as a side hustle for you and your husband? I mean, did you or do you were both entrepreneurs before had other roles where there was money coming into the household? Is this the the main financial revenue generator for you guys as a couple?
Emily Miethner 14:40
It is now one of them. Yeah, it pretty much it is now. It didn’t start that way. You know, I wouldn’t necessarily call this side hustle when we started it since we did you know, have the intention of you know, starting it with that, you know, right, hoping it would grow and have a lot of success. I don’t think we thought it would see this much success. Yeah. So that that was, you know, a nice surprise. But as it has continued to grow, we’ve, you know, put more and more efforts into it. And we do have a team now, you know, it’s not just my husband. So I
Joe Valley 15:11
applaud you for going the Shopify route. Because when you own the customer, it’s going to be a more valuable business when you eventually exit. But it took you almost three years before you decided to sell on Amazon. Are you comfortable sharing now, after two years, what the revenue split is, you know, 50%, Shopify, 50%, to Amazon, or is it vastly different than that?
Emily Miethner 15:36
It’s vastly different than its, it’s much more owns. Amazon might be 15 to 20%, or something like that. Don’t quote me on that. But we’re still definitely very much majority direct to consumer. And another part of our growth strategy this year is we are focusing and really committing more to also retail and wholesale channels, which we dabbled in a bit before prior to COVID took a pause because of COVID, as you can imagine, but now we’re back in the game and have some better systems set up for to get into more retail pet stores across the country and internationally as well. Because we, you know, you mentioned we have sold to over 75 countries directly. And we know that, you know, if we could get our product into distributors or chains in other countries, that that would be really exciting for us, because we know there’s a lot of folks who probably don’t want to pay the $35 shipping that we currently charge to ship outside the US is that one of
Joe Valley 16:41
the reasons why it’s slow to grow on Amazon is because the shipping charge for the big backpacks. Um, you know, I
Emily Miethner 16:48
think it’s just that hasn’t been one of the things it hasn’t been our main focus. So you know, we have grown it a bit though we started off, started off with ourselves running it ourselves, and then we moved over to an Amazon agency to help us really grow it because we weren’t really putting the effort in that it needed. And so we we recently actually took it back in house. So you know, we felt that we knew enough at that point where we would do better to, you know, hire contractors, you know, on our own team to manage that.
Joe Valley 17:20
So which segment is growing faster? The Amazon side or the Shopify side? Shop by side? Okay, this is. So this is really the opposite of what everybody else in e-commerce is finding. They’re finding that their Amazon side is growing so much faster than their own direct to consumer website. The reason for this in your situation has got to be the community side of things. Is that probably what’s generating that growth there. Yeah, absolutely. All right, let’s just yeah, let’s just, let’s just jump into this, folks, I gotta tell you that in the pre podcast interview, we chatted about her community, and she said she just put on a virtual event for cat owners, and had was it 700 people attend the virtual
Emily Miethner 18:12
event? That is correct. It was a virtual Summit, a virtual summit
Joe Valley 18:17
for cat owners 700 People think about all of the e-commerce events that you listeners have been to, and where 700 people didn’t show up, maybe 70 showed up or seven. In some cases. I think this is just incredible. So you just met must have an incredible community. So tell us how you started building the community and what what it means to be, you know, community in this situation.
Emily Miethner 18:46
So we always put a lot of effort into just connecting with real people who are using our products or maybe not using our products yet, but we’re going outside with their cats, right? So we recognize that this is still a very new thing that a lot of people don’t realize is possible. And so we really wanted to get to know the community super well. And one of the biggest places that we’ve done that is on Instagram. So you know like to say there’s no cat parks ready for cat people to meet each other like dog owners can. But I consider Instagram sort of the the cat park because a lot of cat people have Instagram accounts for their cats and take them very seriously and just love connecting with other cat owners, especially other cat owners who are taking their cats out in backpacks or Unharness harnesses and leashes so we actually even before COVID We started to go to Cat conventions and to sell our products in person. And after I started to do that a couple of times my new strategy was whenever we were going to go to a cat convention we were going to also host a panel where we would have people from our community share their tips on how to go out with their cat. So we actually did that once in Seattle before COVID happened. And so once COVID happened and all the cat conventions, you know, were canceled. We did two virtual cat conventions, and then I thought, you know, let’s just do our own. So my background is in events, and I’ve been pretty saying in person and virtual events for over 12 years. So we started to test the waters with hosting our own kind of webinar style events. But also, we never did it as just, you know, a presentation with slides. But we always did it. As part of the event, we had breakout groups where we had hosts that we recruited from our community run breakout groups, which, you know, ended up with between being between, you know, 1020, people who just be, you know, hanging out on the zooms, they could all see each other and just ask questions, and discuss and share and chat. So we tested the waters with about five different virtual events where it was just single topic, you know, one hour, and after looking back, and you know, sort of analyzing attendance and the feedback from attendees, we thought, Alright, this spring, instead of hosting, you know, multiple small events. So it was a big blowout event, let’s host travel cat Summit. And so we wanted to do something where it was a sort of conference style event where people could choose specific topics, like how to travel in cars, how to go hiking, how to train older cats, and we recruited a lot of people. So we had over 30 speakers hosting these different topics. And something else that I wanted to do to make it bigger and more exciting is partner with other cat brands. So I mentioned, you know, there aren’t a lot of brands out there that really focus on cats, but the ones that are out there I’ve really tried to form relationships with and we’ve done, you know, joint giveaways and things like that. So reached out to some of my favorite other cat brands to get involved with by sharing the event with their communities, and also offering up prizes and gifts for our speakers and attendees. And all worked out really well, you know, we had a goal of 1000 RSVPs. And that goal was double the highest RSVP we had gotten at a previous event. So 500 was the most we had ever gotten to that point. And we ended up with 1700 RSVPs. And over 700 people actually attended, and we did have some tech issues. So I’m actually pretty confident it would have been closer to 800, if not for those tech issues, but we were extremely happy with the program. And it was pretty minimal cost in terms of you know, hard costs to produce the event. And we made at least last time I checked about 15 grand, you know, just off of direct campaigns related to promotion of the event. So you know, it’s it was by far exceeded our expectations. And always so you
Joe Valley 23:03
were people were you were selling products, you were giving them discount coupons to buy different products throughout the event as well.
Emily Miethner 23:10
Yeah, so we wanted to do some exciting things to add incentive for people to purchase, you know, before, during and after the event. So one thing we did is we created a custom tote bag, that was one of the things we spent money on. And then we got freebie items from the partners in the tote bag. And anybody who registered could get the tote bag free with any purchase. So we were able to tie you know, a lot of purchases to that promotion. And then we also made a hidden exclusive event only set of bundles like discounted product bundles. So we created these bundles that you couldn’t find anywhere else. And that were, you know, a good good discount. We used it as a way to push a lot of some of our newer products that we wanted to just sort of get out there. So you know, we did, we didn’t, yeah, we did sort of I was gonna say we didn’t do a lot of hard selling, we sort of did, but we were like making it exciting. Like here’s this exclusive bundles, this exclusive tote bag, you know, order quickly before they sell out, you know,
Joe Valley 24:14
the attendees didn’t feel like it was an event for you to just sell products. It sounds like that was a very minimal thing. You only sell $15,000 worth of product to 700 people. So the upside to the event is just solidifying your community so that you’re constantly top of name for them. I was so and you launch when you launch new products. Where do you go to first?
Emily Miethner 24:41
Well, yeah, actually, that’s another thing that we did. So I mentioned that transporter products. So we actually launched that transporter at the events. And so we took the opportunity at the event to show the product and talk about the new features and basically demo it and we put that product on that secret collection and said you You have first dibs, we only ordered 250. The first batch of these, we only have 250 of which is true. So you know, you get first dibs on that. And, you know, we sold a bunch that have that particular product, as well as sort of a soft launch. And we did have a session during each time time break that was called like travel cap product q&a. But even during that set of those sessions, it was led by community members and people who have gotten a lot of our products because we sent we do send a lot of free products to certain influencers in our community. So they were also sharing tips, you know, throughout the events, there’s a little bit of or throughout those sessions. So it’s kind of like QVC style, you know, showing off the event, but also are showing off the products. But as they were, you know, giving tips as well. So there’s always just a lot of insight and content. And we just had fun too. We hosted a cat bingo at the end and gave out prizes. And we had the influencer called Nathan, the cat lady, you know, run the bingo. And a lot of people came for him because he’s got a little follow up pretty big following. So it was also just, yeah, really fun. Like, we got good feedback that people just overall had a very good time. All right, so
Joe Valley 26:10
you had 1700 People respond 700 came, you would have had eight, but you had to find these folks, somewhere, somehow. You mentioned Instagram before? Are you have you built up a large social media following? Do you have a, you know, a travel cat shop Facebook group? How are you communicating with them and helping them as giving them tips and advice on traveling with your cat? What platform are you using to become, you know, to show up on their mobile device?
Emily Miethner 26:44
Yes, so Instagram is our biggest place, by far in terms of our reach and social reach. So we have a handle
Joe Valley 26:51
is that a handle your Instagram handle? Yes, our
Emily Miethner 26:54
Instagram handle. So we are your cat backpack, on Instagram. And so we’re just about to hit 60,000 followers. So we’ve certainly seen a lot of faster growth recently, especially through this time, we’ve been promoting the event. So that’s been a big place that we you know, share resources. And really, it’s all user generated content and people who bought our products that we’re highlighting on that account. So a lot of people just, you know, they’ll see certain cats featured on our Instagram, and they’ll end up connecting with those people, you know, by commenting or then afterward DMing, and that sort of thing. And then we do also have a Facebook group much more modest, it’s got about 2000 people in it, we’re working on growing that. And then we do a lot of highlighting of our community members through our blog, which brings us you know, a good amount of traffic. So we have a lot of very targeted keyword targeted articles related to how to travel with your cat. But then we also just highlight community members at least once a week. And we do that through our email as well. So a lot of people are just, you know, they’re super excited to get featured on our site or our email for our social because they see what a great audience that we have.
Joe Valley 28:10
And you do I’m looking at Instagrams, your cat backpack, and I just want to say that it’s not the little old lady, lonely little lady that has cats apparently. Or single people. There’s there’s lots of young, happy, attractive people, men and women, all hanging out having cats. So this stereotype is gonna go away, you’re changing things, hopefully for the cat world.
Emily Miethner 28:36
Yes, definitely. Yeah. And we I mean, we have a bit of a premium product but our audience, it’s really amazing because, you know, it’s pretty diverse in terms of age, gender, like socio economic background, you know, you might expect Oh, someone who’s buying a $120 cat backpack, they’re gonna be you know, an upper middle class, you know, right. 30 something year old female. But you know, we have a lot of people who might, you know, be Walmart shoppers for themselves, but for their cat, they’re like, I want the best and so they’re getting the premium cat products. So we actually work really hard on showing a diversity of cat parents in our marketing. And it sound might sound a little silly, but I well, I have a background prior to running travel cat in diversity and inclusion. And you know, if people don’t necessarily equate diversity of say like cat ownerships, but with with diversity and inclusion, but I really make make an effort to be very inclusive with how we’re showing off people in our community, because it is a really diverse audience. So we want to show that off.
Joe Valley 29:47
Yeah, I’m seeing lots of diversity here. It’s very cool. Even the like the image that’s up now is just as cool dude. Looks like he’s going out for a hike or something. And he’s got a cat on a leash and it can So looks like he’s having a good time. This is fascinating. Fascinating. So what’s what’s next for you? You’re already in 75 different countries, you’ve talked about the retail and the wholesale stuff, which, you know, I wonder if you went on Shark Tank, how quickly they talk you out of that? What let’s go there, why that? Why not just go 180% All in online, instead of, you know, the retail aspect of it, but I’m just assuming that retail is is awful is that they say that you’re gonna get lots of returns, so you’re fronting lots of inventory up front, not getting paid forever, wrong.
Emily Miethner 30:42
So I think it depends. So I mean, one, one thing is, we did get onto fair, within the last year or so, and that’s a retail marketplace that’s worked out really well, for us, it’s meant for sort of boutique independent stores to find unique products. And so that is just streamline our process with working with smaller stores. So we definitely don’t expect to ever have a huge chunk of our revenue coming from these small retail stores, but it’s helpful, you know, just for brand awareness and to, you know, have a product that is more expensive and sort of like a physical product that a lot of people want to try on, it’s, it’s easy enough for us to do, you know, besides the small mom and pops you we do want to use retail as a channel to grow our distribution in a strategic way to try to find some key, you know, larger scale independent retailers, not just in the US, but as mentioned abroad, you know, right. So like talking to a chain of 10 stores in Sweden, or six stores in Montreal, you know, or a distributors in Brazil or Chile, you know, those are just ways for us to expand our reach. And because we have better systems in place now,
Joe Valley 31:54
you might need to travel to visit those stores as well, very business oriented trip you and your husband.
Emily Miethner 31:59
Yes, yes, totally. So yeah, so that’s, you know, it’s it’s a, it’s a part of the plan, it’s not, you know, we’re ultimately 100%, the growth of our direct to consumer is where we see, you know, the biggest growth and these other channels are a way to just really complement that. And then really, the other big part of our growth strategy is the product development, you know, so continuing to create more products that are going to continue to bring, bring people back in, especially because we have built such a loyal audience in a loved brand, you know, we want to take advantage of that and create other products that people are really excited and happy to purchase.
Joe Valley 32:38
So when it comes to building out the additional products, is it within the company that you have you and your husband and some employees or vas? Do you and your husband have distinct roles and responsibilities within your organization? Or do they overlap quite a bit?
Emily Miethner 32:57
They don’t overlap really, at all, which is why I think we’ve been successful with just a partnership.
Joe Valley 33:04
That’s what that’s what I was getting at. I was just curious, because I know them, they don’t overlap. It’s, it’s much better for the business and for the relationship as well. Yes,
Emily Miethner 33:13
yes. So you know, for instance, when it comes to product development, we handle different aspects of it, but you know, ultimately come together to collaborate. So he’s the one working with our manufacturers and handling all the logistics and sending them the information to create the products, whereas I handle the product development side of things here. So I work with our product designers, our industrial designers, I’m gathering feedback from community members, I’m sending out the products to members to test, you know, to then send the feedback to our product developers, you know, so then, you know, but then eventually we come together to you know, fully execute on those. So it’s definitely there’s a lot of collaboration, but there’s also very clear defined roles, which I think you know, is important for any company, you know, every everyone needs to have those defined roles, otherwise it can get can get messy.
Joe Valley 34:05
Yeah, no, I agree. 100% My wife and I worked together. In the early days of jVi media, my first company that I launched, it can be challenging. Thankfully we had babies and she focused on that. Before she would have fire bear I would have fire her and we would have gotten a big fight. So good for you keep those keep those roles separate. You just mentioned industrial designers, which is a term not many people. Know, an industrial designer is someone that has designed everything that you folks touched today. It could have been the table, the keyboard, the mouse, the pen, the bottle of water, even the shoes that you have on or the headphones that I’m wearing. In your situation. Did you go out and source those individually the industrial designers is or did you end up finding industrial design firm.
Emily Miethner 34:59
We work with him Visual industrial designers. So you know, we’ve had one that we’ve done multiple products with at this point, because we’ve just had a great relationship so far. He actually even introduced us to one of our factories that create some of our products. But we’re constantly reaching out to new designers as well to work on different products, you know, just to sort of spread things out. But we do work with individual freelance product designers.
Joe Valley 35:25
Whereabouts in the country, are you located?
Emily Miethner 35:27
We’re in New York, and we ship from our own warehouse in New York as well. So we do not work with a three PL we handle our own fulfillment.
Joe Valley 35:36
You just want to make more work for yourself. Good. Yeah.
Emily Miethner 35:40
Yeah, no, no, it’s definitely it was a very good decision actually working with we had a nightmare three PL experience, which I could do a whole episode on that. But um, yeah, it ended up being just a much better situation for us to bring it in house. So we rent a warehouse space, and we have a full time that’s part of our team member, we have full time warehouse manager, and you know, we’re able to own that process. And we ship orders in one to two business days. So you know, we’re competitive with with Amazon. So it’s actually something that I also think, really helps to set us apart like I buy from bigger brands that don’t ship as quickly as we do.
Joe Valley 36:20
Well, the fact that you get somebody else running the show is the right way to go. That way you and your husband can still go away, leave the business for as long as you need to somebody’s still fulfilling orders, which is always the biggest problem when somebody brings it in house. And they’re doing it literally from the garage with their basement.
Emily Miethner 36:35
Oh, yeah, no, we haven’t. We haven’t shipped our own orders since I think like early 2018. So we don’t ever plan to go back to that.
Joe Valley 36:44
So there’s, there’s two I’m going to just mention, we’ve had both these guys on the podcast, too. I don’t want to call them just industrial designers because there’s so much more than that. e-commerce oriented companies that focus on product design, development, negotiation, shipping, all this different stuff. Launching. One is called the inventus E and V and Ty s. They’ve been around for a good 2025 years here in Charlotte. I’m friends with Lewis Forman, one of the owners, and the other is gamba, which is down out of Austin G NDH. And obviously, Emily, I’m saying this for the audience, not for you necessarily. But you know, Zack, Leonard down at gamba is doing great stuff down there too much younger company just raised some series a funding and doing lots of very cool stuff, to help people that have products and what he’s done with a lot of them in the e-commerce world that are currently doing it on their own. They brought it in there and been able to renegotiate cost of goods sold down by 1015 20%. In some cases, with their manufacturers around the world and the processing, and just little tweaks and redesigns of the product to make it a little smaller, a little lighter, better packaging, things of that nature. So two things to think about for you, I guess a little bit and for the audience as well. Okay, so we’ve gone through pretty much everything that you’ve done here, including maintaining a happy marriage by keeping your work real separate from from your husband, you brought it in house, the inventory, but you have somebody else ship it. So that’s great. You’ve gone through a lot. What do you see just for you and your husband in this business? In the next three to five years? Do you have goals in terms of how long you’re going to run it before you get it to a certain size before you exit? Or are you just going to continue doing what you’re doing? And just see how things go and make your decision along the way? Oh, well,
Emily Miethner 38:50
we you know, I would say generally, you know, tat world domination, that’s been sort of our high level goal, you know, we want to continue to create products that enhance the relationship that people have with their pets and with their cats specifically not pets. So you know that that’s our goal is to continue to grow, grow the product line and grow the community and grow the brand. And you know, we have some internal goals about where we think we need to get to, you know, get to that point for it to be ready for a sale. And you know, we’re at the point where we’re spending a lot of time just on optimizing systems processes, that sort of thing so that you know when the right opportunity comes up that we’re ready, and yeah, but for now it’s really about growing the brand growing the product line and continuing to focus on cats and cat people.
Joe Valley 39:44
total domination of the cat world. I like it I like it very much quicker question just last minute thing for you to think about I didn’t prep you for this but for those people that are you know, just starting out with an idea they’ve they’ve got an idea, you know, I’m at the early stages of where you were, when you first got that little kitten and you thought, you know, we need to go somewhere, it’d be nice to have a modified cat backpack. But any advice you’d give to somebody that’s just getting started?
Emily Miethner 40:14
I think, definitely, really caring about what you’re gonna make, you know, if it’s a, if it’s a product, you know, definitely being fairly new to the e-commerce world, you know, so we’ve been in and out for about five years or so, you definitely see a lot of, you know, just find a product that works and, you know, the whitespace and the margin, then, you know, get it from China and resell it, you know, and, yeah, you know, that can work to an extent, but if you’re trying to really build something sustainable and long term, you know, I believe you really should care about, you should care about it, you should care about the space, you should want, you should be motivated to create good quality products for that space, because it’s really, really hard and challenging to create products, in general, especially now, with all the supply chain issues, you know, we started doing this before COVID. Right, and now we’ve experienced it after, and it’s, it takes a long time, you know, to create a really quality product. And, you know, that is different from a lot of other types of businesses. And, you know, I’ve been in other businesses that are seeing more services or marketing, where there’s, you’re more quickly able to make things you know, or land clients and, you know, versus, you know, now you could be developing a product for a year, right? And, and it takes months to get the sample, and then you have to send the sample back with cheat, you know, so it’s not, you know, I just believe that you just really, you have to care a lot to put the time and effort in. And you, you know, otherwise you might end up cutting corners, you know, and bad things can happen. Right? So yeah, I think I think you just you have to really care about it, about what you’re making. And that’s what makes the whole process enjoyable. And that’s going to ultimately make you create a better brand and a better product.
Joe Valley 42:15
And that’s going to be very important for the long run. So it’s great advice. Emily, how do folks reach out? How do they find you, those people that are cat lovers, those people that might have great ideas for you in terms of expanding or relationships that may make sense or that want to go to your neck cat Summit? How do they find you? What’s the best approach?
Emily Miethner 42:34
Absolutely. Well, our website is travelcatshop.com. So you can find all the social handles and whatnot from there. And then for me, personally, I’m super active on LinkedIn. And that’s the best place to connect to me, you know, send me a message, let me know, you heard me on the podcast, and I’m always very, very happy to connect with people in the pet space, not in the pet space in e-commerce, just in general. So Emily Miethner, on LinkedIn spelling is in the shownotes I believe it will be so
Joe Valley 43:04
put in the show notes. I’ll put the link there as well. But it’s Miethner, so I get that right.
Emily Miethner 43:11
Miethner Am I yeah,
Joe Valley 43:13
she was it’s up on the screen when you’re talking but not when I’m talking. So I reverse it. Miethner, excellent. Emily, you’ve changed my mind about cats. If I as I said, we’ve got a family member that’s allergic, but we’re gonna go on the hunt for that hypoallergenic cat and see what we can do. And maybe we might avoid the fat cat backpack because you know, we weren’t, we didn’t want them to slim fit and healthy so that they can live a long life. So we’ll get we’ll get one of the other products. But thanks. Thanks so much for everything that you’re shared. Incredible, incredible job that you’ve done. Really impressive what you and your husband have created 75 different countries, or the 50,000 customers or cat summers around the world that you have multiple, seven figures in revenue and a community like no other that I’ve heard of in recent years. So congrats on everything. And folks, thanks for joining us on another episode of the Quiet Light Podcast. Appreciate it and we’ll see also.
Today’s podcast was produced by Rise25 and the Quiet Light content team. If you have a suggestion for a future podcast subject or guest, email us at [email protected] Be sure to follow us on YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram and subscribe to the show wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next week.