Cat-Lover Turns Her Passion Into Profits
Michelle Furbacher is an entrepreneur with a cleverly straightforward business.
“We’re a cat cafe. If you feel like hanging out with cats, you can come here, get a coffee and hang out with a cat,” explains Furbacher.
Michelle is the owner of Vancouver’s first cat cafe – aptly named the Catfe. An avid cat-lover Michelle juggled a busy career in publishing with volunteering at local cat shelters and always dreamed of having a job where she could spend her days with friendly felines.
“Honestly, I just always wanted a job where I could hang out with cats all day,” says Michelle.
Inspired by similar cafes in Asia and Europe, she set out to make her dream job a reality and joined the EMBERS Ventures Build A Business program to help her learn the ropes of starting a small business.
“I had done a bit of cafe work when I was growing up, but that was it,” says Michelle. “The course at EMBERS really helped me start thinking about aspects of starting a business that I didn’t even know about.”
In the Build A Business program, Michelle not only got a crash-course in what it takes to start a small business, but also met other entrepreneurs who were in the same position she was in.
“The class was great for meeting others who are all at the same stage as you,” says Michelle. “Everyone has the same entrepreneurial spirit.”
Four months after opening the doors, Michelle and her team are still figuring out all the logistics of running a busy cat cafe.
“Unlike a lot of other cat cafes, all our cats are adoptable,” says Michelle. “We are partnered with the BCSPCA and all our cats come through them. They send us their most friendly cats that will thrive in this environment.”
“The biggest challenge was that we opened before we were quite ready,” says Michelle. “We had most things in place and just took the leap and opened our doors before everything was 100% done, and that’s why we ran out of cats after a couple of weeks – we didn’t have our system in place yet!”
While bumps in the road are always expected when launching a new business, Michelle says that the support she has gotten has made it all worth it.
“I love the community that has grown around the cafe. I am always interacting with customers on social media,” says Michelle. “At the end of the day, I love to check social media and see all the posts from the cafe during the day and see all the experiences that customers are having here that I didn’t even know happened, and knowing that I helped make them happen.”
With reservations booked up for nearly two months, and a constant stream of walk-in customers, Michelle is busier than she ever imagined.
But Michelle has never lost sight of why she opened the Catfe in the first place: “My favourite part is when I come in early before we are open, and I get to hang out with all the cats and have them all to myself.”