Kitty Cat Lounge of Polk County
An animal lover at heart and a journalist by trade, Cindy Skop, owner of Kitty Cat Lounge, knew firsthand that she wanted to make a change within her community. Being aware of the colonies of cats in Polk County, Skop decided to start a business where she could help kitties find loving homes and bring a relaxed space for her community members.
Since the start of her business journey, Skop knew about the Florida Small Business Development Center at the University of South Florida, so it was easy to reach out when she found herself needing business guidance. She was met with the help of several consultants, which ultimately led the business owner to her primary Florida SBDC at USF business consultant, Simplice Essou. “Florida SBDC at USF counsel was very easy to work with. I started out with a business mentor who helped me brainstorm and fine tune my idea and once we had that down and I needed to start working on my business plan, that’s when I got to Simplice and we really started working and researching the numbers and that was very hard because cat cafes, although they’re starting to become more popular now, there was no research,” Cindy Skop said. The determined business owner and her business consultant went on a mission to find the necessary numbers needed in order to complete her business plan and successfully open up her business.
“Working with the SBDC I think was a constant transitional process. From the beginning stages when we did this on paper, right, we were working on the business plan to when the city required me to do additional things to the building to make it animal safe.” Regardless of the unexpected challenges that were presented to the business owner by the city, Skop never ceased to mention how she and her consultant continued to move forward, never giving up. “As soon as that was done, we got our certificate of occupancy. We opened within a month and a half. It was not an easy process, but you [Simplice Essou] were there the whole way holding my hand and sharing kind words,” Skop said.
“My biggest success so far was the reason I even started this business. Knowing that there was a homeless cat population colony upon colony in Polk County, my biggest success is that we have had eleven adoptions so far in the five weeks we’ve been open. So, that makes my heart happy. Those are cats that are not on the streets, they’re not reproducing, they’re not spreading disease and they’re in homes and they’re being loved and cared for,” Cindy Skop said. Overall, the cat enthusiast is happy that she can have a positive impact in the lives of the animals and people in her community. “We’re reducing the colony numbers, the homeless cat numbers, but then we’re making happy homes and happy families,” Skop said with a smile on her face.
As the business grows, Skop is determined to reach back out to the Florida SBDC at USF and use all of the resources available in order to promote her business effectively. “I think for the future of my business, and this is where Scott [Scott Carpenter, Florida SBDC at USF business consultant] and marketing could maybe come in handy, I want people to know that when they walk in my door, they are welcome to stay,” Skop said. Since the cat café is split up into the front end of the building and the back end of the building, the Kitty Cat Lounge owner can offer different services including a lounge area with coffee options, lunch menu items, and relaxing activities while having the kitties visible to the public but safely kept in the back end of the building. “I want to see people come in, we have two well-known universities and two high schools within walking distance from here. I want to see students come in this space, kick off their shoes. They can totally kick off their shoes, relax on this couch, work on their projects, work on their dissertation, work on their master’s degree, work on whatever they have to work on, but I also want people to come in here and read their book, I want people to come in here and play games,” Skop said.
Skop will make use of the marketing resources offered to her by the Florida SBDC at USF consultant to reach her target market and effectively attract customers that are interested in all of the services that her business has to offer, including chess, crochet, and movie nights. “Those are the things that I’m hoping will bring people into the door. Not just the cats but that they can come, and they can get comfort food, the best coffee in town, and look through a glass and see cats or go in and pet cats. This is your place to come and relax and enjoy yourself,” Skop expressed.
When speaking about the Florida SBDC at USF and all the help she has received, Skop was eager to share how she mentions her experience to a number of partners and colleagues and encourages them to seek business guidance from the consultants. “My partners in the building who supply my food and drink are startups themselves and I have told several, I’ve actually given people Simplices’ name, and told them how wonderful and simple the process was,” Cindy Skop said.