Hi! I'm Dane Carlson, and welcome to the Business Opportunities Weblog. I've been publishing this website, by myself, and sometimes with the help of others for over twelve years now. You'll notice two things about this site right away:
You know that mess of litter just outside the litter box? It’s that section which constantly requires vacumming because household cats track the litter around the house on their paws. Many cat owners realize that is simply a part of having a pet. However, some people still want the cat without the litter mess. For them, there is the Stikitty.
The Stikitty is the flagship product for Cleanicity, a website that specializes in pet products. Their special mat comes with 20 layers. When your cat hops out of the litter box, the litter on their paws sticks to the mat. If the mat is full, however, you just need to remove one layer. Cleanup is that easy!
I recently had the opportunity to ask Carol O’Brien a few questions about her company and the Stikitty.
Tell us a little about Cleanicity.
In late 2009, I was in the middle of an interview for a marketing executive position when it hit me; I just didn’t want another corporate job. I knew it was time finally for me to start my own company. I had been thinking about doing something on my own since graduate school when I attended Babson College, the number one college for entrepreneurship. The timing never seemed right, though. I can’t say the middle of a recession was the perfect timing, but I knew it was then or never. I launched Cleanicity in March of 2010.
What inspired it?
Cleanicity and its products are inspired by clean freaks. I call myself an aspiring clean freak because I really want to be one…I dream of a home that’s always clean, where no speak of dust would dare to land, and there are never embarrassing dishes in the sink when friends stop by.
The reality is I have a husband, two children, a cat, and a dog—all of whom create their own kind of messiness. My home is rarely as clean as I would like it to be or have the time to make it. That’s why I always look for products that will help me keep my home cleaner, for longer. When I can’t find something, I know I have found an inspiration for a new product.
How does the Stikitty work?
The StikittyTM came about by accident. Very early in our product development process, we were doing a focus group with friends and family for a sticky entrance mat. One of our guests looked at the entrance mat and said two words, “kitty litter.” Immediately inspired, we ran to the nearest bag of cat litter, poured some onto the mat, and were shocked at how well our “entrance mat” trapped litter.
The StikittyTM has adhesive layers that trap cat litter as the cat jumps out of the litter box. When the top layer is full, you pull up on the tabbed corner and along the sides of the StikittyTM. When you’ve formed a pouch, you pull the used layer away from the StikittyTM and begin using the next clean layer. It is like several mats in one!
What separates you from the competition?
There are nearly 100 million cats in the US, which use $2 billion worth of cat litter each year. Cat litter is both a necessity and a headache for the approximately 40 million US households with cats. The majority of cat owners indicate that cat litter tracking is the number one challenge of owning a cat.
There has been little innovation in cat litter mats since the first mats were developed. Most are made of heavy, carpet-type material that needs to be shaken out to get clean. Shaking the mat is a very messy process and not all cat owners are able to lift heavy carpet. Other cat owners complain about mats made of spiky plastic or wire-woven materials that hurt cats’ paws and still allow litter tracking throughout the house. Finally, some litter mats are too small and cats simply bypass the mat altogether.
The innovative StikittyTM changes all of that. With its adhesive layer system, cat owners no longer have to shake out cat litter. Despite its many layers, the StikittyTM is so lightweight that the youngest to the oldest cat owner can use it easily. While the stickiness of the StikittyTM clings to litter, it is very gentle on cats’ paws and after their initial curiosity, most cats simply forget it is even there. In addition, the StikittyTM never loses its stickiness! When the top layer is full, there’s a new layer underneath ready to “stick it to kitty litter.”
Do you have any plans to add more pet products to your website in the near future?
We recently changed the name of our product from the Kitty Litter Gripper Mat to the StikittyTM. The new name is much shorter and a lot more fun! We have many exciting ideas for merchandising and expanding the product line coming soon.
Do you have any goals that you’d like to accomplish in the next year or so?
We are in the middle of moving from an exclusively e-commerce driven business model to a strategy that includes big retail. It is a move in the right direction for our company and for our customers. We get calls—sometimes daily—asking which local retail stores carry our product. We are talking to some very savvy retailers right now and plan to offer our customers both retail and online shopping options very soon.
What are some lessons your business has taught you?
The biggest lesson I’ve learned so far is to be flexible. If we had had blinders on and focused only on our initial ideas, we would have missed the opportunity to address the needs of millions of cat owners with the StikittyTM. By listening to our customers’ needs and being flexible, we now have the hottest new pet product on the market today.
Do you have any advice that you’d like to offer fellow entrepreneurs that are just getting started?
If there are aspiring entrepreneurs who are still on the fence, and I know that there are, my advice would be to corral your risks. Start with the biggest risks—financial and career goals—and mitigate the unknowns by saying this is how much I am able to risk and I’m not willing to go past this point.
Specifically, quantify how much time you realistically can take off from your work/career to test your idea. Is it 8 weeks, six months, a year? Then calculate how much money you can live with spending on your idea. Once you’ve corralled those two risks, i.e., narrowed them in to levels you can accept, take that next step to start your company.
Once you’ve proven your concept and learned all the things that you don’t know, my second piece of advice would be to get a good business adviser. Choose someone who has experience in your industry and who has accomplished what you seek to do. There are many business coaches who have great general business knowledge, but you need practical, hands-on steps to get you to the next level.