The Crunch: The cat-loving employees behind meowbox™ package and deliver a box of themed toys and treats every month that cats — and their humans — are guaranteed to love. Subscribers receive unique, high-quality goodies that are not only designed around an adorable theme, like sushi or summer camp, but are also personalized to their cat’s preferences. The exclusive toys have drawn a loyal customer base, and, as more photos of cats enjoying meowbox are shared online, the brand has seen considerable growth. Cat-loving meowbox customers and employees alike appreciate that as the company grows, it supports shelter cats by providing meals and helping place more cats with loving, adoptive families.
More than 3.5 million Instagrammers follow the exploits of Nala Cat, a Siamese-tabby mix who stays busy doing photo shoots and making personal appearances. Benbencatcat claims his own ample social media presence and pursues a similar celebrity lifestyle, contributing his likeness to coffee mugs, tote bags, and t-shirts.
But there’s more to these felines than mere celebrity. These former shelter animals channel their fame to generate revenue that supports cat shelters, charities, and advocacy organizations.
The event will feature local and international vendors, food, keynote speakers, and adoptable kitties with 100% of the event’s proceeds to be donated to the British Columbia SPCA and other non-profit cat advocacy organizations.
It’s a natural extension of the cat-loving mission meowbox was founded on. In 2013, after hearing so much about boxes for dogs, Olivia Canlas was astonished to discover that a subscription service for cat treats and toys didn’t exist. So she started one herself, building the business out of her home one meowbox at a time.
The key drivers of meowbox’s growth were the partnerships and friendships Olivia pursued with the cat community on Instagram. “It really benefited us to have this organic reach to millions of people who love cats and want to help them,” said Katie Rand, Growth Marketer at meowbox.
Now the company has its own community: meowbox has more than than 670,000 followers on Instagram alone, with nearly 2 million posts using #meowbox on the platform. Tickets to meowfest are already sold out. And, through its One Box Can initiative, 45 different shelters across the US and Canada have received the funding and food needed to support cats in need.
How meowbox Engages Cat Lovers to Develop Themes and Events
Olivia’s first meowboxes were simply collections of cool cat things sourced from brand partners, but in 2017 meowbox began designing and producing its own toys and treats around monthly themes.
“The first theme we created from toys we made ourselves was our summer camp theme from last July,” Katie said. “Not to brag, but the toys really were so much cuter because they were all designed together. We had little s’mores toys and hot dog toys — just adorable little summer camp things nobody else was making.”
The move to themes led to a new cycle of growth. “Since we started doing the themes, we’ve seen a huge increase in repeat and gift business,” Katie said. “Because they’re just super cute — fun for the humans as well as the cats — and great for photos. Customers tell us they can hardly wait to receive their new box every month.”
Even the box themes have become an engagement tool for meowbox. “We get a lot of our theme and toy ideas from customers,” Katie said. Recently the company ran a contest calling on customers to submit theme proposals, and the winning pirate theme is expected to make a splash later this year.
The company also looks for ways to reach out to cat lovers locally and across North America. It mingles at socials like Vancouver’s first Caturday, which is a monthly meetup being held in cities throughout Canada and the US, and participates in larger-scale events like Cat Camp NYC, a cat conference and adoption event held in Manhattan.
And, through meowfest, meowbox will help connect people and their cats to experts and other resources that help animals.
“People like us, who are passionate about their own cats, tend to be passionate about cats, in general, and have strong feelings about the benefits of sheltering and adoption,” Katie said. “So it was a no-brainer that we would try to do as much as we can. And meowfest is the result.”
Maintaining Established Brand Partnerships While Building New Ones
Although the shift to themes meant fewer items from other brands, meowbox continues to pursue new partnerships while it sustains long-standing relationships.
Along with three toys designed and produced by meowbox that help fit the monthly theme, boxes also contain one or two additional toys and one treat produced by brand partners.
“There are so many great companies doing cool toys that we potentially might want to include in our boxes,” Katie said. “We welcome all types of cat brands to reach out and help us learn about what they do.”
Meanwhile, cat owners know that sometimes their loved ones develop an attachment to a particular toy or style of play and that no amount of distraction can serve as a substitute. Customers needing replacement toys or gift items turn to meowbox shop, where meowbox offers popular items from past boxes and established producers.
“We tend to order extra so people can replace the toys their cats love,” Katie said. “Some are from producers we’ve worked with in the past — like a company that makes big, handmade toys out of wool from Nepal. They’re really cool, but they tend not to fit with our themes. We sell them because our customers want them.”
Company — and Customers — United in Support of Cats Everywhere
With nearly 80 million posts, the #catsofinstagram hashtag reveals just how much cute kittens are loved on the internet. But what matters most to meowbox customers and employees is helping ensure that cats everywhere are safe, secure, and happy.
“Our customers are huge cat people obviously,” Katie said. “They love cats, and they want to support companies that truly care about cats and that give back to the community. At work, we feel the same way. Nearly everyone in the company volunteers with shelters, and we even foster kittens in the office.”
Katie explained that most people with pets want to support companies that donate a portion of its proceeds to some sort of animal shelter or cause, and she told us how meowbox’s One Box Can program helps shelter cats.
For every meowbox it sells, the company gives a can of food to a shelter cat on the customer’s behalf. Customer receive a unique can code when his or her meowbox ships. The code allows the customer to monitor the status and location of their donation and which shelter has benefited from the contribution.
“Every month, we send thousands of cans to a different Canadian or American shelter,” Katie said. “Our entire community is about helping cats.”
And that’s a big part of why tickets for the first meowfest have already sold out — 100% of the event’s proceeds will be donated to cats in need. “It’s super exciting for us because now there’s a part of our business that we can all work on where all of the proceeds go to organizations that need the help,” Katie said.
It turns out that the internet does more than deliver an overload of cute cat pics and boxes of toys and treats. By connecting with thousands of customers who love cats and who are willing to do something about it, meowbox is able to also act as a force for good in the cat community.