We had the good fortune of connecting with Shana Martin and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Shana, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
Without a doubt, the customer experience. As a luxury cat hotel, Club Cat’s commitment to providing our customers with a first-rate customer experience is the main reason for our brand’s growing success. It is our greatest value proposition. For die-hard cat parents, this is especially important. Club Cat’s value proposition is why we exist. Meaning, the customer experience is embedded in Club Cat’s DNA. This can be best framed up through Simon Sinek’s iconic concept of “The Golden Circle.” People don’t buy what you do, or how you do it, but rather they buy why you do it. “What” we do is we provide unique, superior accommodations for cats only while their cat parents are away or unable to keep them at home temporarily. “How” we do it is by providing a safe, nurturing, and clean environment including spacious suite sizes, 24/7 webcam access in each suite from anywhere in the world, and timely, personalized service to cat parents’ questions or concerns by a dedicated team. Most importantly – and what sets us apart from the competition – is “why” we do it. We do it because as cat parents ourselves, we want to create an environment as comfortable, welcoming, and soothing for cat parents as it is for their cats. We do it because we want cat parents like us to be able to relax while they are away from their fur babies. We do it because we want cat parents like us to feel confident that their cats are being cared for and loved as if they were at home with them. When you can relate to your customers in such a way that you can truly see yourself in your customer and your customer in you, you’ve reached customer relations “nirvana.”
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Club Cat is a boutique luxury hotel and resort exclusively designated for the day and overnight care of domestic cats. Our unique accommodations are a departure from conventional boarding options for cats on many levels. Our spacious suites have walls and glass doors (no cages or enclosures) and boast enclosed balconies at the top that our kitties love to lounge in. Our décor is modern trompe l’oeil and whimsical cat portraiture with cat suites that are “cat-punned” after some of my favorite novels – The Great Catsby (after F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby) and Romeow and Juliet (after Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet). In terms of challenges I’ve faced in getting to where I am today, there has been no shortage. I left a professional career in marketing and communications spanning over two decades to pursue a longtime dream to become an entrepreneur. I hatched the concept of Club Cat over a decade ago while teaching part-time business and management courses in the evening at Orange Coast College. I had struggled for years with what to do with my cats when I travelled on business or pleasure. I continually bemoaned that there were no appealing cat-only care options in Orange County. I created Club Cat for people like me, who want a safe, beautiful, and loving home-away-from-home for their cats when they travel or need temporary housing for their cats. Up until COVID, the bulk of the challenges were related to pre-launch. Finding a space in our target location near John Wayne Airport was the first obstacle. Another frustrating challenge was construction delays that could have been avoided had we known more about commercial construction. Both were huge lessons learned and will be applied when we expand locations. However, the greatest challenge since becoming operational has been COVID-19. It hit just as we approached our first-year anniversary. Since the majority of our customers book when they travel, our bookings for late February and beyond were immediately decimated. It forced me to go after other markets – non-travelers – which was always in the marketing plan but had been put on the backburner due to our rapid growth. It has also helped Club Cat that many of the pet clinics that normally cage board cats have temporarily closed down their boarding function due to COVID-19. We are nowhere near where we would have been in terms of bookings had COVID-19 never hit, but we are getting through this time largely because of strategic financial planning, creative thinking, and loan forgiveness programs provided by the SBA. I am confident that despite this major setback, Club Cat will land on its feet!
Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
As an LA native, I find a week is just not enough time to see everything this extraordinary city has to offer. But if I had to choose… First, I’d recommend staying in Santa Monica at one of the hotels at the beach. Loews Santa Monica or Hotel Erwin do not disappoint. Itinerary: Day 1: Breakfast at the Victorian on Main Street, a stroll down Main to the Santa Monica Pier for some beautiful ocean views. Dinner at C&O Trattoria in the Marina. Day 2: The Huntington in San Marino for its beautiful gardens and art. Dinner and drinks in downtown Pasadena. Day 3: Grauman’s Chinese Theater and shopping in vintage Hollywood. For dinner, Mid-Wilshire district for some authentic Korean food. Day 4: Hiking at Griffith Park and visiting the Observatory for sensational views. Dinner in Downtown Los Angeles food trucks and then a show at the Music Center. Day 5: All day at the Getty Museum. Dinner at Universal CityWalk or Studio City. Day 6: Depending on current mood, The Museum of Tolerance, La Brea Tar Pits or the Reagan Library. Day 7: Malibu or Zuma beach during the day, dinner at Duke’s or Broad Street Oyster Company.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Though there are so many family and friends whom I would love to recognize, the one I’ve chosen to acknowledge is both (best) friend and (immediate) family: my husband. He’s patiently listened to my dreams and my fears from day one and has been the cheerleader I have heard the loudest and clearest as I’ve made the giant leap from working for employers to becoming an employer myself – and hence making my professional dream come true. He has also had the courage to challenge me about ideas no matter how emotionally invested I was in pursuing them. This is the case even today as we battle a very tough time with COVID-19 adversely impacting Club Cat as it has so many businesses in the country and world.
Mily Cooper Photography