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ROCstar Profile: Cafe serves Cat Haven support

The founders of local social enterprise Cat Café Purrth are hoping to open two more cafes later this year, thanks to the appeal of the business’s cat, coffee and cake combination.

Visitors to Perth could be forgiven for thinking the city is a haven for ailurophiles, commonly known as cat lovers, particularly if they stopped in at Subiaco’s Cat Café Purrth.

Founders Chris Mewburn and Euterpe Platritis say around 100,000 people have visited the cafe and its 12 resident cats since it opened on Rokeby Road eight months ago.

So well-received has the cafe been that Mr Mewburn and Ms Platritis have plans for two more, with the end goal of having four stores in Western Australia in the next couple of years so they can deliver more funds and support to partner organisation, local cat refuge Cat Haven.

Both the 25-year-old entrepreneurs have taken part in fundraising stints for local charities in the past, witnessing first-hand the funding difficulties facing the not-for-profit sector.

Mr Mewburn said it was these challenges, alongside a passion for animal welfare and the desire to use profit for good, that were the driving forces behind opening Cat Café last July.

“I learned very quickly that not for profit is dying in WA, particularly because of donor fatigue,” Mr Mewburn told Business News.

“People are asking for handouts all the time; you’re constantly climbing uphill just to get that funding to do what you need to do.

“So it was about combining our passions and finding a way to beat donor fatigue and a new way to contribute – a social enterprise is just like any other business, except we’re using profit for good.”

The cafe is home to a dozen previously abandoned cats, adopted through Cat Haven, which permanently live in the enclosed ‘Cat Lounge’ located at the back of the cafe, with the option of retiring to an upstairs shelter, away from customers.

Mr Mewburn said all of the lounge staff had either vet nursing qualifications or were working at the zoo with big cats.

Visitors can pat and play with the cats pre or post cafe treat, with Cat Haven receiving part proceeds from both lounge session entry fees and the cafe’s menu selections.

Mr Mewburn said he was inspired by cat cafes in New York, London and Melbourne, and said his Perth site was one of the first in the world to adopt the idea as a social enterprise model.

After meeting with more than 20 landlords, the pair was granted a space in Subiaco, through a family friend. “We were pushed away by every landlord we approached, we were knocked back by insurance and basically anyone we asked, and the bank wouldn’t give us a loan,” Mr Mewburn told Business News.

“The council were understandably concerned about an idea that never existed before in WA and about the implications of live animals and food on the same premises, all real issues that we could empathise with.

“So we had to downsize our original model (60 cats and a larger space) and prove it first. Once we have proved that model, hopefully this July, we can start to expand.”

Mr Mewburn said he and Ms Platritis had considered Joondalup and Fremantle as potential locations for future Cat Cafés.

“We need to weigh up our growth idea. If we open two more stores, do we wind up with more money for Cat Haven long term than if we invest it straight back into Cat Haven in July and give them a dollar figure?” he said.

“Whatever the numbers are in July when we sit down with Cat Haven and our accountants, we’ll discuss that. “The long-term strategy is obviously to be as big as we can and do as much as we can.”

Mr Mewburn said the next stage would be to work closely with universities, such as the new Curtin University [7] Town precinct, and bring some ‘Cat-tharsis’ to students.

“We’re growing from strength to strength; we fought through a dip when Subiaco went through the roadworks last year and came out on top of that,” he said.

“It’s a matter of strategy and making sure we’re positioning ourselves in a way that’s sustainable, and providing a service that people want to come back to.”

This article was written by Katie McDonald and originally appeared in Business News (WA) online:

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