About Us: Amber, me, and Catzenpup
This all started in 2012 in Brooklyn, NY when my 17 year old cat Amber repeatedly was contracting urinary tract infections (UTIs), and then she stopped eating dry cat food. The vet prescribed antibiotics which seemed to help, but my first natural reaction was to panic as she lost weight as refused to eat.
Finally she started drinking cat milk, which was a relief, but she still wasn't eating her dry food. I bought some wet food from the grocery store and she devoured it. After a few days she was definitely doing better, but she was meowing in the middle of the night for more food while we were sleeping. Amber had always been a vocal, talkative cat, which was part of her cuteness and charm to talk to us so much. But this was loud meowing, caterwauling really, so clearly something wasn't right with her. She also hadn't really regained the weight lost from being sick, so I had to figure something out. Having been a mechanical design engineer and worked in product development, I started grinding my brain gears on ways I could feed her wet food more often during the day. I researched wet food packaging types: aluminum cans, pouches, foil lid plastic trays.
After some brainstorming and mechanical sketch work, I went to the hardware store, bought an A/C wall timer, wire, and can opener and screwed them together on a wood plank. I bought some plastic tarp clamps online and about 20 Fancy Feast
Appetizers, and after much testing, breaking stuff, and iterations, I got it working. It was crude, but it worked great!
Now Amber was getting fed twice more daily: when I was at work at 2pm in the middle of the day, and at 5am before we woke up. She was getting healthier, gaining weight, and back to her normal self. Amber ate using the feeder daily for months. I would fix things when something failed or I had an improvement, and then I had an idea for a completely different design configuration that i thought would be more reliable, smaller, possibly marketable, and maybe even patentable. I built the new feeder design, and it worked perfectly. Granted it took some time and build iterations, but it was compact, easier to use, and I felt this was a concept that other pet parents could use.
I researched pet feeder patents, talked to some patent attorneys and agents, and determined that this concept was patentable. The patent was submitted to the USPTO in the summer of 2014, the summer Shark Tank was getting huge, and Kickstarter was blowing up in the news for new and cool tech products. So I decided I would take all of my product development and digital marketing experience to try to crowdfund the capital required to launch the product and business.
Turns out that crowdfunding is hard work, and expensive, and there are no guarantees. My campaign didn't raise as much money as hoped, but I kept working to find the capital to start the business. I spoke with venture capitalists, angel investors, pitched at startup competitions, and while I received great feedback on the product and my pitch presentation, no one wrote me a check to invest in the business. I applied to startup accelerators, and was a top 25 finalist for one, but did not make the final cut. At the end of summer 2015 my wife, 9 month old daughter, and I moved to the Washington, DC area to be closer to her family and plant roots in a more affordable geographic area over New York City.
Recently I landed a full time job in the DC area, but that is not the end of Catzenpup, actually the reverse. I get to work hard during the week days and
daydream about Catzenpup, how to build it, where to find suppliers, and allow the ideas to flow so on weekends I can get closer and further to building feeders. It's an entrepreneurs journey, never a straight line, and never easy - but I'm close to completing the design to be able to make Catzenpup feeders for other pet parents.
- Garrett Wilson