COLUMBIA - Less than a month after Ryan Kennedy and his wife, MacKenzie Everett-Kennedy, launched their Kickstarter campaign, they reached their $15,000 funding goal and will soon bring a cat cafe to Columbia.
"Kickstarter is a good way for us to gauge the interest level," Kennedy said. "If we launched this project and only made $50, we'd know this was a bad idea and we should give it up. But since we had, as of this morning, 240 backers and over $15,000, we know people seem genuinely interested in this."
Kennedy said the campaign's success involved a lot of reaching out to individuals.
"My wife spent a lot of time messaging people on Facebook and emailing every single one of her friends," Kennedy said. "She has far more friends on Facebook than I do, so it was a huge process for her. She was instrumental in making this happen."
Everett-Kennedy said every donation mattered.
"We are teachers and we have teacher friends," Everett-Kennedy said. "We don't have a ton of people who can make these huge donations. The average donation was around $63."
Before Papa's Cat Cafe can open its doors to the public, Kennedy said, he still has a lot of work to do.
"The next step is traditional business stuff," Kennedy said. "We are in the process of negotiating the lease for a location, so for now, at least, we have a location in mind. After that, I guess, the fun starts, like construction and we get to shop for kitchen equipment."
Kennedy said he was not allowed to say where the location would be yet, but said it would be within walking distance of downtown.
"We want to keep it close to downtown because of the student population, but locals don't want to try and park downtown. We think we've found a place that meets both of those requests," Kennedy said.
Papa's Cat Cafe will feature 12 cats, 10 of which will be available for adoption through Boone County Animal Care.
"Why we like Boone County Animal Care is that they'll provide us with some kittens," Everett-Kennedy said. "When we went to Seoul, the cats were kittens so you could play with them. When we went to a cat cafe in St. Louis, the cats were older and they just slept all day. That's not as exciting."
The cafe will feature a dividing wall between the cat playroom and the kitchen area.
"No cats will be anywhere near the food prep area," Kennedy said. "We will also have separate HVAC systems for the cat playroom and the kitchen so no pet hair or dander gets near food prep. We also have to register as an animal boarding facility since we'll be housing the twelve cats on site."
Kennedy said a cat cafe in Columbia allows those who cannot have cats the opportunity to play with them.
"We know a lot of student housing doesn't allow pets, so we want to give students a chance to interact with cats without having to drive back home to play with their parents' cats," Kennedy said. "We also like that the American cat cafe model does the adoption process, so we're reaching out to people who can't have pets and want pets, but also people who can have pets and want pets."
The Kickstarter campaign ends Saturday night at 5:30 p.m. Kennedy said he would like to have Papa's Cat Cafe open to the public as early as May.