Hey cat lovers, did you know about Meowtel cat sitting service? This is the most used app in the US for people who are looking for in-home cat sitters; unlike dogs, cats do not like to be moved around and in-home sitting is much more appropriate.
We met with the co-founders Sonya Petcavich and Bruno Lévêque of Meowtel, as they opened the first store in San Francisco.
After having operated 100% online for a bit more than 2,5 years, successfully “recruited” 300 cat sitters, set-up business across the whole country, this French-American business team has decided to open its first retail shop on Hayes St. to build awareness, get closer to cat owners, and to sell cat products oriented.
Confinement has seriously reduced the need for cat sitting and Meowtel saw a dramatic dip in its revenue -about 80% during the first months of the confinement, but the trend has recently shifted. Their clients are either traveling for a shorter period of time (the business trips are getting shorter but they still occur) or their clients are leaving for a way longer period of time… The last two weeks of November have highlighted the fact that when clients leave town, it’s very often to regroup with their family for multiple weeks. Many parents are happy to see their child come home, but not all families can host a cat on top of their relative.
In-home service implies a very important level of trust as the cat owner has to handle the keys to her place to the cat sitter.
Bruno Levêque is adamant about the cat sitters selection: “We have a very strict protocol to recruit our cat sitters; only 15% of the candidates are accepted according to our criteria”.
The cat-sitter goes through a 5-step process, and the candidate have to be +18 y/o. he/she has to:
- create a user account
- complete a questionnaire
- set up his/her profile
- has to pass the references check
- go through a sitter success call with the Meowtel team.
From there, when a cat owner looks for a cat sitter, he can check the profile and talk to him or her, get references from other clients. The final step is a “meet and greet” event when the owner shares directions for the cat and the house details. This meeting is 100% free of charge for the cat owner and in the case that the match doesn’t work, Meowtel suggests somebody else. Obviously, this situation has never happened.
“As soon as the cat sitter takes care of the cat, she sends a daily report with a picture to the cat owner via our platform. Meowtel guarantees that the cat sitter will spend from 20 to 90 mn with the cat. Many cat sitters stay longer than invoiced because first and foremost, they are cat lovers” says Levêque.
The cat sitter is usually not staying overnight… but the option is available.
Prices vary according to region and duration of service. It basically goes from $20 to $40 per visit and it’s all-inclusive (meet&greet, mileage, insurance, time…). Cat sitters are self-employed and they determine their hourly rate. Meowtel has a mark-up that goes from 15 to 30% according to the client’s history with the company and the frequency of service.
If you happen to chitchat a bit more with Bruno Lévêque, you will understand why Meowtel is not a pet project by a cat lover. Leveque is the founder of a well-known French Internet company called Prestashop (150 employees and +30 million dollar revenue). Passionate about computer sciences since his teens, he founded Prestashop in 2005 and moved to the US ten years ago to start the US business.
The business was going well, life was good but two years ago while in his early thirties, he had a small stroke and realized that life was too short… “I’m still at the board of Prestashop, I’m still one of the main stockholders, but I only work half a day per month for Prestashop. Now, I fully invest my energy in MeowTel. I’m part of a small permanent team, I feel back in my comfort zone. My level of anxiety has completely dropped”.
Meowtel cat sitting service has already multiple thousands of customers in New York, Chicago, Dallas, Seattle, San Diego, Los Angeles, or San Francisco; the objective is to eventually open more retail stores.
In the meantime, do not hesitate to stop by to visit Meowtel at 327 Hayes St and say “Hi” to Lefty who is usually napping in the window. This is its home after all.
Opportunity: if you are a cat lover, Meowtel is looking for cat sitters!