Meet the Maker: Kristen Cella of Siamese Social Club
If you’ve walked the aisles of your local pet store lately and felt uninspired, then you need to meet Kristen Cella of Siamese Social Club. She creates a carefully curated line of cat toys and beds that marry elegant functionality with a modern, minimalist aesthetic. She sat down with us to discuss her vision of being “the JCrew of cat products,” a misstep she made when designing products for wholesale, how she balances entrepreneurship with motherhood. Welcome, Kristen!
Kristen Cella of Siamese Social Club
LBC: What inspired you to take the leap as an entrepreneur?
Kristen: I have been surrounded by entrepreneurs my whole life—my mom ran her own transcription business, my grandma sold her pottery at the local Potter’s Guild and my husband successfully started a sign company—so I always knew I wanted to start my own business, too, it just took a long time to figure out what I wanted that business to be.
LBC: How would you describe what you create?
Kristen: I make minimalist home goods for cats—beds, toys, ceramics and furniture—which are all designed to blend seamlessly in the modern home.
LBC: Where can we find your products?
LBC: When you first got started, how did you envision your business would be defined?
Kristen: In my mind, I wanted my business to be the JCrew of cat products—a timeless palette of neutrals, high-quality, natural materials and overall good-looking things to incorporate into my tiny home. I was so tired of the boring (and hideous) pet furniture out there, or ones that were specifically designed for dogs, that I was aiming to fill a niche for simple, modern products for cats.
LBC: Walk us through a typical workday.
Kristen: I wake up around 7 and do a bit of cleaning and organize my day before my 2 year old daughter wakes up. The morning is spent taking her to the playground or the library or visiting friends. After we eat lunch she takes a nap and that is when I get most of my work done. Fortunately, she is a good sleeper, so I squeeze as much as possible into that three-hour time slot. Once she wakes up we drop off packages at the post office or go grocery shopping and make dinner. I finish up any work and catch up on Instagram after she goes to bed.
LBC: What are 3 things entrepreneurs should think through when they initially decide to start a business?
Kristen: 1) Figure out how you are going to fund the first few years of your business. I started my business when I had a full time job, so I essentially funded myself, but was completely unprepared for the second and third year when I still wasn’t making a profit and left my full time job to stay at home with my daughter.
2) Who your target audience really is. This one took me several years to figure out, because I couldn’t get past imagining that I was my own target audience. Selling in person really helped me figure out who was actually interested and buying my products.
3) If you plan on wholesaling as part of your income, make sure your products are designed and priced for wholesale from the start. I am working backwards, because while I priced my original products for wholesale, they are too labor-intensive to actually be wholesaled in quantities that make financial sense, so I’m currently working on creating simpler products that are specifically designed for wholesaling to retailers.
LBC: When you’re overwhelmed, what brings you back to focus?
Kristen: Spending a day with my husband and daughter and reminding myself what my real priorities are. Or, if my daughter is the one who is overwhelming me, I ask my husband to taker her on an adventure while I stay at home and spend some quality time doing absolutely nothing.
LBC: Tell us about the best business decision you’ve made to date.
Kristen: Hiring a designer to create my logo and branding before launching my business. It was a big investment, but well worth it.
LBC: Please share one misstep or obstacle from your business experience. How did you bounce back or overcome it?
Kristen: I got talked into paid advertising in a print magazine before I was ready. I didn’t have any specific goals set out or a solid marketing strategy, so it turned out to be a complete waste of money.
LBC: What are 3 essential resources in your business toolbox that you can’t do without?
Kristen: Shipstation (I didn’t use it much at first, but I can’t imagine shipping without it!), Evernote (this was instrumental even before I started my business, organizing notes while brainstorming ideas, and now keeping notes on my material sources, informative articles and all other business info) and Instagram (I know everyone says this, but it is essential for inspiration, understanding my audience and promoting my products).
LBC: Imagine that we had a time machine. If we blasted ourselves forward a few years, where would we see your company?
Kristen: This may seen completely far-fetched at the moment, but I see myself with a retail storefront full of my products (and a few other curated pet products) with a space in the back for a production studio and shipping station.
LBC: How have your interactions with Lucky Break influenced your business?
Kristen: They have really helped me develop an overall understanding of wholesaling, and I have learned how to determine whether products are actually wholesale-able. I also get a better sense of retailers’ perspective, which makes it easier to strike up a conversation with them.
LBC: What benefits have you seen from taking classes, working with a mentor, and/or building community around your business?
Kristen: More connections, more opportunities to collaborate and more support. I took a lot of online classes when I was first starting out, and not only did I learn more than I could have from just reading books, I met many other makers who were in my exact same position and supported and encouraged me to keep going.
LBC: Have you ever held an odd job or one you weren’t particularly fond of?
Kristen: After I graduated college, I landed a position as a research assistant studying a species of endangered snail and would frequently hike out into the remote forests of West Virginia searching for snails.
LBC: What are a few of the places on your travel bucket list?
Kristen: Hiking through the Scottish Highlands, eating my way through Japan and dog sledding in Banff, Alberta.
LBC: If you were given a million dollars, but you weren’t allowed to keep a single penny for yourself, friends or family, how would you give it away?
Kristen: I would donate it to local animal shelters and wildlife rehabilitation centers.
Thank you, Kristen, for sharing your talent with us!