Cats love cardboard boxes, cat owners less. The cardboards are in the way and don’t look particularly pretty. KittyPits, a young startup from Frankfurt am Main, offers the solution: a modular toy house that makes people and animals equally happy. Those who joined Startup Weekend Mittelhessen or Open Coffee Club will remember this project. We are pleased to provide a deep dive into a project that we became fans of.
Moving boxes, shipping packages, shoe boxes — cats love cardboard packaging, no matter what it looks like or what purpose it serves. They are suitable for jumping up, crawling in, hiding.
You could think of a cheap cat toy. However, these boxes are not that robust and break quickly. In addition, they do not look very appealing. What is an exciting toy for the cat that often feels like rubbish lying around in the way of the owner?
This inspired Joshua Becker (26) to find his own startup KittyPits in November this year.
KittyPits makes modular cat houses from high-quality cardboard boxes. The individual parts can be assembled quickly and easily and put together in endless variations. The system is similar to a Lego kit, only for cats.
Working from home with his cat Lui
Cats want to be kept busy — Joshua, cat owner and banker from Frankfurt am Main knows this challenge, too. When his employer sent asked him to work from home for three months as part of the first Corona lockdown, he was with his cat Lui all day.
Joshua: “He always wanted entertainment and variety and he barely left me alone to concentrate on work. So, I just ordered lots of new cat toys online. And then exactly what my slogan is today happened: What do cats like the most when you order something? Correct – the cardboard box! Because cats love cardboard boxes! ” The cat toy itself is of secondary importance.
So Joshua fulfills his cat’s wish. However, the first building attempts were not comparable to today’s product. Joshua uses scissors and tape to build a castle by hand from cardboard boxes from various online mail-order companies. Lui was thrilled, but his roommates — Joshua and his girlfriend Lara Müller (26) — did not like the look at all.
Then the idea matured in them to design something out of cardboard that would appeal to both animals and humans. They wanted to create a place of fun and retreat for cats that looks like cat furniture, but is still made of cardboard and offers the cat variety.
Joshua didn’t let go of the thought. In May he took a free online course on entrepreneurship at Harvard University. He wrote a business plan for his idea for the first time and researched the market — cats live in almost every fourth household in Germany, that is around 9.5 million households.
Prototype development with Hessian know-how
After the workshop, Joshua went looking for a cardboard manufacturer to build a prototype. “It wasn’t always easy phone calls when I started my cat house idea,” says Joshua. But after many rejections, he finally found OTT + SOHN GmbH (www.ott-verpackung.de), a manufacturer in Obertshausen, Hesse, who recognized the potential, believed in the idea and invested in product development.
Joshua is happy about the cooperation: “It is important to me to produce regionally. On the one hand, KittyPits should stand for sustainability, on the other hand, I would like to have a contact person on site. ” And he has that. From day one there is a close exchange with the development team. Joshua visits the factory on-site and learns a lot from the experts — about cardboard, different material thicknesses, and plug-in systems, such as magnets, cardboard flaps, and Velcro.
The results of their own market survey carried out with 120 participants, including acquaintances, their contacts, and people from cat internet forums, also flow into the prototype development. The feedback from Lui the cat is also relevant. He tests every prototype and decides on its entertainment value. His official working title in the startup, therefore, is “Chief Experience Officer”.
More stable, more beautiful, faster to set up
The fifth prototype is now ready — and the product development is now complete. KittyPits meets the demands of the Frankfurt founder and the four-legged product tester.
First: KittyPits houses have an attractive design.
Second: The cardboard used is stable — cats up to 9 kilos can sit in it, run or jump onto the house with a running run.
Third: The modular connector system is user-friendly. It can be quickly dismantled and rebuilt again and again. In this way, variety comes into the cat’s game.
The product is also completely recyclable, as cardboard flaps serve as connecting pieces between the individual parts.
Award-winning at the Startup Weekend Mittelhessen 2020
Right after the completion of the final prototype, Joshua took the public stage for the first time. At the beginning of November, he takes part in the Startup Weekend Mittelhessen (SWMH), which is organized by the Central Hesse Regional Management in Giessen. Over the weekend, he was coached by experienced mentors from the startup scene and receives feedback from experts, for example about marketing. On the final day, he pitched his business project in front of a top-class jury and won 3rd place.
Joshua about his experiences at the SWMH: “At the event, I had the opportunity to present my idea to a larger audience for the first time and was able to test whether it was well-received. I was also able to make many contacts with mentors who gave me very valuable input and a new perspective. Among other things, we discussed design rights so that I now know how to protect my product and my logo from being copied easily. I highly recommend the event to all those interested in founding a company in the region. “
The hobby turned into a serious side project within seven months. Joshua no longer builds the startup as an individual. He gets support from his family: Father Melvyn Becker (56) takes care of storage and shipping. He is an entrepreneur himself and has been running a retail store for auto parts for more than 30 years. His girlfriend Lara oversees marketing and is currently building up a community on social media.
Everything is being prepared for the next big milestone: KittyPits will open its online shop in early 2021. For the first time, it will be possible to purchase two different sets from the young startup.
The “Explore” set (4 cubes, 1 tunnel, 1 ramp) primarily appeals to the cats’ instinct to play, the “Chill” set (4 cubes, 1 bridge, 1 basket) invites them to relax and sleep. Both products are priced below 40 euros.
The money is well spent. In the long term, other toy purchases can be saved. In addition, it is practically guaranteed that the cat will play with the KittyPits house. Because cats love cardboard boxes — this is not only proven by studies, but also by Lui the cat.
More information, pictures, and videos as well as pre-orders for KittyPits at:
Mail: [email protected]