Hasara Lay is used to people staring at her. The intrepid moggie lover can often be found exploring her local neighbourhood with her two best pals, cats, Lomos and Noxie. While Lay’s love of exploring the great outdoors with her beloved felines may have seen her the subject of some sneaky looks, the thirty-something says it also proved the genesis for her fledgeling business, Catexplorer.
While most of us are content to let our cats lounge around the house all day, Lay is part of a growing group of people who take their felines out and about with them. Lay says she first found her community of likeminded Catexplorers online. Social media was the perfect place for people to share their cat experiences, from cat-friendly holiday rentals to the best harness to use when out walking.
“But what started frustrating me was that I was looking for all this amazing information in amongst social media posts and I was losing them,” says Lay. “When I needed to find a new cat backpack, I couldn’t remember who had shared their favourite backpack or where. So I created Catexplorer to be a place where we can easily share that information. A place that can easily be searched. A place to feel like you belong, where no one would laugh at you,” she tells Kochie’s Business Builders.
Lay’s niche business is already booming. She attributes its early success to being built upon her community’s shared values and experiences.
“We know who our customers are. We know what they like to do in their spare time. What they will spend on their cats and themselves. The content they will consume. The events they want to attend,” she explains. “So that is what we create. The products they will use. The marketing that will reach them. The community that invites them in and helps them feel like they belong. Gives them the support they need.”
Lay has grown the business from a simple forum where Catexplorers could share tips to a full-fledged online store where she offers the best accoutrements for cat aficionados.
“I won’t lie, it can be so tempting to add a cheap, low-quality cat toy to our product range. But that is not what our customers are looking for. It is not worth spending time and effort on the product development and marketing of a cheap cat toy that our niche isn’t interested in. Rather, we will spend our time and effort on a product range that our community will use. That will add value to them and their cat. That fits within the overall aim of Catexplorer,” she says.
Lay admits while the Catexplorer community is relatively niche, over time she has started expanding her target market.
“We have spent significant time getting to know our customers. To sensor check that our target market is what we think it is. To check that they do actually spend their time the way we think they do, that they consume content the way they have strategized, and even buy the products we think they would.
“We did get a few things wrong. So, we shifted and realigned our plans. Changed it up, so it suited them better. And in the last few months, I have seen that getting to know our target market has helped Catexplorer immensely.
“Catexplorer is only what it is today because we keep pulling back to our community,” she says.
As for those stares when she’s out and about, Lay is less concerned these days.
“Funnily enough, a few times it is because they’re “those cats from Instagram”. And I’m totally fine with that,” she laughs.