As the province’s only cat cafe, Excalipurr Cat Café in Regina relies on a unique business model. One side serves as a coffee shop, while the other side features a cat salon, where customers can enjoy spending time with cats and kittens, all ready and waiting for adoption.
“We’re partnered with the Regina Cat Rescue (RCR), a local non-profit that helps abandoned cats and kittens,” said Chelsey Legendre, the owner of Excalipurr. “We have anywhere from 10-15 cats at any point in our cat salon that are ready to be adopted, and the goal is to find them a home.”
Since opening in December 2017, Excalipurr has seen a running total of 237 cats adopted through the program, a number Legendre is excited about.
“I’m super proud of the amount of adoptions that we’ve had. That’s a constant. Everytime we adopt out a cat, it’s a good reminder of why I’m doing what I’m doing,” she said.
To help with the process of opening Excalipurr, Legendre worked closely with the Clarence Campeau Development Fund (CCDF), which assists the economic development activities of Métis people in the province. The CCDF was established in 1997 by the Government of Saskatchewan and the Métis Nation of Saskatchewan, and has over 10 programs for business and entrepreneurship. Legendre accessed two of their programs in 2017, the Business Plan Program and Business Development program.
One of the things Legendre valued most about working with the CCDF was their mentorship.
“Their constant support and communication was really key for me. I had so many questions about the process, and even if it didn’t directly play into their side of things, they always gave me suggestions and advice, so them being available and supportive through the process was huge.”
Legendre said that she initially heard about the CCDF from another entrepreneur who highly recommended the program, and she knew it was the right choice after the first meeting with them.
“A restaurant business in itself is hard enough to get support for, but with such a new concept like a cat cafe, I was having a really hard time getting any support after talking to a couple of other funding agencies. But the CCDF was very supportive right from the get-go, which was very encouraging to me,” she said.
Legendre initially had the idea for a cat cafe after seeing similar cafes on social media, and thought it would be a good way to combine her past experience working in coffee shops with her love for animals.
“I was actually a dog person growing up, but when I got married my husband wanted to get a cat. Cats are my preference now. I have six cats at home and three foster cats too, because we also help foster for the RCR,” she said. “I’ve always had a passion and compassion for animals. The cafe is solely vegetarian and we offer vegan options too.”
When asked what advice she would give to other new business owners, Legendre shared a story about perseverance after her first year of business.
“The biggest thing I had to overcome was last winter, right before we had our one year anniversary. We were looking at what we were going to do next, because it was really tough and I was almost ready to give up,” she said. “But then I started reaching out more and started connecting myself a bit more to the business community. I attended a couple conferences and those really helped me along the way.”
Legendre took what she learned and made some changes to her business. Today, she’s happy to say she persevered and that Excalipurr is still open and operating.
“It’s important to reach out to people. Get out there, talk to people, talk to different business owners, and talk to resources that are out there for you, like the CCDF. There are quite a few resources out there, so do the footwork. That’s the best way to get started and it gives you a good idea of what you need to prepare for too.”
For more information on Excalipurr Cat Cafe, visit excalipurr.ca. For more information on the CCDF, visit www.clarencecampeau.com.
Written by Naomi Zurevinski