Iowa’s West Coast Initiative Feature: Coffee & Purrs

BUSINESS OWNER: Megan Thompson 

BUSINESS NAME: Coffee & Purrs 

MAIN PRODUCTS/SERVICES: Coffee Shop and Cat Cafe 

LOCATION: 500 Nebraska St. Sioux City, IA 51101 


Short description of your business: 

Coffee & Purrs is a coffee shop and cat cafe dedicated to providing a warm, aesthetic, and comfortable space for the cats we house looking for their furever homes. All but one of our cats (we have a permanent resident kitty, Blue) are adoptable through the Siouxland Humane Society. Customers can come into our separate coffee shop where we serve lattes, frappes, smoothies, lotus (plant-based energy drinks), muffins, bagel breakfast sandwiches, dairy free smoothie bowls, overnight oats, and more. Then customers can choose to pay a small entry fee to go next door to our cat cafe lounge. The fee goes to helping to pay for the cats expenses, such as food and litter. 

What motivated you to start your business? What drives you each day?

I decided to pursue Coffee & Purrs because I have always had a passion for helping cats, but never knew how I could put it to good use. I wanted to partner with the Siouxland Humane Society due to them always overflowing with cats and I thought I could help them out with providing a space for them to be taken care of until they get adopted. 

What’s unique about your business? Coffee & Purrs is Siouxland’s first and only cat cafe. We have nothing similar to this in our surrounding areas. Coffee & Purrs is also unique in the sense that customers looking to adopt can come to our facility to spend time with the kitties and really get to know them. When cats are in cages, they become scared & confused. When cats are scared, some get aggressive or super shy, but when the cats get to roam around and do their own thing, customers are more likely to see their true personality come out. They can have time to bond with the kitty in an environment where the cat feels safe and comfortable. 

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome as you’ve grown your business? 

Back in October 2021 when I had the idea to open a cat cafe in Sioux City, back then, it was against city ordinance code in the downtown zone. I had to go in front of the city council and pitch them my idea. They asked me a load of questions which some of I never even thought of before, so it opened up new perspectives. This resulted in me going to multiple city council meetings up until they finally passed my city ordinance code request and it was then legal to open my cat cafe. Next on my to-do list was to figure out a way to fund this all by myself. I’ve ran a photography business since 2016, and I had built up quite a savings, so I decided to take nearly all of it out, take the risk and go for it. After finding the right space (the old Subway downtown) where I could have my coffee shop and cat cafe right next to each other, yet they still had separate air systems, I decided to sign the lease, launch Coffee & Purrs and start remodeling in October 2022. 

What has been your greatest reward? 

We have been successful at finding homes for 62 cats so far as of today, July 12th, 2023, since opening day, January 3rd, 2023. It has been super rewarding to see these sweet kitties that we’ve gotten to know over time, find a home they know they will be safe and loved in for the rest of their lives. 

How have you benefited from the startup community in Sioux City and the region? What resources did you use? 

When I was pitching my ordinance change to the city, Coffee & Purrs got a lot of news coverage and hype around it. I had a lot of supporters already and it was really fascinating to see. I even had people reach out to me before we even opened to see if I was hiring. 

Are there any experiences that were particularly influential in that regard? 

My now manager of Coffee & Purrs, Kenzie Gass, reached out to me all the way back in November 2021 when she saw me on the news. She was the first one to help me rip up carpet in the cat cafe when we got access, and another employee, Jess Funkhouser came and helped me for long hours painting the ceiling. I had a lot of support all over Siouxland and it gave me a lot of confidence that I was taking the right risk. 

Why is it important for the community to support startups and small businesses? What more can be done to help them? 

The community is important to keep small businesses running because we wouldn’t be anywhere without the regulars, and the people who keep coming back. No business would ever survive more than a few years if the business didn’t have regulars, and those regulars telling other people. Word of mouth is, in my opinion, the best thing you can do to support a business for free. Small businesses are what keeps the community going too, we host events that are fun for families and get more people out of their houses. We all just need to be supportive and help each other out! 

What is one thing you know now that you wish you knew when starting your business? 

This is really out there, but I wish I would have known how much money I was realllyyyyy going to spend to get this place going. Obviously I knew it was going to be expensive, but I think it’s important to be more transparent about the startup costs of businesses, because some make it look so easy and affordable. All in all, it was 100% worth it, and I think it’s fun jumping into something without knowing the outcome. 

What advice would you give to someone looking to start a business? 

Keep on going. People will tell you it’s impossible or you’re not going to make it, but if you truly believe in yourself and have a true passion for the products or services you’re providing, there is no limit. Everyone has dreams for a reason, and 99% of the time, those dreams are meant to become reality, you just have to figure out the steps to make it happen and put in the work. Self-discipline really comes in handy when running a business. It can become hard sometimes, but no challenge is too hard to take on if it’s really what you want. 

How can the community continue to help your business? 

Share the word! Not many people know our cat cafe is completely separate from our coffee shop, so no, we don’t have kitties walking around on the counters where the food is being made of course! The kitties are housed right next door to our corner shop where they have a separate HVAC system, separate plumbing, and their own comfortable space to roam around in where customers can also go sit with them and enjoy their coffee/food! 

What are some future goals for your company? 

I would like to see us get to 100 adoptions by the end of 2023, but I would also just love for more people to discover our business so the kitties can get more cuddles and love! I really wanted this business to become an enjoyable space where people want to keep coming back, and I want it to be an overall great experience to the people of Siouxland and visitors.

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