Today , we interview a French Entrepreneur in China , Mister Stephane Le Caignec , founder of Catatom.
Hello Stephane, can you talk me about your career ?
After my studies in History, i went to China (Changsha, Hunan Province) at the end of 2002 to teach French in an institute. After one year of contract, i came back to France in January 2004. China missed me, so i came back in Changsha in 2006 and then i moved to Shanghai. During several years, i have teached in different universities and institutes but at the end i have the lassitude of the job. In 2011, me and my wife, we started Catatom, the first cat sitting company in China Mainland. I worked with hundreds of cats so as i asked myself a lot of questions about kitties, all in relation with cat behavior so i read a lot of books and thesis about this topic. I learnt a lot and i can actually solve a lot of cat’s behavior problems.
Can you explain to our community your company’s story ?
Me and my wife have started Catatom in 2011 as we wanted to solve a problem that we have encountered. Indeed, in 2011, we left our 2 cats in a pension for cats in Shanghai during one week and when we came back, one of our cats was completely traumatized and lost 2kg. We were thinking that our cats should stayed at home next time but we didn’t found any professional cat sitters so we decided to create the service in Shanghai. In 2013, the numbers of cat’s owners who needed cat sitting service increased significantly so we add some part time cat sitters during hottest period as CNY or Golden week. In 2015, we recruit some full time cat sitters as we want to build a team of professional cat sitters. In the same time, i’m starting to do consulting in cat’s behavior.
We actually have between 400 and 500 clients. Clients can book our service on our website: http://www.catatom.org. Before to service the client, we meet him at his place as we want to know more about his cat’s behavior, habits, and health. During this appointment, the client sign a contract with Catatom and meet the cat sitter who will service his home. During his absence, the client will receive updates everyday by Wechat in general.
– What is your best achievement that makes you proud ?
-Start from nothing and built something that people really need, and receive in exchange many thanks.
-i have built a gateway between cats and several owners, with the simple objective to make people understand more their feline.
– What type of clients do you work with ?
- Are they more Chinese or more
- Westerns ? What are their feedbacks ?
To be honest, we are actually working more with foreigners than with Chinese. It’s 90% of foreign customers. The reason is essentially cultural. East Asians show a lot of importance to external appearance. I have been rarely invited by Chinese at their home but often in a restaurant. Westerns will do the contrary. They want to prove that they can cook well. So it’s very difficult for a stranger to enter in Chinese home as it’s part of the intimacy. The other reason is a question of home security. Chinese people in general don’t leave their keys to strangers. But mentalities are changing especially with young Chinese (The post 90’s).
Our clients could be expat, foreigners with local contracts, foreign students, but also the Chinese middle class.
There are more women customers than men customers for sure, and it’s also often some couples without children.
For most of the clients, feedback are excellent. We have a good reputation and that’s the most important thing when a company provide a service.
My favorite feedback is when a client tell me that he was very scared to leave his cat at first and then when he come back it’s like the cat missed the cat sitter.
– Can you talk us about the Chinese market ?
To be honest, i don’t really know other market as I arrived very young in China. The only things that i know when you work in China is to pay a lot of attention at what you say, but also that opportunities are everywhere meanwhile competition is also everywhere. So be patient and be fast when opportunities are coming.
– Is China a favorable ground for Start-ups ?
Yes i think so, as there is still a lot of things to do or invent here.
– Which advice will you give to a young entrepreneur in China ?
Stay zen and don’t panic if you meet with problems.
– Is the marketing important for start-ups in China ? How do you use it ?
Marketing is extremely important in China as Chinese people give a lot of importance to the brand image.
I’m trying to build this image for my company: Cute, professional, responsible, fashion. Photos, videos of cats that we take care of, articles about cat’s behavior and cat’s products, funny drawings that we share with people help us to develop our brand image.
– How do you communicate to bring customers ? Do you use internet and social medias ?
At first, we were using postcards that we left in multiple restaurants for expats in Shanghai. In the same time, i made some free ads in different websites for expats in Shanghai. I was also using a lot Instagram (stephane_catatom). As there is not some competition until this year, people with a research on google can also easily find us and our website (http://www.catatom.org). Also, Wechat arrived and it changed everything. We can share our posts on moments and people can share it. With the arrival of the official account (猫妈咪CATATOM), actually we can increase the numbers of followers and especially Chinese people. We also use Sina Weibo (Catatom-sh), but it’s hard to increase the numbers of followers on this platform. On Facebook, sometimes we share some ads or articles about cats on the Shanghai groups.
Thank you for all these answers.
do you have more question to Stephane ? If yes, please add a comment.
More interviews of Entrepreneurs in China here.