Jackson Cunningham’s newest product is the s***
That’s the gospel according to crowdfunding website Kickstarter, and it’s not an altogether stretch of the truth.
Cunningham’s high-end litterbox, dubbed “The Cove,” is trending among the top crowdsourcing campaigns in Canada.
As of Jan. 22, close to 700 people had placed pre-orders for The Cove, each of them shelling out between $89 and $99 USD for a 20-inch piece of plastic for cats to do their business in.
Round one of “super early bird” sales completely sold out inside of a week, while Cunningham’s initial target of $10,000 was reached in four hours. Cunningham is now well into selling round two and early bird sales are humming along at $99 a pop.
Cunningham is about to break the six-figure mark in just eight days. He’s got buyers in San Francisco, New York, Australia and all across Metro Vancouver.
If this clip keeps up, the 33-year-old Vancouverite could conceivably make half a million dollars in one month.
All off the backs, or backsides, of cats.
The mind boggles.
“It feels like if you were at a casino, you have 100 bucks and you put in on black and you win. And then you put in on black again and you’re all in,” Cunningham tells the Courier.
Cat furniture seller Tuft + Paw is the parent company behind The Cove. Cunningham’s brainchild was launched full time in 2017, after a year of kicking the idea around with coworkers at his previous job.
“It started off as a joke almost,” Cunningham recalled. “When I would tell my coworkers about making cat furniture, they would always laugh. Everyone was interested, and they’d say, ‘That’s a really good idea, but come on, like cat furniture?’ I got that reaction enough that I knew something was there.”
Tuft + Paw started off more akin to a middleman operation, hocking wares from Europe and Asia to North American customers. Cunningham has warehouse space in Michigan where he stores items bought in bulk — cat tables, cat carriers and whatever else you can think of — to eventually sell to domestic markets minus massive overseas shipping costs.
The Cove, however, is Cunningham’s first in-house baby.
Settling on the name was a process of elimination that saw close to 30 monikers bandied about. The Cove was chosen to suit its West Coast origins.
“For me, the name emulates something cozy or closed, or something that’s really inviting,” said Tuft + Paw brand manager Grace Partridge. “But also in architectural terms, cove ceilings are not square edges they’re rounded. This product has that rounded attention to detail which is what makes it ergonomic and gives it that nice hand feel as well.”
Cunningham’s office is a five-minute walk away from the homeless camp at Oppenheimer Park in what’s widely regarded as the second-least affordable city on the planet. He and Partridge are asked how they reconcile a world in which hundreds of people willingly pay big bucks for a stylized toilet for pets.
Don’t hate the player, hate the game.
“The cheapest option will always be available but for people that care about function, where it’s coming from or aesthetic value, there’s a hole in that market,” Partridge said. “And $100 for an object that you love in your home that is functional, that provides its role, that is originally designed is pretty great value.”
None of this is to say The Cove was created without considerable forethought.
A couple of engineers specializing in plastic moulds helped with the design, which is slightly longer, more contoured and sleeker than your standard $20 litterbox.
The Cove also comes with a pooper scooper and dustpan that fit cozily into the cove’s design. The shovel is based on a model Cunningham found on Amazon that’s the highest-rated pooper scooper in the land.
Cunningham also uses recycled ocean plastic bought from outside of Canada, a point that adds substantial cost on his end.
Cunningham leads the Courier on a quick Google search for comparables, and sure enough, nothing comes up.
For now, Cunningham waits to see what his month-long crowdfunding nets. About 95 per cent of his customer base in the U.S., and he wants a similar market share in Canada and other points further afield in the future.
More in-house product is also in the offing.
In the meantime, he’s helping cats and the internet give Meghan and Harry a run for their money in the local powercouple sweepstakes.
“It’s the one product that every single cat owner needs,” Cunningham said. “It feels like the clear fit.”
Cunningham’s Kickstarter can be found online HERE