This feature on Meows Corner is part the #LoudounPossible Success Story series compiled in celebration of Loudoun Small Business Week 2022. For more information on the week’s festivities, plus other engaging stories of sustainable business growth, please visit LoudounSmallBiz.org.
Bringing A New Concept to Loudoun
While some entrepreneurs dream of a business concept their whole lives, others are inspired by a single interaction to start something new.
For Dina Abdel-Hamid, that moment happened in 2017, while strolling down a street in Richmond. She looked up to see a feline face in the window of Zoomies Cat Cafe and fell in love with the concept.
“The idea to launch my business was sparked after traveling to Richmond for a soccer tournament,” she recalled. “That was the first time I had seen the cat cafe concept and I was enamored. I was determined to make it a reality in Loudoun County.”
By day, Abdel-Hamid is a learning and development strategist for one of the region’s largest government contractors. While rewarding, it doesn’t always grant the professional satisfaction and freedom she craves.
“I have been working in data, reporting and analytics for the last 15 years,” she said. “My expertise in my functional field and full-time job has given me so much to leverage in starting and running the business.
“Entrepreneurship and having your own business definitely gives you creative freedom and more control to make an impact in the community, as well as your own personal fulfillment.”
Shortly after her Richmond trip, she created an LLC for Meows Corner and found the purr-fect space by December 2018. In July 2019, Meows Corner opened its doors in Sterling and will celebrate its third anniversary this summer.
“A cat lounge/cafe is a new concept for our area that we get asked all the time about how it works. In a nutshell, our customers pay an admission fee to spend time with our adoptable cats,” she explained. “We offer 60-minute, 30-minute, or even 15-minute admission options.”
That’s the cat part. There’s also the cafe, which serves an array of baked goods, snacks and drinks.
“Private parties and events have become very popular, and we allow our guests to bring outside food,” she continued. “We–including our cats–love to share birthdays, anniversaries and other fun events with our customers. Some customers simply rent out the lounge to have the cats all to themselves!”
Building Community Through Adversity
Opening a small business in the summer of 2019 made a lot of sense, with a red-hot economy and a healthy commercial real estate market in eastern Loudoun County.
No small business owner could have foreseen what 2020 would bring. At a time when Meows Corner was still making community in-roads, the global pandemic pushed “high touch” businesses to the limit.
On March 24th, Meows Corner launched a GoFundMe campaign to help defray the costs of rent and cat care. The community responded by nearly funding the campaign.
“We are so grateful to our community for their support over the years through COVID and just being a brand new, unique business,” she said. “Looking forward, we’re excited to see what’s next!”
Even in Loudoun County, which experiences relatively high animal adoption rates from public and private shelters, there is always a need for loving homes.
According to nationwide figures from the ASPCA, more than 3.4 million cats are put up for adoption each year. Of those, 1.4 million (41%) are euthanized, and many more never get to experience a fur-ever home.
While everyone knows that cats are available for adoption, shelters can be a stressful environment for humans and cats to emotionally connect.
Cat cafes are designed to match sociable felines with humans, in an environment where they can interact more normally. In business terms, think of it like a brick and mortar storefront for a commodity that consumers typically shop for online or in a warehouse setting.
“We have a partnership with a local NOVA based rescue called Four Paws Rescue,” Abdel-Hamid said. “We have helped them place more than 225 cats (and counting!) into permanent homes.”
Meows Corner customers come for feline therapy and understand that fees for adoption, space rentals and food are kept low, and often donate extra to help support the mission.
“We have such a generous community,” she said. “Our visitors and customers not only come by for cat time but also tend to bring extra donations with them. Anything we don’t use for our in-house cats gets donated to the rescue.”
A Bright #LoudounPossible Future
After nearly three years in business, Meows Corner is proof that Loudoun loves lounging with cats.
Looking ahead, Abdel-Hamid sees opportunities to offer feline therapy and adoption pairings to a broader audience.
“Loudoun County has a very diverse community and is growing exponentially, in a positive way,” she said. “#LoudounPossible really encompasses all of that growth and opportunity. It is truly exciting!”
Abdel-Hamid is also excited to get Meows Corner more connected in the business community, looking for B2B collaboration with other creative concepts.
“We love to collaborate with other businesses and have an open door policy on anything creative.We have seen so many businesses and organizations blossom and develop in the years I have lived here,” she said. “There is so much going on at any given moment and tons of resources available for small business owners through the county.”
Thinking of starting or relocating your business in Loudoun County? We are a full-service economic development organization, dedicated to your #LoudounPossible business success. Working with us is like adding a team of no-cost specialists to your team, with expertise in the following areas:
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