We love Dandy Cat’s modern boho style bamboo cat furniture. Made entirely from bamboo by hand, it is eco-friendly and lightweight and oh so chic. We chat to founder Anne Joly about her trips to Vietnam to find the perfect craftsmen and about how she started her business.
Dandy Cat is your brand new cat label. You currently make two gorgeous eco-friendly bamboo cat beds. How did you get started?
Over two years ago I suffered a professional burnout; after 27 years working as a teacher. So, I needed to rest a lot and stayed at home. Moreover, my children started to go to university, had a student’s flat, and so I often found myself alone at home. My husband owns a wine bar in the town center and is often absent too.
So, I decided to adopt my first kitten in an animal rescue: Gaston. I had much time and affection to give, and I quickly started to feel much better with him!
Of course, I had to look for all the necessary accessories a cat needs, so I visited a lot of cat boutiques. That’s when I realized that most of the beds or cat trees were just awful. I love design and decoration and all the beds I saw would just have ruined my home decoration. So, I searched online. I found some nice stuff but most of it was really expensive. And that’s how I started to think that maybe starting a cat business could be an idea.
I began to draw beds, started to think about the kind of materials that could be nice, looking for sustainable and quite lightweight fabrics, and also decided for a name for my business. All of this took about 8 months.
Travelling to Vietnam 2016
Then, after reading much information about the advantages of bamboo, I realised that this material is mainly grown and processed in Vietnam. In April 2016, I saw that there was the annual handcraft exhibition in Saigon, called Lifestyle Vietnam. And my husband said “ok let’s go”, and we bought two plane tickets to Saigon. We visited the exhibition and spoke to many handcraft workshops. We showed them my drawings and asked them if they could make those cat beds. Some of them didn’t speak English, others didn’t understand what we wanted, but 3 of them said they could make samples.
But the fact was that these craftsmen working on bamboo all come from the North of Vietnam, from near Hanoi. So, a few days later we took the plane from Saigon to Hanoi to go and meet them at their workshop. We had to select one of the 3 factories, so we visited the workshops, checked the working conditions. We wanted to know for example if there were children working there, and how the workers were treated. And one of them stood out for having the best working conditions and also making the best samples so, after a second trip to Vietnam, we decided to start our business with them.
After a few months, we bought a container full of dandy balls, dandy beds, and also dandy cabinets (litter houses). We travelled to Vietnam for a third time to check the quality before putting them on the boat. Unfortunately, when they arrived in Belgium the dandy cabinets had defaults and we couldn’t sell them. It was a big loss but I gave all of them to a cat rescue association.
So after 3 trips to Vietnam and two years of thinking, in February 2018, I could finally start my e-shop!
Dandy Cat’s bamboo cat furniture is handmade by Vietnamese craftsmen. Tell us a bit more about the process.
We selected our partner on the basis of good working conditions for their workers. The craftsmen are mainly women and the extra wages help many families. Many villages in the North of Vietnam are really developing thanks to craftsmanship!
It takes the company 3 month to make one item. First, the bamboo is soaked in water to avoid infection. It then dries in the sunshine before it can be split and softened to prepare it for coiling. The Dandy Cat products are then shaped by hand and glued with stone powder. As a next step, the bamboo is dried, sanded and polished before it can be coloured. Once all colour has dried, it is ready for labeling and packaging. See pictures here.
The paintings that are used are non-toxic and food-safe. They are the same colours that are used to make salad bowls, so there is no risk of intoxication for cats or dogs.
Your own cat features in a lot of the product photos. Tell us a bit about him.
Yes the cat featuring on the pictures is my cat: Léon. He’s a young, silver Persian Chinchilla. Well, he was my cat actually because my poor little baby died in January and we don’t know why. The autopsy didn’t reveal anything, so the vet concluded aneurism or a heart attack. He was only 9 months old. That was a terrible shock for me, I really felt depressed and even wanted to stop everything. It was too hard seeing him on every picture of the website we were building. But life goes on and I continued… and 3 weeks ago I adopted another new baby Silver Persian Chinchilla. He will be our new model for Dandy Cat, when we launch our cat tree, which I am designing together with a new cat litter box.
What do you love most about running your own bamboo cat furniture business? What don’t you like?
I love in running my business as I am self-employed and I can work from home most of the time. It makes me travel a lot and learn lots of new things: designing, creating a website, taking pictures, transport and logistics, and marketing too (which I find most difficult). As an impatient person, I don’t like to wait and I would like my business to grow faster.
And finally…if a cat owner walked up to you asking for your advice on how to pamper their kitten and you only had a few minutes to give them your best tip, what would it be?
If this person doesn’t have a cat yet I would say: adopt, don’t shop. And I would advise this person not to take a cat if he/she doesn’t have enough time or money to take good care of his cat. I even wrote my first blog about it. Read it here (French version) here.
But if this person already has a cat I would advise to spend much time with the newcomer, in order to relax him and play a lot with him to create a good relationship and understanding. And love him a lot, because that’s what they need most!!
We now stock Dandy Cat’s range.