WOOSTER — Looking at the the nondescript warehouse at the end of Spruce Street, you probably wouldn’t guess that it houses a cat litter box subscription company that ships to 20,000 customers across the country each month.

But that’s exactly where Chad Kauffman has launched Kitty Poo Club, which he describes as “a full litter box solution.” And within the next year, Kauffman hopes to grow to 60,000 subscriptions each month.

For $21.49 per month, subscribers get a cardboard package that acts as an all-in-one litter box, the outside of which is decorated for each season. A plastic tray, waterproof coating and lightweight silica gel litter make the box effective, Kauffman said, and at the end of the month, customers can recycle or throw out the box when the next one arrives.

“There’s tons of litter subscription services out there,” Kauffman said. “That’s not us. We’re an entire litter box solution.”

 

Developing the idea

 

Kauffman, 42, is a Wooster native whose business career has taken him across the country. Five years ago, he and his family decided to leave their home in South Florida where he worked for Gallo Winery in Fort Lauderdale, and move back to Wooster to raise their three sons.

Not long after that, Kauffman said he began looking for an idea “for a subscription-based business that was a billion-plus dollar industry that hadn’t been tapped.”

At first, he dismissed a suggestion by his father, Porter, a former Rubbermaid executive, to develop a disposable cat litter box, figuring it would be impossible to ship cat litter economically and find a product that would last for a whole month. But then one night as Kauffman was putting chlorine tablets into his hot tub, he noticed the silica gel packets that are designed to take moisture out of the tablets’ packaging.

“And so it dawned on me, ‘Why couldn’t this silica gel be used as cat litter?’ It’s super lightweight, highly absorbent,” Kauffman said.

He worked with a company in China to develop a semi-round silica gel ball that would be gentle on cats’ paws and wouldn’t roll uncontrollably.

Kauffman knew he needed to find a way to produce a waterproof cardboard box that could withstand a month of cat urine. Eventually, he determined that the product should include a plastic tray to hold the litter and protect the bottom of the box.

With a prototype in place, Kauffman tested the litter box in a local trial. Last September, he hand-delivered 50 boxes to cat owners in the Wooster area. Survey results from the trial were mostly positive, with a handful of criticisms and suggestions for change, Kauffman said.

 

Growing the company

 

He took the risk of ordering an entire container — 44 pallets — of the silica gel litter, and the company officially launched Oct. 1, 2017.

“I ran a Facebook ad, and in 20 days I signed up 1,200 customers,” he said. “And I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, what am I going to do? I can’t hand-assemble 1,200 of these with tape.’”

Kauffman turned off all advertising and focused on serving his initial customers. By December, he knew he would have to develop an automated process for building the boxes. After some initial challenges, he found a company that could produce a machine that would attach the trays to the boxes.

Two of those machines arrived at the end May, and together produce about 1,600 boxes per day, Kauffman said. Two more will be arriving in February.

After those new machines arrive, Kauffman said Kitty Poo Club will participate in Google’s brand accelerator program. Companies such as Dollar Shave Club — on which Kauffman largely modeled Kitty Poo Club — have participated in the invitation-only program, which will also help expand Kitty Poo Club’s advertising capability, he said.

 

Jack Rooney can be reached at 330-287-1645 or jrooney@the-daily-record.com. He is on Twitter at twitter.com/RooneyReports.