Interview with Dani Kilmer of DKcat Etsy Shop
Dani Kilmer is the owner of San Francisco Bay Area-based DKcat, a pet furniture design shop featuring modern hand-made eco-friendly cat furniture. DKcat’s mission is to create simple pieces that meet cats’ needs for scratching, climbing, lounging and playing, using natural and durable materials like reclaimed wood, bamboo, sisal and carpets with recycled content, in a style that is understated and timeless.
Dani is LEED accredited and worked as an interior designer in the healthcare industry for 12 years before starting DKcat in early 2009. Her experiences with design, construction and sustainability enable her to bring together the varied considerations of form, function, longevity and cost. As the owner of three energetic cats living in a small urban home, she got her start by designing and building her own cat trees after finding a lack of inexpensive, well-designed, environmentally conscientious cat trees in pet stores.
Etsy Shop: DKcat
All answers are copyright of Dani Kilmer.
1. How did you get interested in cats? How old were you when you had your first kitty?
Cats have always been special in my family, I have had them ever since I can remember. Growing up on a farm in Missouri, we had several great cats and often had litters of kittens over the years. After about ten years without any cats of my own, while in college and then starting my career in San Francisco, I am now blessed with three unique, amazing, spoiled cats.
2. How did you discover Etsy? Did you consider other ways to sell your products?
I first stumbled onto Etsy after hearing about it on Facebook, and I think I had my Etsy site up within a week after that! I had been in the process of designing the first DKcat website at the time, which required so much more time and effort, and was delighted to be up and running so quickly and easily on Etsy. The community on Etsy was impressive and exhilarating. I had no idea how prolific the hand-made movement was until then. I had also considered selling my products on my own web site, at local craft fairs and in local pet stores, and Etsy helped give me the exposure to proceed into those venues too.
3. Do you sell your products in a local store in your area?
I am proud that DKcat’s cat furnishings are currently carried at several local Bay Area pet stores, including George, Cheengoo, Best In Show, Plaza de Paws and Dog Town, as well as at The Wagging Tail in Santa Monica, California.
4. Have you been successful at selling your products on Etsy? Have you always been successful, or did you end up getting a lot more traffic after being featured on a specific blog?
The volume of sales I have had on Etsy has been encouraging, but not overwhelming. The majority of my sales on Etsy have been from local residents who contact me directly to take advantage of the free local delivery I offer, which saves money and resources. I have been covered by a few blogs, but the traffic to my Etsy site and the DKcat website both increased after the popular blog Moderncat.net reviewed the products.
5. Do your customers ever give you new ideas for products?
Two of the products in my previous line were the direct result of customer suggestions. The “Platform C” with the rectangular top was a modification to the original square top, and became far more popular. Also, the “Perch” came from a custom order for a Scratching Post with a platform on top, and later became a new addition to the line. I have just discontinued that line, but as I design new things I am definitely incorporating some other great suggestions I have gotten in the past. Customers provide great insight into cat behavior, which is key to designing for them.
6. Have you thought of featuring a Ragdoll cat is some way? (Had to ask.)
I wish I knew some Ragdoll kitties, I am sure they make great product models and testers!
7. Are you a one wo/man show?
For the most part, yes. I design, manage, build, and photograph the products myself. I have to give some credit to my husband Brian for being a great critic, occasional problem solver and heavy lifter!
8. Do you have a blog?
I do not currently have a blog, but am in the process of adding one to the DKcat web site that will focus on topics of sustainable materials and design inspiration as it pertains to living with cats. Look for it soon!
9. Do you do custom ordering? Can someone return it if they don’t care for it?
I have recently been able to start accepting custom projects, and absolutely enjoy doing them whenever possible. I get
many requests for simple dimensional modifications, which can usually be accommodated, as long as the size and weight are still conducive to shipping easily. I have also done several completely customized projects for local customers, including four- and five-foot tall trees, cubbies and “gyms”, some with custom finishes. Returns are definitely accepted. I want all of my customers and their cats to be thoroughly excited and satisfied!
10. Can you share a story with us behind any of your products that you especially enjoyed working on? Maybe because of the story behind the kitty?
In May, I designed a fun custom piece for a customer in San Francisco who adopted three Bengal kittens. She wanted something that the three kittens could all sleep in together, so we came up with an idea for a modern cubby “house.” She had just remodeled her home and incorporated beautiful modern furniture pieces, so it had to coordinate well and be unlike so much of the gaudy, typical cat furniture that is out there. The design featured minimalist architectural form, a custom wood stain to match her furniture and a special carpet tile to go with her home’s carpet. Inside the cubby was an ultra luxurious cushion made from Memory Foam and soft fleece, and outside were two scratching posts positioned for support and easy scratching access. It was rewarding to work with a client who was willing to go to the extra lengths to make her beloved kittens comfortable and engaged, and to end up with something so tailored for the little cats but with such a clear sense of style. It just goes to show that form and function can co-exist happily. I am considering adding a similar piece to the standard line!