The Fishy History of Cat-Man-Doo
Cat-Man-Doo was the brain child of founder, Peter Stake. Having 8 cats of his own along with numerous foster cats he had to find a way to make treats affordable. He went to a friend who worked in distribution for a seafood company and was able to procure Bonito (a tuna-type fish which hails from Japan) in large quantities for a fraction of the price he was paying in pet stores. He noticed that the Bonito he was procuring was of much higher quality than the Bonito he had been buying in the pet stores. The flakes were larger, fresher and more aromatic. And the dream of Cat-Man-Doo began.
Being a contractor by trade, Peter felt it was time to try his hand at something else. On a whim he bought some cups, had some labels printed and began packaging the fish by hand. He took samples of the product to one sizeable Pacific Northwest pet chain and they bought it!
Meanwhile, Sandra Dahlquist, who was working as a Bellevue paralegal had a need for a deck on the back of her house. A co-worker recommended her contractor neighbor, Peter Stake. Peter came to bid the job and while he was there discovered that Sandra was a huge cat lover with two cats of her own. During the construction of the deck he kept Sandra's cats in a large supply of Bonito treats which they loved!
During this time Peter and Sandra became friends and Peter shared with her his dream to sell his Bonito flakes full-time? but he needed help. Would Sandra take the bait? Yes, she did. She left her paralegal job where she had a comfortable salary, medical benefits, a 401k, vacation and paid holidays to help Peter fulfill his dream.
Back in those initial days of 2004, all of the labeling and packaging was done by hand in Peter's small garage that was miserably cold in the winter and uncomfortably hot in the summer. To fill an order for their one customer could take weeks and Cat-Man-Doo now needed to pay salaries for two individuals.
One of the most ingenious decision that was made with regard to packaging was in sifting the dust from the Bonito flakes. Cats loved the flakes but not the fish dust that often covered them.
Next was marketing. There was no scrimping on promoting the product. They put together substantial kits of free offerings for pet stores; half a dozen each of the half ounce and the one ounce sized tubs as well as a bunch of samples that the stores could hand out to consumers to try the product. They would send out this kit to retailers and tell the stores "put it on your shelf and see if it sells". There was enough product for retailers to stock their shelves and also to sample it on their own cats. Any cash they got from the sales was theirs to keep.
The response was jaw-dropping. The duo sent out 20 kits and over the next 10 or so days 18 orders came back. They sent out 20 more kits and 16 orders came back. They continued to do this until it was becoming difficult to satisfy the demand. In 2006 they moved into a Redmond warehouse and Peter began inventing a packaging machine. With a degree in aeronautical engineering and after watching many episodes of "How It's Made" on the Science Channel, Stake built a packaging machine in his garage over many nights and weekends. It took 18 months and here's what the machine had to do: It had to fluff up the flakes and sift out the dust. Then it had to quickly sprinkle the flakes into a bowl (just one ounce at a time), and dump that bowl into a plastic tub. Then the flakes had to be tamped down into the tub just enough to leave room for the lid but not so much they couldn't rebound. And the machine had to do this over and over and over for thousands of times? without breaking.
So intricate were the machine's actions that Stake's step-by-step instructions filled up 16 pages which he handed to a programmer who then wrote the software. The machine, which was dubbed the PackMaster 2000, ran flawlessly until it was replaced a few years later by more sophisticated machinery.
Another important decision that was made early on was to gas flush the flakes with food-grade nitrogen. No other flake on the market at that time was nitrogen flushed. This action allowed the flakes to remain fresh and flavorful over time. This same function is utilized in packaging potato chips and breakfast cereals and Cat-Man-Doo still employs this action today.
In 2013 Sandra and Peter married and in 2014 Cat-Man-Doo packed up its three employees and moved to a warehouse three times the size of the existing warehouse. At this time high-tech machinery was custom fabricated to precise specifications and fully automated packaging began.
By this time, Cat-Man-Doo had taken on two other products, a line they call Life Essentials. These products are more cat AND dog oriented and include delicious freeze dried chicken breast and freeze dried wild Alaskan salmon. These products have become a success as well.
While Cat-Man-Doo still sells their products directly to retail stores, they also sell in large quantities to distributors who then sell the products both nationally and internationally.
The success of the business can be attributed to the willingness of the founders to take a risk, and to the employees who have stood behind them long term and who have weathered all the storms. They all take pride in knowing that they are putting out healthy, nutritious treats void of additives and preservatives and are producing a product that they are proud to feed to their own cats and dogs. They give back to the pet community by supporting pet causes, donating time, goods and services as well as financial goodwill. All in all Cat-Man-Doo founders and employees are true pet lovers and consider their pets to be furry family members.
Finally, customers are the most important part of the equation. Many of Cat-Man-Doo customers have been supporting the company since its beginning in 2004. To those, and all customers, Cat-Man-Doo owes a debt of sincere gratitude.