Lisa Illman is the President and Founder of Kritter Kommunity. Born in 2009 out of her passion for pets, Lisa’s vision for Kritter Kommunity was first conceived as she observed her rescue cats, Madi and Abi’s sad faces as they peered longingly outdoors.
A city dweller from Philadelphia, not only is Lisa kitten smitten, but she loves being outdoors cooking, reading a book, relaxing. With her heart set on creating a fanciful catio for Madi and Abi, Lisa was discouraged when she learned that city building restrictions would limit her. She quickly realized that in order for her entire family to enjoy the outdoors together, she would need to create a safe, effective outdoor cat enclosure.
In 2008, Lisa designed a prototype enclosure for Madi and Abi and they were more than happy to be her first product testers. Living in the city center, Lisa began receiving feedback from neighbors and passers by. Lisa actually had to remove the battery in her doorbell because she was receiving so many inquiries. Realizing the urgent need and demand for reliable and effective catio furniture, Lisa launched Kritter Kommunity and the rest is history.
Although the original Kritter Kondo was designed with the cat owner in mind, Lisa soon found that small dog owners were praising this safe and effective method of containing their small pooches, outdoors. Suitable for up to three cats and dogs less than 35 pounds, Kritter Kondos have taken the pet world by storm.
Armed with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Pennsylvania State University, more than 15 years of sales and marketing experience, and numerous professional awards, Lisa recently quit her full time job as an Energy Account Manager with the Hess Corporation to grow Kritter Kommunity into a world wide brand. Lisa’s professional experience is sure to give her a leg up as she launches Kritter Kommunity to pet lovers across the country.
According to Lisa, “My passion lies in helping pets and their owners live their best lives. At Kritter Kommunity, we believe that all pets deserve time exploring the sunny outdoors. We also believe that in order to keep pets safe from disease, other animals and motorists, they need to be safely contained. Kritter Kondo provides an effective solution for cats and small dogs so that they can happily enjoy the outdoors with the rest of their family.”
What are you working on right now?
We just launched our newest product the Kritter Kondo Deluxe, so I am currently in the middle of a National Radio PR Campaign to discuss outdoor safety for pets. In addition, I have four more new products coming out this Fall as well as a new accessory. I am keeping very busy and enjoying every minute!
3 Trends that excite you?
Social Media, especially Twitter and Facebook; what a great way to hear the voice of your customer direct! I used both to generate on-line buzz about my product but even more importantly to get feedback from the end-users to learn what else they would like to see from Kritter Kommunity.
Catios; Patios for Cats…. need I say more.
Kritter Kondos; they are trendy now and will evolve into classics with trend setters leading the way in our new product sections.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Hard work and accepting failure as part of the journey. I also outsource my weaknesses (patents, trademarks, drawings) and use my strengths to grow the business (sales, marketing, innovating)
When bringing ideas to life, I try to focus on the needs of myself, my pets and my customers. This way I am filling a need and not just creating things. Bringing creative innovation together with a solution to a problem are the ingredients driving Kritter Kommunity and will be as we continue to grow.
What is one mistake that you’ve made that our readers can learn from?
Wow, there are so many to chose from! But the number one mistake has been not listening to my instinct, my gut. Ignoring it always takes me down a path of regret. Sometimes I try to intellectualize something too much and ignore what my gut is telling me. A specific example is hiring a support person that I knew was not a good fit for my business. On paper the individual was great, but my gut was telling me different. I could have saved us both a lot of time and money if I had listened to that little voice saying “I don’t think this is going to work”.
What is one book and one tool that helps you bring ideas to life?
The book that opened my eyes to opportunity was Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki. I listened to this book on CD while traveling back and forth in a sales territory that covered three states. I was so inspired every time I would turn it on, I must have listened to it six times. One day when I was sitting outside in my Courtyard with my kitties in their ‘prototypes’ and the fifth or sixth person stopped to ask “where did you get those? My cat would LOVE one!” I heard Robert’s voice say “opportunity is all around us, we just have to be open to it”.
The tool I used to help me launch my business and first product was Twitter. It was ideal because I could post photos to get feedback, tweet with other pet lovers to develop relationships with customers, tweet with other industry professionals to network and host Twitter Contests to generate a “buzz” . Twitter has been a good friend to me, I highly recommend it to any business.
What is one idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
G.R.A. which stands for Google Radio Alerts. I currently use Google Alerts for key topics, trends and to track other industry professionals and products. When I was commuting to work and driving in my territory I would always wish I could turn on the radio and have a person read me all the alerts while I was driving. I could use the knobs to skip over ones of no interest, or dig deeper and get the entire alert communication read. G.R.A. Google Radio Alerts. I have another idea for Twitter, but I am keeping that one to
myself at this time.
How does your corporate work experience help you with your business and inventions today?
Working in Corporate America for over 20 years prior to launching Kritter Kommunity has provided me with a good business acumen. The formal and on the job training offered at Fortune 100 companies gave me so many tools to do a good job while I was an employee. Now those tools have proven to be wonderful investments in myself that are helping me put together a company strategy easier and more efficiently had I not had that experience. Being in Sales and Marketing most of my career is also paying off. I have no hesitation about cold calling, no huge fears of rejection and the vision to see where my company could be in the future. I was also fortunate to be surrounded by talented professionals and key mentors that are still a big part of my network. I am happy I had the opportunity to work in large Corporations for many years, the puzzle seems to be coming together perfectly.
How do you keep a work life balance?
This can be very tricky because I do not have kids that I believe can be natural balancers from work. If I am not careful, I will focus on my business and nothing else. But I have learned over the years, keeping things fun and fresh cannot be achieved with over focusing. I have a fantastic network of friends and family and take time to do all the other things I enjoy like bike riding, Pilates, cooking and just having fun all around. I get bored if I am not having fun, so balance is extremely beneficial in my life.
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.