Founder Stories: Nathan Chan

When in doubt, we thank whatever force brilliant enough to have blessed us with our favourite family member - the cat.

Along with the wonderful creation of cats came the idea of cat cafés. The first being “Cat Flower Garden,” opened in Taipei, Taiwan in 1998. The concept grew and blossomed all across Japan and Asia. As of 2015, there are a registered 58 cat cafés in Tokyo alone and around 127 in North America! Out of those 100 and some cafés emerged the very first bubble tea cat café. Fuelled with the mission of tackling the feline overpopulation and finding homes for our rescue cats. Partnered with Cat Therapy and Rescue Society, we are proud to introduce: Catoro!

To celebrate not only our first blog as well as the continued success of Catoro since its opening in July of 2019. We wanted to start our series with a personal one-on-one interview with one of the owners, Nathan Chan. In blogs to come, each owner will be interviewed in order to get an inside look on how Catoro came to be, where it is now, and where it is heading.

I was born and raised in Vancouver BC, and of mixed Chinese and British descent. I've studied and worked across quite a few fields and industries. My education background is in design at Simon Fraser University, however I dropped out to pursue gaining work experience when I was around 21. I think I never really knew exactly what I wanted to do back then and I immediately went into university after high school without a real goal in mind. As for my work experience, I've worked for a number of years in fine dining as a cook, then I went into the film industry in post production for reality tv. In the last 3 years I've been with Toyota and this is where I met Leo Chan and Lisa Wong. My other partner, Luke Mochizuki, I met around 2010 through mutual friends.

On his rescue animals

We have 6 cats, Truffle was the first who's a siamese cross from LAPS in Langley, two black cats Poppy and Ollie are siblings from RAPS in Richmond. They love each other and cuddle and groom each other often. Then there are 3 kittens we got last year from Cat Therapy and Rescue Society right after we decided to work together on Catoro. Their names are Olive, Sesame and Martha. They are quite rambunctious but are very very sweet.

On why he wanted to open a cat café

When we're kids, most of us have good, warm memories of going to the pet store or zoo or aquarium to visit the animals. There is a deep, powerful magic that happens when you are close to animals. It's proven to alter our mental and emotional states. I think in the modern, busy world, we lose touch with ourselves and those feelings that we used to be able to call upon at a young age. I really wanted to create a space that could help people escape from their day-to-day
lives and the stresses that most of us carry.

In addition to this, I have always had a deep care and love for animals. I have 6 rescue cats and 2 dogs myself at home. It's so difficult for cats to get the attention they deserve and for them to show their true personalities when kept locked in a cage. In a cafe setting, all our cats, no matter their history, have been able to come out of their shells and warm up to people. This is healing magic that benefits not only the human but the cat as well.

On one of his biggest inspirations

My Grandfather was always my biggest inspiration. He stood about 6'4" and always looked like the biggest and strongest person I knew. He was a teacher of Aircraft Engineering at BCIT until the early 90's. Since I can remember, he was always teaching me about design, engineering, computers, photography, and carpentry. He was truly a jack of all trades and I felt like he could do anything. In the late 80's he purchased a small piece of land in Chilliwack BC, right beside a
river. There, he lived with my grandmother and he built a beautiful house for them to live in all by himself. He always had an open door (literally and figuratively) to let people in and lend them a hand with whatever they needed. He never did things to expect something in return. Because of his generosity, he was the most loved in the community.

On his favourite memory

When he was 80 years old, my grandfather went down to the bush land and built a walking trail beside the river and through the forest for him and all the neighbours in the area to enjoy. This may sound small, but it was a huge undertaking, involving cutting out a path, digging up roots, building walking platforms and carrying them himself deep into the woods. He did whatever he
could to bring joy and happiness to others. That was the most inspiring quality about him and something that I've tried to model for my own life to this day. Unfortunately he passed in 2014 but I will never forget the things he taught me.

On lessons learned

I realized at some point, that any place I ever worked at would never give me full satisfaction and fulfillment. I truly feel that too many companies have the wrong priorities in terms of their business model in serving their customers, how employees are treated, and the purpose for doing business. I wanted to push myself by taking on this monumental challenge and prove to myself that it was possible to make a successful business with a strong social purpose. The biggest thing I undervalued in the past was myself. I thought that working one job and
enjoying my time off after work was fine. I definitely didn't see the potential to do more with my time, to be creative by using my skills and interests in order to earn a living in a less conventional way.

Final thoughts

Don't worry about what others think of you or expect from you. Surround yourself with people that help you grow and spend less time with people that hold you back.

“Do well by doing good.” - Benjamin Franklin.

by Léah Michaud