Consumer sensibilities are much higher in the 2020s than they were in 2005, Chris Glissman laughed, recalling his garage-baked idea for a stoner-inspired line of catnip.
“You can guess what I was doing at the time,” he chuckled, looking back on his 15-year journey with Meowijuana — the Lenexa-based catnip giant that promises pets an experience of seemingly illegal proportions and has proven itself one of the city’s rising retailers, recently named to the Inc. 500 list.
Click here to shop Meowijuana products.
“We don’t do it for the awards,” added Scott Ragan, managing partner at Meowijuana and a Kansas City-business leader who’s served in executive roles at H&R Block and Three Dog Bakery, as well as senior roles at Sprint, now T-Mobile.
“We’ve been very blessed to have record sales in 2020, given a very turbulent environment,” he said.
Additional partners in the company include Geralynn Cada-Ragan, chief meowing officer; Brett Vickers, CFO; and Steve Hasty, investor.
Ranked 336th on the Inc-published list — alongside local companies like Amply Media — there’s no way customers would have lined up for a hit of the company’s product when the idea was first rolled, Glissman said.
“Today it’s in the news all the time — you can talk to your mom about it,” Glissman said of the way the company’s capitalized on a nationwide bud-boon, even if the actual product offered doesn’t contain a single trace of marijuana.
“We got really blessed on the timing of all that. And, I guess, the acceptance of all that.”
Now, the company’s part of a small business engine on the Kansas side of the state line — with Meowijuana and other Sunflower State companies on the Inc. 500 amassing a combined total of $1.6 billion in revenue and accounts for 7,346 local jobs, according to data published by Inc.
“We certainly have a really fun, very unique, very novel idea and brand,” added Ragan
“In some ways, in 1970 the pet rock had the same thing. If you just go with pure, ‘Oh, isn’t that silly? Isn’t that cute?’ you can be the next pet rock. Fun name, right time.”
Doing so gets customers in the door or online at a record pace, he said, noting some of them don’t quite understand what the company is really selling.
“Once in a great while, I’ll have somebody literally walk into our location here, looking around and I’m like, ‘Are you lost?’ and they’ll say, ‘I’m looking for a dispensary.’ … That’s not us,” Ragan said through a wide grin.
Lenexa police have also been sent to investigate the dealings inside the company’s massive warehouse space, Glissman added.
“They were like, ‘We got a report that you’re selling weed so we’ve gotta come check it out.’”
While the officers didn’t believe the rumors, Glissman said the incident made for perfect Instagram content.
“By the end of it, they were laughing. I gave them some catnip joints to take home to their cats and we have a big cat costume we use for trade shows — we call him MJ — I put the big cat head on and I put my arms around the cops,” he sad. “So, that’s awesome.”
Such a balance of work and play helped spark Meowijuana’s overall success, Ragan said.
“People get that this is a little bit tongue-in-cheek that we’re having a little fun, but there’s a good quality product for pets under it,” he said of the company’s overall mission and its team’s passion for pets.
“Part of having pets is sharing time with them — not just feeding them — but sharing time and engaging in that emotional bond, and I think everybody here appreciates that.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has provided a perfect opportunity for people to reconnect with their pets and Meowijuana sales reflect it, Glissman said of the company’s 1,134-percent growth over the past year.
“It’s been exceptional for us and thank the Lord for it,” he said of the silver lining for Meowijuana.
The growth is a welcome relief for Ragan who navigated the 2008 recession with Three Dog Bakery.
“That time was very tumultuous and so many companies had a lot of challenges. The pet industry slowed down to a paltry five or six percent growth and that was the worst growth year it’s ever had,” he explained, adding a shift has been seen with the current period of recession as people spend more time at home.
“Pet rescue shelters in America are empty for the first time in a decade — there are no dogs or cats to adopt because everybody has been home for the last six months and thought this would be a great time to get a puppy,” Ragan continued.
With stores like PetSmart and Petco — two Meowijuana retailers — deemed as essential as grocery stores, the company’s distribution never slowed, he said.
“I don’t know that there’s any industry that is recession-proof, but I would certainly say the companion pet industry is as close as I’ve ever seen,” Ragan said.
Click here to check out Meowijuana’s range of catnip toys, treats and accessories.