Hadyn Hilton first heard about cafe cafes while taking a media studies class at Georgia State University. At the time, her professor assigned each student to write a 10-page paper on a phenomenon in the media. Being a cat lover, Hilton chose the topic of online cat videos.
“When I was told I had to write a huge paper on a topic of my choice, I didn’t hesitate when it came to picking a topic. I immediately chose cat videos. I mean, everyone watches funny cat videos online. Even if you don’t like cats, I’m sure you’ve found yourself watching an online cat video, but why? That’s why I chose the topic. I wanted to know why people were so obsessed with these furry little animals!”
Though her hours of research, Hilton discover that people all over the world have been obsessing over cats since the beginning of time. While organizing her ample research, she came across cat cafes that popped up all over Taiwan in the 1990s. This information specifically interested her.
“These cat cafes were used as a type of therapy for local people. People would go into these cat cafes, play with cats and drink their tea. The whole ritual was supposed help increase your happiness and lower your stress. The more research I did, I found that these cat cafes were in the U.S. I was able to track a few down out west, and I convinced my family to check them out with me. After visiting my first cafe, I was sold. I knew this was something that I had to bring to Atlanta.”
At the age of 24, Hilton made a huge decision that would change her life forever. She quit her job and dropped out of college to open the first cat cafe in Georgia.
Hilton’s friends and family were not surprised by her decision, and she was immediately surrounded by love and support.
“Growing up, my family and I were used to taking care of cats. My parents’ neighbors had a huge barn, and when they moved, they left their barn cats. The cats would come onto our land, we would catch them, get them spayed, then release them back onto the land. We would also feed them. After we started feeding the cats, they never left! It was a cycle that continued for years.”
Opening the first cafe cafe in Georgia was not an easy process in any aspect. Hilton had to get the correct permits, find the perfect location, raise money and learn how to run a business.
“After months of fighting with the city, I finally got my permits. But I think it really hit me, that my cat cafe was happening, when I was sitting in the location I signed a lease on. The area was covered in graffiti and trash, but I immediately saw the potential. Back in those days, I was very overwhelmed, but I knew I had to push through the hard stuff and focus on the ending goal.”
Luckily, Hilton had wonderful mentors who helped the through every step of the way. She learned how to be a cashier, a barista, a manager and a first-time business owner.
The first day of opening, all Hilton’s training paid off. The cafe was packed with a line out the door!
“Being a first-time female business owner isn’t easy, but it has been so worth all the hard work. Having a platform to help get cats from Paws Atlanta adopted, while giving the Atlanta community a fun place to go, has been such an experience. Java Cats Cafe has changed my life, and it’s continuing to changes others’ lives as well.”