Inspiring Women: Meet The Young Entrepreneur Who's Changing Atlanta One Cat At A Time
Meet Hadyn Hilton — a female entrepreneur who is doing what she loves, fearlessly.
At 26-years-old, Hadyn Hilton has already accomplished a lot. As a college student pursuing a degree in film, Hadyn decided to take a break from her studies to follow her dreams of helping both cats and people in the city of Atlanta. In March 2017 her dreams became a reality when Java Cats, Atlanta's first cat café, opened its doors to the public. Java Cats is not only a fully functioning café complete with up to 20 adoptable cats from no-kill shelter PAWS Atlanta, but it's also in partnership with The Gathering Industries, a non-profit organization that helps homeless men and women through culinary training and education. The café offers a stress-free environment for visitors and cats alike, while simultaneously aiding The Gathering in their mission. Since Hadyn and I last spoke, 130 cats have found their forever homes.
Talking to Hadyn I learned not only about Java Cats, but about the obstacles she faced getting started as a young, female entrepreneur. Keep reading to learn more about Hadyn's story, her advice for other female entrepreneurs, and of course, for some adorable pictures of cats.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO TAKE A BREAK FROM SCHOOL AND OPEN JAVA CATS?
Putting a pause on school wasn't an easy decision and as weird as the timing was, I just felt like I was ready to take on this new adventure. School will always be there and I am determined to finish my degree someday, but I have always believed that a college degree doesn't make you more qualified to achieve your dreams. It felt good to break out from the pressure of "needing" a degree and literally just going for something I was passionate about!
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR PARTNERSHIP WITH THE GATHERING.
I had the pleasure working for The Gathering Industries as a photographer and videographer about a year or two before Java Cats. I knew they would be great mentors for me and I was really excited to incorporate supporting their mission of helping the Atlanta homeless into my business plan.
We sell all their food here, which is prepared offsite and then brought in by them. They then receive a large percentage of our food sales. It’s awesome because we can share their mission with visitors at Java Cats, and they get great exposure —they even landed a job with the Atlanta airport making sandwiches for them. They have gotten a ton of business just from their exposure here. It’s been really great for them.
AS A FEMALE ENTREPRENEUR, TELL US ABOUT A STRUGGLE YOU FACED WHILE OPENING JAVA CATS.
I learned really quickly that by not only being a female entrepreneur, but also being only 24 when I wanted to open this business, that a lot of people did not take me seriously. For example, when I was looking for space for Java Cats, I would call locations and they would say that I needed to send in all my financial information so they could see if I could afford the rent, etc,. My husband would call the next day and they would say, "oh when do you want to come see it, make an appointment." It would be an immediate doors open for him. And then when dealing with permitting with city hall, I feel like they just saw me as a little girl trying to open a cat cafe. It was really frustrating to keep getting doors shut in my face over and over because of the concept, and because of being a woman and being my age. Dealing with sexism firsthand was pretty discouraging.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER NEW FEMALE BUSINESS OWNERS WHO MAY BE ENCOUNTERING THE SAME ISSUES you did?
Don’t keep quiet about it. It’s easy to just not say anything, but for me by expressing my frustrations I have the support from other local women in Atlanta that supported me, encouraged me, and kept me going. So I think just not staying silent and understanding that it’s a common problem. It also shows you to not be naive to other problems other people might face because of race, gender, religion, or whatever— it opens your eyes to that. Be open minded and seek out support from other women. It’s really helpful to feel like you have that community to fall back on.
HERE AT LIVINGLY OUR MOTtO IS 'LIVE LIFE BEAUTIFULLY.' WHAT DOES LIVING LIFE BEAUTIFULLY MEAN TO YOU?
To me it means just doing what you’re passionate about, relentlessly, and not being scared of what people have to say about it. Pursue it if you know it’s right, and if its going to do good for some part of the world or some part of a problem. Doing what you love and doing it fearlessly, that's living life beautifully.