Alumni Spotlight on Kanchan Singh (Q17): Finding Your Passion by Embracing the Unknown
By: Chineme Obiefune (Q25)
It is impossible to predict what lies ahead of us. We make four year plans and envision our lives moving in certain directions, but at the end of the day, nobody knows what tomorrow holds. These four year plans help to hedge against the uncertainty of the future, which is ironic considering that our most memorable moments often occur when we fully embrace the unpredictability of our lives.
When Kanchan Singh (Q17) graduated from the University of Maryland, she had no plans to launch a cat café or anything of the sort. She had a job lined up doing public sector consulting, and that’s exactly what she did. While the work was good, it wasn’t enough for Kanchan. With an intense love for animals and business, she didn’t feel that her job was giving her the opportunity to explore both paths. Despite this feeling, it wasn’t until a backpacking trip to Thailand that she experienced the flash of inspiration that would redirect her life.
During her trip, she volunteered at an elephant sanctuary and reconnected with her passion for animals. Soon after, she went to a cat café in Chiang Mai, and everything fell into place. “This is amazing”, she said to herself, “but why does this not exist back home?” It didn’t take long for her to build on the idea and incorporate a socially conscious twist once she got back to the U.S. “I realized that I could tie it in with shelters,” she said, “by pulling cats out and preventing them from getting euthanized by keeping them in the café.”
Kanchan had finally figured out how to combine her love of business with a social cause, and she didn’t let anything stand in her way. Even though the idea made sense to her, she had a harder time convincing others to see things the same way. “Everyone thought I was crazy,” she said. “Two years ago when I came up with the concept, it didn’t really exist in the US.” While the skepticism at the time was understandable, Kanchan persevered and launched the first location in D.C.
In the early stages of Crumbs & Whiskers, Kanchan did most of the heavy lifting herself. Looking back, she said, “I would have hired professionals instead of trying to do everything myself.” The autonomy gave her the opportunity to learn a great amount, but it also highlighted the value that professionals can add, especially when it comes to new ventures.
Following the initial success of the first café, she decided to open a second in Los Angeles this past September. “It’s challenging running two stores on both coasts,” she says, “but I knew the next place to go was LA based on some market research I had done.” With an increase in profile comes an increase in obligations, but Kanchan has used every challenge as a learning opportunity. Her ideal vision is to grow the brand throughout the country. “I want to see us in more cities around the U.S.,” she said, “and make ‘Crumbs & Whiskers’ a nationally recognized brand.” With lofty ambitions and the drive to back them up, there’s no doubt that Kanchan will exceed her goals. It took a while for her to find her passion, but now that she has found it, the journey has just begun.