Rescate had an entrepreneurial epiphany. "I always thought it would be fun to start a business, but I didn't have the right idea, and it wasn't until I toilet trained my cat that this idea fell in my lap," she says.
In late 2004 she went to work creating a product, seeding the startup with $10,000-$20,000 she'd received as wedding gifts. Her final prototype was a litter box that fits under the toilet seat with removable concentric circles to gradually train the cat to go straight into the water. Eventually the entire product can be removed.
"A cat's natural instinct is to cover the scent of its waste from predators," says Rescate. "Water covers the scent better than anything else."
With a prototype in hand, Rescate and a friend created the branding for CitiKitty and the training manual in one weekend. She found a manufacturer by calling around (she's still using the same manufacturer).
However, when she launched in June of 2005 and priced Citkitty at $29.99, some of her family and friends doubted anyone would buy such a weird product.
"Everybody laughed. They thought, you know, this isn't going to work," she recalls. "You're the last one laughing when it's selling and you're helping people."
First year revenues were $115,000, much better than the $40,000 Rescate was making at her regular job, so she quit. Revenues this year will come in between $700,000-$800,000.
CitiKitty is made in the USA, which impacts margins, but Rescate feels lower margins are more than made up for with quicker turnaround times and the lack of a language barrier. Local manufacturing turned out to be a big advantage when she went on "Shark Tank" and found herself completely unprepared for the jump in sales.
"I had, like, 400 units lined up," she says. "I think I sold 10,000 units from the airing, and I wasn't ready...thank God I manufacture in the US, right?"