A WALK ON THE WILD SIDE

Updated: Apr 8, 2019


2Q19 LOCAL BUSINESS SPOTLIGHTMeet two of Denver's brightest shining Millennial stars, Sky Davis and Lance Harding. Resourceful, hard-working and creative Colorado natives unafraid of making big things happen on their terms. Read on to learn more about the young men behind Cat Topia, a new Colorado company that's getting attention for all the right reasons.

SKY DAVIS


Sky Davis is a Colorado native who grew up in Boulder. He went to University Hill Elementary, a bilingual school where he learned to speak Spanish fluently. As a teenager he honed construction skills remodeling houses with this family. After graduating from Boulder High, Sky attended Metro to study business and marketing but had to make adjustments when he could no longer qualify for student loans after his mother joined the Peace Corps. She’s presently serving in Thailand. In 2014, Sky packed up and moved to Denver and found work at Sushi Hai as a server where he dutifully clocks in six to seven days a week, mostly nights. The Spanish he learned in grade school allows him to communicate with customers and staff alike. Sky now lives in the Villa Park neighborhood with his girlfriend, Sage.

Both animal lovers, the couple adopted a dog named Nala from the Denver Dumb Friends League (equal parts mutt, coyote, and whipette), and two kittens named Deigo and Frida. While Nala got plenty of walks outside in the neighborhood, the kittens had to stay inside due to inherent dangers Denver’s busy city streets pose to cats.


“The kittens were relentless. They wanted to be outside so bad! They would meow at the door for hours. Any time we went in or out the kittens would try to bolt.”


As loving, pet-co-parents Sky and Sage wanted to do what was best for Frida and Diego. The couple struggled with respecting the kittens’ need for exercise and outside experiences with keeping them safe.

“Outdoor cats face serious hazards in the city and in the foothills,

and it’s devastating to lose an animal. Heartbreaking.”


Like so many Coloradans, Sky’s family lost a family cat to wildlife when he lived in Boulder. After the loss, Sky remembers envisioning a safe all-season enclosure where cats could move freely in or out of a home and enjoy feline experiences safely. In 2016 Sky made his vision a reality — as a gift to Frida and Diego.


“Once it was built the kittens relaxed a lot. The enclosure gave them the freedom and outside experience they needed, and gave Sage and I peace of mind. We knew they could be outdoors doing cat things whenever they wanted without roaming busy streets.”


This amazing cat haven complete with natural climbing branch, triple cat bunk beds, stained glass, prayer flags, and a full-size door for people got attention – including that of a long-time friend of Sage ... a young, creative, and already accomplished entrepreneur named Lance Harding.


LANCE HARDING


Lance Harding is a Colorado native too. He and his twin sister Paris grew up in Englewood near DU and attended Catholic School. Growing up, both received money for birthdays from their family. For years Lance faithfully saved his in what he called his “treasure chest,” a small box about the size of a jewelry box.

As age 12, Lance grabbed his mom’s Nikon Coolpix s3500 (one of the first point-and-shoot cameras ever made) and captured an image of his family’s golden retriever, Max. Immediately after taking that pivotal photo Lance knew he wanted to be a photographer. In 2006, he invested all the money saved in his treasure chest into his very first camera, a Cannon XTi Rebel. It cost $1,000. Two years later Lance got his first paying gig shooting his school’s cross country team, and in High School Lance became a professional photographer specializing in weddings. By the age of 23, competing against thousands of photographers around the world, Lance’s work was selected as “Best of National Geographic’s Your Shot” awards in 2014 and 2017. After graduating from East High, Lance went to Colorado Mountain College in Breckenridge to complete classes to apply to CU Denver. He earned some income photographing skiers, but needed more to meet long term goals. So, in 2016, Lance took a semester off to do so.


He drove for Lyft for a month but found it confining, and left to start his own company. But how on earth does a student in need of income launch a company with no reserves?


A smart and resourceful person might start browsing Craigslist’s FREE section. Lance did just that, and noticed that the most commonly listed free items were pianos and couches.


“To a lot of people FREE means too good to be true. But to me there was a more important question, WHY was it free? Most often, it was due to an inconvenience factor.”


That smart question led to great idea … and Lance set out to turn that awareness into a business.


Early on a brisk February evening, Lance borrowed his friend Sage father's truck to pick up a free Craigslist couch. He cleaned it up, took good photos, and advertised the very same couch for sale on Craigslist the next day for $250 … with free delivery. The couch ended up fetching $300 after the happy buyer happy buyer tipped Lance for his hard work and great service. And with that? The Good Couch, was born.


Lance capitalized on the inconvenience factor of one person, eliminated it

for another, and with simple yet careful marketing efforts made a profit and a difference.


You may have seen Lance, his company (and one of their couches!) summitting Mt. Elbert for charity last year? Sure, it took 15 hours but Millennials don't shy away from big ideas, good ambitions, or hard work. That day alone, The Good Couch raised thousands of dollars for Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.


Since, The Good Couch has grown to two warehouses in Denver, and one in Knoxville, TN.


In 2018, Lance sold a portion of his equity in the company to join forces with Sky Davis, on his latest project.


CAT TOPIA


Early in 2018 Sky and Sage wanted to save money and Lance was looking for a short-term rental in Denver. Adding a housemate was a perfect solution for all. Soon after, Lance moved in with Sky, Sage, Diego, and Frida.


Sky may have envisioned a bridge to connect cats safely to the outdoors and made that idea a reality – but Lance saw its immediate and expandable business potential upon sight.


“You should start a business!!”

~ Lance, upon seeing Diego and Frida’s amazing cat pad.


Cats all over Denver meow ... "FREEDOM!!"


Sky knows good advice when he hears it, and by December these two hard-working professionals joined forces. Together, they carefully wrote a business plan putting Sky in charge construction, inventory, operations, and labor with Lance overseeing business and marketing. Today, Cat Topia is building lucky felines safe, all-season catios all across the greater Denver metropolitan area.


Cat Topias are the ultimate addition to any home creating the perfect world for cats. Each is built to meet exacting owner-specifications, unique feline needs, and crafted to beautify a home. Best of all? They allow cats to walk freely in and out of the home to recreate safely in the outdoors, anytime of day, without disturbing anyone. Click here to see benefits of Cat-Topias.


Have a cat with special needs? Lance and Sky will build their purrfect haven. Need a Catio on a roof? No problem! And what Cat Topia is complete without artistic touches to bring the home's outdoors to life? Not a one.

SLIDESHOW Click to View! The Sunnyside | Penthouse

Jolene has angular limb deformity and needed personalized mobility features.

On the outside? A vertical garden for vines and plants to decorate the entrance.


It takes about three days to build a Cat Topia and cost varies by size, running approximately $56 per square foot which includes design, labor, and materials. The typical catio is 50 square feet, and Cat Topia offers three basic builds: The Studio (20-50 sf), the Suite (50-75 sf) and the Penthouse (75+ sf).


True to form, the Cat Topia team works consciously to utilize what others discard. Whenever possible, materials used to create safe spaces for cats come from re-purposed wood donated by local decking and construction companies.


Social consciousness is fundamental to Cat Topia’s mission as well. The company has already established partnerships with the Denver Dumb Friends League and The Denver Cat Company, and donates 1% of their revenues to local animal shelters. Later this summer, Cat Topia plans to sponsor lost cats by partnering with social media sites, vets, and shelters to alert communities to missing cats and help get them home. Lance and Sky are working hard to help people and improve cat life, quality, longevity.

“We love cats, and consider it our duty to help cats in need.

We are here to prevent pet homelessness in Denver

and we really care about what we’re doing.”

WHAT'S NEXT?


As of this publishing, the duo has already hit 50% of their total 2019 production goal and is currently looking to hire builders. Know of a hardworking, construction-capable, cat lover looking for summer work? Have them email thecattopia@gmail.com to inquire about employment opportunities! And if you’re headed out to Wash Park on May 4 for the Furry Scurry, be sure to look for Cat Topia's booth. You can’t miss it. It’s a human-size Catio! As the company takes flight Sky plans to work fewer nights and spend more evening time with his loved ones. Lance will continue to pursue ambitious photography projects, and whenever life permits? Might start chasing tornadoes. Both of these young entrepreneurs credit Colorado for their adventurous spirit and the daringness to turn great ideas — into reality.


DESIGN YOUR PURR-FECT CAT TOPIA (AND SAVE!)


Whether you live in Denver, Boulder, Aurora, Lakewood, or anywhere in the greater Denver metro area Cat Topia is excited to design and build your cat’s perfect, all season, catio. Follow them on Instagram and Facebook and call Lance and Sky at (303) 838-6115 when you’re ready to start designing your feline’s wonderfully safe outside world! (Pst! Mention that you learned about them on this blog post and get 10% off your spring build … but act fast, this very special SCHWINGSCOUNT is limited, and ends June 30, 2019).




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Michelle Schwinghammer is a REALTOR® and Certified Negotiation Expert® who supports local business.


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