Five Business (and Life) Lessons from Lil BUB
Last week, I had the extreme pleasure of meeting Lil BUB as part of the CFHS Just for Cats Video Festival. She is just shy of 5 years old and weighs a mere 4.5 lbs. In other words, she is tiny. But, the little dynamo has a loyal following of millions of fans across the globe, including Posh Pets® Photography.
As part of the event, I got to sit down at Toronto’s Chelsea Hotel (who are totally pet-friendly, by the way!) with her human, Mike Bridavsky, and speak with him about the phenomenon that is Lil BUB. I really expected to write a nice post about a cute cat with a perpetual smile on her face. (I’m sure I said, “she’s adorable”, twenty times during the interview.) Instead, I came away with five lessons I think we can all apply to our personal and professional lives. So, sit back and learn something from Lil BUB…
1. Do what you do. Know why you do it. And don’t compromise. Especially for ‘success’ or fame.
I asked Mike how much of the public persona BUB now has was originally planned out. His answer? Nothing. “This is who she is”, he said, “we never set out to be famous.” It seems that BUB has always just been herself, spreading her positive energy with everyone she meets. If the comments on her various social media outlets are any indication, she has helped people who have faced tragedy, sickness or other challenges to have a positive attitude and face those challenges with dignity. The fact that she has now become a brand is just a bonus.
For those who would like to have the goal of making their pet famous, Mike’s advice is simple: get a better goal. “BUB is a one in a billion cat. I have five other cats who never became famous. I have a recording studio and the music is not as famous. You can’t force stuff. It just comes to you. Or not.”
These days, BUB receives many requests and opportunities from various organizations. It can be anything from endorsing a product, to appearing with a local politician at an event. But BUB and her people take her influence very seriously and have great respect for her following. She knows her mission – it is to spread positivity, to encourage empathy for others, to be proud of what makes us unique, and to throw a light on animal welfare as well as the challenges of caring for a pet with special needs. If an opportunity falls outside of that, it is turned down.
2. Know what you can’t do and surround yourself with people who can.
I was touched by how much Mike loves and cares for Lil BUB. “Her health and safety come first,” explains Mike. Obviously, BUB cannot always communicate her needs to everyone, so Mike advocates for her. Prior to our interview, I was told that any photography would need to be taken without flash because flash bothers her. During her interviews on the evening’s red carpet, I watched as Mike asked camera operators to dim their lights so as to reduce the effect it would have on BUB. Mike views his role as simply interpreting for BUB and translating it for the public. But, it’s a vital role and pivotal to her health, happiness, and success.
Mike is not the only one who takes care of Lil BUB’s growing empire. There are now three full-time employees, including Mike. They are all family and friends who care for her and ensure her business stays true to its mission.
Even in the little things, BUB has people to do what she cannot do. I discovered that she loves unsweetened yogourt. But not just any kind of yogourt. “The good stuff”, Mike quips. BUB obviously will not be heading to the store to purchase her favourite type of yogourt anytime soon. But that’s alright. She has people who can.
3. Be willing to be different. In fact, embrace it.
BUB is a traveller. She’s flown over 100,000 miles at this point. (“Always in the cabin. It’s an extra expense, but it is worth it.”) Considering that most people find that their cats can barely tolerate the drive to the local vet clinic once a year, she is remarkable. Mike assures me that she loves to travel and does not find it a stress at all. Interestingly, it’s been discovered that the vibrations from moving vehicles actually help her with her bone condition and makes her feel better. Her ability and ease with which she travels has opened up opportunities not normally available to her fellow felines. BUB is different and it has allowed her to do what she does.
4. Give back to something you care about.
Success opens up opportunities to give back to something you care about. BUB is using her influence to throw a light on animal welfare, especially for those with special needs like herself. BUB’s BIG Fund in partnership with the ASPCA was started in 2014 and has, to date, raised over $125,000 for animals who need extra help. And it is not just lending her name to a cause so that funds can be raised. BUB spends her time and energy traveling to appear at events like the one in Toronto to spread awareness of animals in need. It’s her way helping those less fortunate than herself. No wonder she oozes happiness and positivity!
5. When you are true to yourself, you attract the right people and opportunities.
Mike is adamant that they have never chased opportunities, and that they never will. Everything has happened organically as BUB’s sphere of influence has increased. “I have a pretty good gut instinct,” says Mike, “and can quickly decide if something is going to fit or not.” It’s not always right, but when it is, they seize it and BUB heads off to share her message again.
Mike never even set out to find Lil BUB. He already had other pets, but a friend texted him urging him to come and see a cat that “he knew was just the type I would fall in love with”. That chance meeting, along with the determined spirit of a little cat has changed Mike’s life completely. One that he could not possibly have imagined.
So there you have it! Our interview wrapped up with me taking a couple of images of Lil BUB and giving her a gentle scratch between her ears. I absolutely loved meeting her and listening to her little mews and could have stayed there all morning. But she’s a busy girl and had more people to meet. So, I said good-bye and was on my way. As I left, all I could think was: she’s adorable.