Deena Malkina

Company: KitNipBox Industry: Consumer/Pets



KitNipBox is a curated monthly box of cat products, with a highly targeted, passionate, and immensely engaged subscriber base. The company’s goal is to offer a fun, unique mix of items to keep cats happy, healthy, and fit, while providing pet brands with exposure to a large, self-selected group of cat owners who are willing to pay a premium to treat their felines to the best products on the market.

The company also supports animals in need through donating a portion of their products and proceeds to animal welfare causes each month.

What is a sign you shouldn’t be an entrepreneur?

To be an effective founder, you need to be able to perform nearly every role at your company, at least early on. When you’re still building your team, you need to be able to shift focus and execute on whatever your company needs at that time. If you’re not willing to get your hands dirty or prefer to only focus on high-level strategy, rather than tactics, I think you’ll find it difficult to be a founder.


What is one thing you’re surprised to have learned so far in building KitNipBox?

One thing I didn’t anticipate was how hard it is to perfectly fill a role. When you work on a small team, each new person needs to fit well into the organization, both from a company culture perspective as well as in terms of skills and responsibilities. I’ve learned that doing this right means being patient for the right candidate, which sometimes means searching for months!


How did you know you were ready to be an entrepreneur?

I always knew this is something I wanted to do. My family immigrated to the US when I was ~11 and the company my parents started a couple of years after arriving is really what brought us into the middle class. They built it from nothing, so I’ve always had that example to show me what is possible.

Early in my professional career, I worked in product management, which I think is as close as you can get to starting a company without actually doing it. After HBS, I continued on the product management path before starting my first company in the daily deal space, which was later acquired.

At that point, I had proven to myself that I could be successful in an entrepreneurial role both at an early stage startup and at established companies, but wanted experience in the medium stage of scaling a startup. After gaining that experience through a product management role at a big data startup in the Bay Area, my co-founder I began researching opportunities for our next venture. Inspired by the success of BarkBox, we identified an opportunity to offer a similar service for cat owners.


How has HBS been a part of your experience as an entrepreneur?

The network that comes along with attending HBS is truly remarkable. At KitNipBox and at my previous startup, I reached out to numerous alumni with relevant industry experience and got many more replies than I was expecting, even from the most prominent industry veterans. Some of the people I met through HBS are now on our board of advisors. We also participated in the 2015 New Venture Competition, where we received 2nd place for the Greater New York Region. This process got us local exposure, allowed us to meet other entrepreneurs in the area, and gave us an opportunity to refine our pitch.