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A Pawsitive Pursuit

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Sparklepop Founder Megan Cummins uses her love of designing jewelry to help support no-kill cat shelters. 

By Abigail Rosenthal

Megan Cummins has always had the entrepreneurial bug. At the age of 10, she sold homemade Valentine’s Day candies door to door, unsatisfied with the profit margins of the classic lemonade stand. Cummins could also often be found taking walks through her Memphis, Tenn., neighborhood with her best friend—her cat, Princess.

“The two things that have always been true about me is that I love designing products and I love cats,” she says.

To bring these two loves together, Cummins founded Sparklepop, through which she helps save her furry feline friends by creating and selling jewelry online. A portion of proceeds from her jewelry sales goes toward supporting no-kill cat shelters in and outside the Austin area.

Sparklepop, however, isn’t Cummins’ first venture into the business world. In her senior year at Savannah College of Art and Design, she created a soap company, You Smell, as a school project.

“When I started that company, I was a kid,” she says, laughing. “I remember calling my professor frantically because the president of Urban Outfitters posted online somewhere that he wanted to buy several hundred units for a gala he was doing.”

Cummins quickly had to learn how to run a company, eventually appearing on investor-led reality TV show Shark Tank. Her soap business exploded after the episode aired and she eventually sold the company to an investor, ready to try something different.

“I didn’t grow up thinking I wanted to own a soap empire,” Cummins says. “I had always really liked jewelry, especially statement jewelry and unique type things. Whenever I would go to trade shows or events, the one thing I was always told was I had really cute jewelry.”

In 2012, Cummins packed up her belongings and moved from San Francisco to Austin, initially to pursue You Smell, then to pursue her goal of designing and selling jewelry. After she launched Sparklepop, it didn’t take long for the company to start succeeding. Sparklepop made $50,000 in its first month, with Cummins running the business out of her apartment with her fiance.

“FedEx would come and we would be sending out hundreds and hundreds of packages,” Cummins says. “Then they started sending teams of people because they knew if it was our address, there was a lot.”

Sparklepop has since moved to a warehouse space and grown enormously. The company’s products have been featured in magazines such as People and Family Circle. Cummins attributes Sparklepop’s success to her graphic-design background.

“Beyond a shadow of a doubt, I know being a graphic designer is what has expanded the company because we’re strictly an online company, so it’s all visual,” she says. “There isn’t a store they can walk into to see and feel the jewelry and try it on. It’s all just imagery.”

This success has contributed to Cummins’ main goal of aiding no-kill cat shelters. Sparklepop has supported shelters through financial donations, providing products for fundraising and exhibition at the American Pets Alive! No Kill Conference in September. More often than not, foster cats can be found at Sparklepop’s warehouse, which sits only two blocks from the Austin Humane Society.

Cummins regularly helps shelters throughout Austin. She has used her graphic-design experience to make fliers for adoption events, fostered cats at her home for Austin Pets Alive! and the Austin Animal Center, and is working on a website that lists what to do when encountering a stray cat.

“I feel like I’m always doing something for one of the shelters around here because it makes me happy,” she says. “If I get really stressed out at work, I’ll just tell my fiance, Aaron, ‘Hey, I got to go see the cats.’ ”

Her ultimate goal with Sparklepop is to fully fund a no-kill cat shelter, potentially in a city that, unlike Austin, isn’t no-kill.

“I would love nothing more than to find some amazing little shelter group that I can help get a physical location for themselves and create presentations to go talk to city councils and create petitions and give grants…the whole nine yards,” Cummins says. “If I had the emotional capacity to run a shelter myself, I would. What I can do is support them in any way I can, and for me, that’s starting a company that can donate goods and services to them to help fuel them in their journey.”

At the end of the day, what Cummins loves most about her job is being able to combine her loves for creating and cats to make a difference.

“I love making jewelry and I love creating products, but 20 years from now, I’m not going to look back and say, ‘Wow, I made a lot of jewelry. I did really great,’ ” she says. “I want to look back and say, ‘Wow, look at all the cats that I saved from my jewelry. That’s awesome!’ ”

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