(Photograph: Jeff Minton)

First video: September 2012
Official T-shirts offered: 100,000
Estimated worth of Grumpy Cat, Ltd.: $1 million
Lesson: Put money into cats.

One Wednesday afternoon this summer season, Ben Lashes is standing on Sundown Boulevard in West Hollywood sucking on an digital cigarette. He’s in tight denims, a black fedora, darkish Ray-Bans, and Air Jordan 1s. His consumer, Grumpy Cat, waits in a shiny black Escalade for the TMZ Hollywood tour bus. Lashes has organized an encounter exterior the membership the Comedy Retailer that he hopes will spur a section on the TMZ website. I need to be exterior and see you when the automobile is coming, he tells the cat’s proprietor, Tabatha Bundesen, 28. Then I’ll begin performing like a fan.

Tabatha’s daughter, Chyrstal Bundesen, 11, sits exterior the Comedy Retailer with a Frappuccino. She takes credit score for Grumpy Cat’s actual nameTardar Sauceand its misspelling. (She began off a whitish-orange colour after which turned black, Chyrstal says. And I don’t suppose I knew easy methods to spell tartar.)

At the moment’s cease is a part of a multicity publicity tour for Grumpy Cat: A Grumpy Ebook, for which Chyrstal is a component hype machine, half PR woman, half sidekick. Their final journey was to New York for Ebook Expo America. Lashes is hoping to sooner or later get Grumpy Cat on Saturday Evening Stay. I inform him that appears doable. Something is feasible, he assures me.

And Lashes, 35, born Benjamin Clark in Spokane, Washington, would know. As soon as a entrance man for the Columbia Recordssigned power-pop band the Lashes, he’s now a Los Angelesbased meme supervisor, liable for taking Grumpy Cat, one of many Web’s hottest viral characters, from a single internet hyperlink to a seven-figure franchise.

The TMZ tour bus pulls in entrance of the Comedy Retailer. Oh my God! It’s Grumpy Cat! a fan shouts, as Tabatha boards the bus holding the dwarf Siamese like a ventriloquist holding her doll. Grumpy Cat appears to be like at her proprietor. Her sky-blue eyes (trademark pending) blink extensively as if saying, I awakened for this? No. Half of the passengers appear confused by the celeb they’ve simply noticed however take photos anyway.

When the bus drives away, Grumpy Cat, Tabatha, Lashes, and Chyrstal climb into the SUV, ordered from Uber. Subsequent cease is the Customary resort, a block and a half up Sundown. We might have walked, Tabatha factors out.

Grumpy Cat doesn’t slum it strolling up and down Sundown. Grumpy Cat pimps it, Lashes explains. And this manner Grumpy Cat is getting out of an Escalade.

Lashes sips a Corona on the Customary’s bar, his fedora cocked barely. Within the ten months for the reason that Bundesens signed with Lashes, rights have been optioned for a live-action cat film, Grumpy Cat grew to become a spokescat for Friskies, her e book made the New York Occasions best-seller record, and he or she offered over 100,000 T-shirts and 35,000 Christmas playing cards. Grumppuccino espresso will likely be accessible in grocery shops subsequent month, and round 100,000 orders have already been positioned for the three plush toys that can drop in time for Christmas. All of those concepts have been executed by Lashes, who was capable of see earlier than the remainder of us that Grumpy Cat wasn’t any totally different from an area rock star or Mickey Mouse. She’s simply one other pop-culture persona to be branded and marketed.

To turn into a famous person cultural icon, a band and a cat each want the identical factor: a die-hard fan base capable of remodel area of interest celeb into mainstream acceptance. Take Van Halen, he says. In the event that they didn’t have a fan base that went nuts and stood on individuals’s shoulders and drank beer within the parking zone and made one thing larger out of it, they’d simply be 4 dudes enjoying to an empty room. The supervisor’s job on this equation is to maintain the bottom comfortable whereas always in search of out new avenues of promotion. It’s an method that mixes the foresight of an A&R man, the market savvy of a McKinsey swimsuit, the voraciousness of a fanboy, and the moxie of a Chinatown hustler.

Along with Grumpy Cat, Lashes’s present portfolio consists of Keyboard Cat, Nyan Cat, Scumbag Steve, Success Child, Chuck Testa, and the Ridiculously Photogenic Man. He’s additionally began working with America’s Funniest House Movies to assist promote and handle their catalogue.

My objective all the time has been to assist get these items handled the identical as some other leisure property, Lashes says, simply convincingly sufficient that you just virtually neglect the absurdity of what he’s promoting.

I’m not conscious of anybody else on the market that’s doing what he’s doing, says Martin Brochstein, a senior vice-president on the Worldwide Licensing Business Merchandisers’ Affiliation. There are many advertising and marketing specialists and professionals who embrace licensing amongst their providers and know easy methods to do it, however I don’t know of anybody else who’s working particularly within the digital realm with animals.