My short bio:
Hi Reddit! I'm Sonya Petcavich, founder & CEO of After 5 years of a successful career in big tobacco, I quit my six figure job on July 24 to pursue my wildest kitty cat dreams. My company required employees to sign a NDA but I will do my best to answer more general questions about working for big tobacco!

My Proof:
EDIT: The site's back!!

Thanks so much - this has been a ton of fun answering all the great (and challenging) questions! Keep them coming! Meoww

You guys crashed! ty! ;D
2nd EDIT: while site's down, this will have to suffice:

G2G get some sleep. Will be back tomorrow to answer questions! Thanks everyone for a great day! Meow!

Comments: 904 • Responses: 108  • Date: 

Zazenp578 karma

Is it weird that seeing your phrase "cat boarding" made me think of a cat-based water boarding technique? Like, "give us the information or we pour more cats on your head!" Also, where can I sign up for getting myself cat boarded?

meowsonya109 karma

When you find it, please let me know! ....maybe that can be in V2.

TrocarRogue309 karma

Can you provide some insight into what the big tobacco companies are trying to do with vape/e-cigs? Do they want those devices classified as "tobacco products" to choke new competing companies with government regulations?

meowsonya268 karma

Ha, great question, and that definitely depends on which company you are working for :) Most of the big players take the stance that they want less regulation because they argue that vapor products have less of a detrimental effect to society, thus, don't punish the manufacturers or consumers with excise taxes since vapor is a "great" alternative to smoking. FDA regulation would mean much stricter manufacturing standards, product proposals, etc. which would also work in favor of the big guys and squeeze out the smaller guys who just make noise.

apocalypse_gum102 karma

Do you smoke, yourself?

meowsonya243 karma

Nope, I vouched never to touch a cigarette in my life. Have I used cigars and e-cigarettes on social occasions? Yes.


Was your decision to never touch a cigarette based on your work experience, or was it prior to your employment with big tobacco?

meowsonya186 karma


UltraSTONED75 karma

Good shit ma'm

meowsonya90 karma


SpaZticHero37 karma

Is this common amoung workers?

I'm just graduated and was recommended for a job in a major alcohol company by my college's career's office, but I'm straight-edge.

meowsonya99 karma

Many of the younger employees like to try the products and some will go on to use them socially or use them regularly. There's no pressure to have to use any of the products though just because you work for the company.

TrocarRogue13 karma

Thank you for the response. I'd be really interested to see the studies that big tobacco have done on the subject, especially with the new rule proposals that products would be subject to FDA approval. Good luck with Meowtel!

meowsonya17 karma

Yep...the tobacco landscape should be an interesting one over the next 5 years! And thank you!

onmytablet184 karma

Is this really a scheme to get cats addicted to smoking?

I'm just going to assume your NDA prevents you from saying yes...

meowsonya144 karma

Good news, the clause about animal smoking strategies wasn't in my NDA so I can honestly answer this one. This is a scheme to get cats using a new addictive product called Meowtel.

DerikP34 karma

You mean the claws?

meowsonya23 karma

Precisely! Thank you for the correction!

ColonelWetEars154 karma

Do the big tobacco companies have plans to move into the marijuana business as more and more states will begin to legalize marijuana?

meowsonya218 karma

Leadership never shared any marijuana details with us but rest assured, there were always jokes and rumors from all levels.

mkautzm136 karma

How many people in the upper ranks of big tobacco actually smoke?

meowsonya208 karma

Based on what I saw, the executive level's smoking rate is lower than the average (~1 in 5). However, there was a higher usage rate of alternative forms of tobacco (dip, snus, e-cigs) in the upper ranks.

tunaflyby58 karma

How are sales like yourself and upper level able to sell without using the product?

meowsonya154 karma

Maybe that's why the water always tasted funny... :/

-Lightbringer-127 karma

Do you spend 99% of your day taking pictures of the cats? I would spend 100% of my day doing that.

meowsonya164 karma

Ugh, I wish. When my team and I were working on site design, I set up cat photoshoots and would casually tell my friends "oh, I can't make it to _____, I have a cat photoshoot." Half would stare at me like I was crazy and half would applaud my lifestyle. Soon, very soon, 100% of my days will be spending time with kitties in shelters and hopefully doing a shelter promotion tour.

wowokya104 karma

What the heck inspired you to do that?

meowsonya235 karma

In January, I finally realized what I want to do in life (inspire others) and that money doesn't buy happiness. Coupled with the fact that my best friend kitty of 17 years died and she was the only thing holding me back from making a radical life change, I figured it was time. It was too easy to get sucked into working for a company that provides a compensation package that can't be beat, but when I would leave the office everyday, I felt meaningless and as if my life had no value. I wanted to be in charge again so I made the conscious choice to walk away and pave a new path.

Bran_Solo154 karma

Hey, I feel obligated to tell you that is configured to spit out any code errors to the public, including the code excerpt that caused the problem. I'm looking at it now and it showed me a few hundred lines of code, which is a security risk and honestly just doesn't look good to customers.

Also, right now all searches result in an error.

meowsonya95 karma

SHIT! My dev guy is on it, thank you so much!

cabin_boy_swallows74 karma

I currently work for one of the big tobacco companies and I too find it way too easy to be sucked into working for them because of the pay and benefits. Congrats on following your dreams! I would rather study linguistics but big tobacco pays the bills.

meowsonya71 karma

It's unfortunate...don't let it suck you in! I had a peer in my department who was an extremely talented writer and it made me depressed to see an outstanding human like himself have to be confined to a corporate office setting 40 hours per week.

jamiegandolf23 karma

You sound like an awesome person. People like you deserve success. Best of luck to you!

capnmalarkey29 karma

Cat boarding is cool and all, but I was really hoping for feline surfing pics…

meowsonya27 karma


3urritos43 karma

I have no soul.

How do I get into Big Tobacco?

meowsonya60 karma


3urritos8 karma


meowsonya16 karma

Are you really interested in entering the industry?

MindsetAnnihilation9 karma

I am very much so.

meowsonya18 karma

Please send me a message if you'd like to discuss.

coldgears20 karma

You realize you just opened the floodgates? Everyone and there mother wants a six figure job and very few care what they need to do to get it.

meowsonya18 karma

There's a flood?

Aimeelinn13 karma

This really resonates with me I, too, had a best friend kitty of 17 years, she passed away in October so I completely understand how that could make you want a big change So congrats on following your heart and I wish nothing but the best for you :)

meowsonya5 karma

Many thanks! Sorry about your kitty :(

evilcounsel2 karma

Congrats. I'm leaving my cushy law job to do something for myself and be my own boss. The feeling of creating something on my own is amazing and freeing. It's no longer a paycheck I collect, it's a paycheck I make.

Wish you all the best on your endeavor, and glad you were able to cut ties and do your own thing.

meowsonya1 karma

Thanks, best of luck to you as well!

apc024352 karma

Neat idea, what was your background that led you into the Big Tobacco industry?

meowsonya105 karma

As an undergrad studying business at UC Berkeley, I was in my junior year looking for a summer internship. This was right after the 2008 financial meltdown and so many firms cut back on internship opportunities for the summer. I had this notion in my head that I would go into banking or accounting but after interviewing with some of the Big 4, looking at spreadsheets all day wasn't the thing for me. Big tobacco was recruiting on campus and I ended up talking to some of the employees at an internship fair. I immediately clicked with the people but was hesitant at first because of the fact that the industry is so controversial and I had kind of been a big hippie all my life. The fact that the District Manager I as speaking to could rattle off all the ways the company responsibly markets and sells its products was impressive and I decided to give it a shot. The internship was such a great experience that I then came on board full-time after graduation and the rest was history.

ImAStruwwelPeter36 karma

You probably rarely get this question due to, as you mentioned, the stigma with Big Tobacco, but how does one break into this industry (aside from an internship)?

meowsonya47 karma

On the sales side, show enthusiasm for business development and taking on a challenge. Because have no doubt, it's not easy taking a position in big tobacco and having to have those conversations with friends, family, and even your customers about the products you sell and how much harm 'YOU' have caused. If you want to work in brand, procurement, finance, etc. or any of the other departments, show an interest in the product, where it comes from, how you can help a Fortune 500 company grow, how you are willing to undertake a challenge, etc. Big tobacco recruits on many college campuses or just go to their websites and look at available positions. Many of the new hires come from word of mouth recommendations.

ImAStruwwelPeter13 karma

Thanks for the response! I appreciate your insight. I'm a fan/user of cigars, so tobacco is certainly filed under my "interests" list, and I currently work in marketing. At this point in my life, I'm trying to figure out what career track I want to follow (especially as far as industry). Tobacco is pretty high on my list.

meowsonya21 karma

It's not for everybody, but if you enjoy the products and can accept that what you sell causes severe harm (what doesn't cause harm nowadays?), sounds like it could be a good fit! I would be happy to put you in touch with people if you're serious about it. [email protected]

kmhalvie13 karma

The fact that the District Manager I as speaking to could rattle off all the ways the company responsibly markets and sells its products was impressive and I decided to give it a shot.

I guess I'd like to hear more about this -- to be fair I work in tobacco prevention, but don't they really only "responsibly market and sell" their products because of all the tobacco control laws in place?

meowsonya25 karma

Nope, not the case. Some of the companies ignore the potential harm they could cause and CHOOSE to place point of sale signage or merchandising displays right at children's eye level or within their reach on checkout counters. Other companies, although it is not required of them, take a much more conservative approach and require whoever partners with them to merchandise their products behind counters by a specific amount of inches, out of the reach of kids, etc. It's interesting to read the company values of each player in the industry as it can reveal a lot about how proactive they are in going above and beyond what is asked of them by the government.

kmhalvie7 karma

Interesting -- thanks for replying.

meowsonya14 karma

My pleasure

CarlFriedrichGauss9 karma

Damn, I just graduated from Cal and I don't think they'd ever let big tobacco on campus for a career fair. They just banned smoking all over campus last year!

meowsonya28 karma

What people can easily forget is that big tobacco companies are just like the Apples and Googles of the world: they too need talent if they are going to innovate and be able to report positive earnings back to Wall Street. To some, having a tobacco company at a career fair may be no worse than allowing BP or McD's to have a booth.

Fortune_Cat8 karma

But what exactly did you do

meowsonya21 karma

I had several different roles. I was primarily charged with working directly with retail and wholesale trade partners and providing them with solutions which can grow their tobacco categories and overall business. Almost like a consulting role. I also had the pleasure of leading up a team of 6 sales reps and working in HQ.

tehringworm9 karma

Altria speak.

meowsonya10 karma

Guilty as charged.

pword_could_be_taco49 karma

What was your job title that earned you that salary?

Do you have any regrets for supporting such a damaging industry?

Did the upper ranks of the company believe that their product was harmful or were they as oblivious as their PR statements seem to suggest?

Thanks for taking the time :)

meowsonya66 karma

In general, once you're at the "Business Unit Manager" level or above, your total compensation will be well above $100K with your salary, a bonus, company car, etc. I don't regret anything in my life as I believe everything you experience is for a reason. I'm a huge yogi (just became certified on Sunday!) and through my spiritual and asana practice, I was able to see that what I was doing eventually got me to a place (now!!!) where I can finally give back to the causes that matter most to me, such as helping people heal themselves through yoga and saving animals. In big tobacco, EVERYONE knows the product is harmful - there are no ifs, and, or buts about this. Big tobacco employees are human and they are what kept me motivated to come into work.

pword_could_be_taco25 karma

Thanks for your response!

Follow up, if I may...

Being that everyone in the industry knows the product is harmful, are there any talks or developments being researched to even attempt to remove some of the more dangerous carcinogens from the product or do they just not care enough?

meowsonya43 karma

Big tobacco adapts to the more consumers in the U.S. are demanding organic, healthier options, you can bet the behemoth companies will be listening. Just think of Walmart now with their huge organic foods section. Do some research on American Spirit (100% organic cigarette). This brand has seen tremendous success in select markets and I'm sure other manufacturers will want a piece of that "natural" tobacco segment.

pword_could_be_taco5 karma

No offense, but with regards to more organic options, I'll believe it when I see it.

Thanks for your insight and congrats on finding happiness. Good luck with your new venture :)

meowsonya16 karma

Thanks! Ha, I will believe it too when I see it as I have no idea what the industry's long-term plans are for "healthier" options.

james90758 karma

I know I'm a little late, but as a business unit manager, your job title initials make you a bum. Just thought you should know.

meowsonya4 karma

Thank you for the giggle.

twistedfork37 karma

What percentage of your users choose in home sitting (their house) vs sending their cat to a host's house?

I recently had a friend come check on my cat while I was gone and she basically didn't come out the whole time I was gone (she ate and stuff, but my friend rarely saw her). I think she would have been even more stressed if I had forced her to go to someone else's house.

meowsonya26 karma

Based on what we have heard thus far from current and potential hosts, the preference would be to sit the cat in the cat's home. Keep in mind we only launched August 8th and are in public beta so as our user population grows, this could totally change. Kitties are finicky so we kept this in mind when building out the host profiles.

ericsb719 karma

I didn't figure out what cat boarding was until I got to this comment.

meowsonya17 karma

Should I change that to cat sitting? I can't tell if users are being facetious when they make the cat boarding-water boarding comment.

RadicalDog7 karma

Cat boarding, to me, says the cats have to travel. Sitting might be a more general term to accommodate both possibilities?

meowsonya3 karma


twistedfork13 karma

I'd be interested in signing up to host. Does the registration process allow me to limit the distance I'd be willing to travel to cat-sit or could I get an email from any crazy cat lady in the country?

meowsonya11 karma

We'd love to have you! In your "About Me" area, just specify where you are willing to travel. When people search within 5 miles of the city/zip you are in, your profile will show up. So no, you won't get requests from people all over the country!

twistedfork5 karma

Can you host more than one pet at a time?

meowsonya10 karma

Certainly - especially if you are sitting the kitties in the owners' homes.

fmsrttm5 karma

Is there an option when signing up that would let you select to only go to owner's houses?

meowsonya3 karma

Yup, you can do "hosts in my home," "sits in their home," or you can do both!

js-strange29 karma

Is your cat making too much noise all the time!?

meowsonya49 karma

Meowtel expects owners to supply their own kitten mittens to the sitters.

Cornflip17 karma

This is a pretty niche question and probably not in your area of expertise, but I recently saw the documentary "Merchants of Doubt" (trailer here, good summary), which is about how tactics developed by Big Tobacco to counter anti-smoking campaigns have proliferated into broader denial-of-science movements currently transpiring, especially in regards to global climate change. Do you have any thoughts, opinions, comments, etc. that you can or would like to share regarding this documentary or your possible involvement regarding this? I'm just curious since I saw your AMA and I really enjoyed this documentary, and the two seemed related. Best of luck with your cat startup!

meowsonya11 karma

OH MAN! Alright, just watched the trailer and you've got me all excited about watching that. I love me a good documentary and have watched a plethora of the food industry ones out there. My own opinion is that all of the revolving doors we have going on between DC, big tobacco, agriculture, you name it, will only result in this country regressing since policies are formed for the wrong reasons. I wasn't close to government affairs and didn't personally know anybody who has been involved with "teaching other industries to lie" so I'm sorry to say, I don't have much for you. But thanks for sharing the trailer!

portrait_fusion16 karma

Do the people who are in charge of marketing and responsible for providing a positive image for their products (cigarettes), actually believe their products to be less dangerous than scientific studies have proven otherwise?

The reason I ask is because it's insane the level of disconnect there appears to be with most top-tier execs (in most companies that provide unhealthy products) and the image they are selling as opposed to the image of reality.

So really, do the execs think cigs are a good choice for anyone? and if they truly do believe that's the case, do you know why they could believe such a thing?

meowsonya25 karma

What it comes down to is advertising. No matter what the company is selling - cheesy puffs, fermented tobacco, books, or water, you'll always want to shed your product in the most positive light to gain the most traction with your consumers. So if scientific studies have proven that it's less dangerous, the ad masters will use that to their advantage even if deep down they know that the studies may be wrong. Science. NASA. Can't go wrong, right? I'm completely with you on the disconnect. If I had to make a statement on behalf of my former peers, it would be that next to no one in big tobacco thinks cigar are good for anybody. But if you enjoy using the product, then whichever big tobacco company you represent, they would prefer that you choose their product.

portrait_fusion6 karma

good way of putting it. It just always seems so strictly bizarre that there is such a huge disconnect.

Kind of like when McDonald's tried to crush down on "Super Size Me", I mean....I guess I could never in a million years envision myself as being "the guy" who goes to interviews and says shit like

"our food is great for you, those people don't know what they're talking about!"

I would literally never be able to sleep knowing how massive an asshole I would be perceived as. Not only that, but I would feel like anyone who would know who I am (in such a hypothetical circumstance as this one) would immediately know not to trust a single word that comes out of my mouth, if, words such as those came out of it.

It sometimes feels like the freedom of enterprise then creates individual beings that act on and believe their own realities, which can sometimes be completely against what would constitute as progress for the general public. And that, to me, seems really fucking weird.

meowsonya14 karma

Drones, man. It was weird being inside the belly of the beast. You can quickly tell which people want to be the drones and do it all for the money and ego and which ones would rather be able to speak truthfully.

expostfacto-saurus15 karma

Are you Bubbles?

meowsonya11 karma

I wish! Kitties are so nice...

Spendalf3 karma

You wish you lived in a shed, with a couple of friends who frequently drag you into their absurd criminal shenanigans?

Me too.

meowsonya3 karma

As long as one of them plays the guitar and can serenade me with kitty cat songs.

dryrainwetfire15 karma

Want to start a pet emergency service, like 911 but for pets? I almost called 911 for my cat yesterday because I thought he was having a seizure.

Maybe something like an app similar to pulse point but for pets.

meowsonya18 karma

You're hired!

Zykatious11 karma

How scared is big tobacco over the huge success of vaping that's taking lots of money away from them?

meowsonya24 karma

Good question because this is a huge misconception to people who aren't close to the industry. When vapor took off about 2 years ago, everyone flipped out and thought the entire world would switch from smoking to vaping almost immediately. When you take a step back, you see that vapor, despite its rapid growth, is still such a small sliver of the total tobacco pie. So in a nutshell, I would say big tobacco is definitely keeping it on the radar but not too concerned.

bangle1211 karma

meow.. i'm a cat, me and me friends want to stay at your hotel, do you accept catnip as payment?

meowsonya14 karma

Meow.....can someone at Stripe integrate catnip into the payment system?

ZeroSilentz15 karma

I don't think the DEA approves of this transaction.

meowsonya10 karma


88549008811 karma

Is there any guilt felt in the industry at the health consequences?

meowsonya24 karma

Definitely. The coworkers I was surrounded by are candid, honest, good people. I had an emotional conversation the other week with a peer of mine who is a mother of two. Her kids are at the age where their friends now ask what "so and so's mommy" does for a living and she admits, it has been incredibly difficult to discuss it with her kids and their friends who she works for. It was challenging working in big tobacco because you, as an individual, are blamed for all of the mistakes the industry made decades past. The only thing I could do, and still have to do, is own up to it and provide as much empathy and compassion as I can for whoever I am having the conversation with.

drocks2710 karma

Do big tobacco companies think they will be around long term?

Meowtel looks interesting, but doesn't seem to be in my area yet.

meowsonya16 karma

Big tobacco companies certainly think they will be around long term...MO, RAI, etc. are publicly traded so even if they don't sell the traditional version of tobacco via cigarettes, they'll be selling something for years to come. Meowtel just launched on August 8 so we have a lot of room to grow. Because it is a marketplace model (we need users to become hosts before any cat can be sat), at this point we are very much relying on people across the country to sign up as sitters/hosts :) With that being said, we're focusing in Southern California right now and then will expand as quickly as possible!

lmBatman6 karma

Let us know when you're looking to expand internationally!

meowsonya5 karma

You got it!

drocks275 karma

Good luck! It takes a lot of courage to do what you have done. :)

meowsonya5 karma

Thank you! It's been terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. I just hope people will like the idea and want to partake!


Can you please talk about how the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009 affected big tobacco? And why was menthol given a break?

a cigarette or any of its component parts (including the tobacco, filter, or paper) shall not contain, as a constituent (including a smoke constituent) or additive, an artificial or natural flavor (other than tobacco or menthol) or an herb or spice, including strawberry, grape, orange, clove, cinnamon, pineapple, vanilla, coconut, licorice, cocoa, chocolate, cherry, or coffee, that is a characterizing flavor of the tobacco product or tobacco smoke.

As a side note, this act made it impossible for me to buy clove cigarettes (the cigars are nowhere near the same). I miss them dearly.

meowsonya11 karma

Excellent question! Regardless of who you were in big tobacco, this act was pretty terrifying and the first big piece of legislation since the MSA. As a result of this, the one change which affected the sales side was product labeling, i.e., "Marlboro Lights" became "Marlboro Gold." When you change a product descriptor, you have to ensure all point of sale and any marketing materials have been updated which can be a hurdle. Manufacturing materials have to be updated to reflect the new descriptors. Your sales force has to be trained to not say the old verbiage. It's a lot. My understanding is that menthol was given a break because it is such a large segment of total cigarette sales, and at the time, Lorillard's main chunk of revenue. (Disclaimer: this Act came slightly before my time) but I think the menthol thing had something to do with Anti-Trust and it would be unfair to put a big player like LOR at such a disadvantage. Sorry you can't buy clove cigarettes! Write to your congressman :)

pirateofspace8 karma

Any plans to change your name to Petcatvich?

meowsonya11 karma

Once Meowtel gets traction, that's my reward to myself :D

yeyman8 karma

What type of dog would you own if you weren't a cat lady?

meowsonya9 karma

Is this cliche? A golden retriever. I had one growing up (Nipper) and she was the sweetest. She's in a nice wooden box too in my mom's house <3

NoBallNorChain8 karma

Hi Sonya! How many cats do you own (this could be answered with a photograph)?

PsychKnowledgy7 karma

What was the culture of the company like? How did people justify the fact that their profits were inversely correlated with the life expectancy of consumers?

meowsonya10 karma

I really like this question because it brings up a point that many of us just don't think about...hardly ever. Now granted, I worked on the sales side so I didn't do 5- & 10-year strategy mapping from a big picture level with consumer dynamics such as life expectancy coming into play, so unfortunately, my peers and I didn't touch this topic. Out of sight, out of mind. But overall, the culture will be contingent upon what function you work in. In sales, we are all highly energetic, outgoing people who love to have a good time. Thus, at every meeting and even just walking down the halls, you could have terrific activities or a great chat with a peer. For how "Corporate America" big tobacco is, the culture has come a long way.

cabecker135 karma

Thanks for doing the AMA! How do you/the company you worked for feel about the ads targeted at the youth that we need to stop smoking and that "this is the generation to end it all"? Do you think this is plausible?

meowsonya8 karma

I'll only share my opinion which is I would be so proud if it's our generation that stops smoking. Big tobacco has the cash and the resources to be able to adapt to the changing times. If it's not cigarettes they're selling, it will be Gadget X or Consumer Product Y. In terms of plausibility, I don't think it will happen unless there is a new CPG good that people can do while bored (you could argue mobile phones are already doing this) but it needs to be something they can taste. I don't even want to throw out a timeline of when it will be plausible because until humans stop being cattle, it'll be an uphill battle.

cullenation5 karma

What is your take on the vaping industry? Your interpretation of Big Tobacco's stance? What impacts do you forsee?

meowsonya11 karma

Vaping fascinates me; it appeared out of nowhere and now everywhere you go, there are full blown vape shops where you can sample different flavors and learn all about the experience. I think it will continue to grow over the next decade and personally, I think it would be great to see vapor overtake traditional cigarettes. Big tobacco sees vapor as another revenue stream so they definitely want to partake. How the FDA chooses to regulate vapor is the big unknown out there right now as well as how states and even more local bodies of government will choose to tax the category. It'll also be interesting to see which vapor brands will dominate the market since there's so much volatility with how consumers are trying the products.

adkhiker1375 karma

Why did I think cat boarding was like waterboarding but with cats? Why did I think it was a good idea to comment after going to a 3 hour beer tasting?

meowsonya5 karma

BEEEEEEER! Any IPAs? Tell me what you had!

westsidestory894 karma

I just want to say what you did takes a lot of courage. I totally get what you are saying like "material things" aren't always the most important things in life.

My question how has legalization of Marijuana affected the sales of Tobacco?

meowsonya4 karma

Thanks :) I'm not'd have to talk to tobacco retailers in CO, OR, and WA.

-WarHounds-4 karma

It seems like a huge trade off, do you ever regret leaving? Does your current job bring more happiness and meaning to your life? Are you making less/not having the opportunities you had with your old job?

meowsonya10 karma

My last day was July 24 and I was pretty much an emotional wreck the following week. I kept second-guessing my decision and going into panic mode and thinking OMG WHAT DID I JUST DO. I have come to terms with my decision and am so proud to walk away from something that wasn't making me happy. Building, launching, and developing Meowtel is incredibly gratifying. I'm in charge, I'm surrounded by a team of best friends and family who help with the work and decision-making processes, and I have the flexibility I want. Of course I'm making less - I just bootstrapped a website dev project out of my own pocket. Not sure when my next paycheck will be, hence why I'm putting every ounce of energy into Meowtel and why I did an Indiegogo campaign.

kwassa13 karma

Do you want to go catboarding this weekend?

meowsonya5 karma


B0dhisattva3 karma

How did you get the job with Altria?

What prompted you to leave and start your own company?

Where did you go to school?

meowsonya6 karma

I got the job through completing their summer internship my junior year of college at UC Berkeley. My plan was to go back to school but then when Miss Lily (my cat of 17 years) died in January, I wanted nothing more than a "cat share" type of website to take care of temporary kitties. That was when Meowtel was born. Between finding something I'm that passionate about and getting into grad school, I had found my out that I had wanted for some time. It was time for a change...especially an industry change.

podoph3 karma

6 figures can be as low as 100,000 right? was it worth it?

meowsonya10 karma

Anything less is 5 figures :) It was worth it in the sense that I became financially stable at such an early age and I learned a tremendous amount. Without my experience there, I wouldn't be able to go off the beaten path and pursue Meowtel.

justhere223 karma

How hard is it to get into a position like the one you held?

This may be out there. But what are the chances of tobacco companies bringing back old popular flavors.

Ex. Camel Frost. I LOVED those things. But they disappeared 8 or 9 years ago.

Or Skoal Vanilla

Last question. What are some of your favorite hobbies?

meowsonya5 karma

To get into an entry level position in big tobacco requires you to be able to demonstrate that you're analytical, a clear communicator, you can problem solve, and you have a decent amount of confidence. For my company's entry level position, it required 2 interviews and a day in the field. So, it's lengthy and there are some difficult questions, but I would say it's nothing close to the difficulty of recruiting with a consulting firm or a company like Google.

Popular flavors...this question is always fun. There are so many factors that can go into product portfolio planning (category performance, segment performance, competitive activity, manufacturing capabilities, budgets, supplier constraints, executional ease, etc.) that it's impossible to say why some of those flavors are discontinued.

Hobbies! I love surfing, swimming, yoga, pole dancing, drinking lots of IPAs, playing violin/viola, seeing live music, making up weird inside jokes with my best friends, traveling, and anything kitty-related.

DildoBaggins752 karma

How much safer is Snus than regular dip?

meowsonya2 karma

Ask a Swede, the snus experts. I'll lay out the facts and you form an opinion: you swallow all of your spit with snus. With dip, the standard use is to at least spit it out so it doesn't wreak too much havoc on your innards.

jeffislearning2 karma

Anyone that is interested in the nefarious side of big tobacco should google Jeffrey Wigand and watch his 60 Minute interview. He is a whistleblower on big tobacco and the drama film 'The Insider', featuring Al Pacino and Russell Crowe, tells the story of how the tobacco industry manipulated the press in order to shut him up.

My question is: What characteristics should I be looking for when I adopt a cat?

meowsonya3 karma

When you lock eyes with that one cat for no explainable reason...that's the one.

Mrgoldenzombie2 karma

Why cats?

meowsonya4 karma

Cats make people wildly happy, including myself, and despite their enormous popularity on the internet, they're underrepresented from a service provider aspect.

jsmooth72 karma

What is your favourite cat subreddit?

meowsonya4 karma

Stuff on cats. The calm air that a cat displays of not giving two fucks gets me every time.

lukerobi2 karma

A cat hotel? What is your demographics mainly? Crazy white women?

meowsonya4 karma

Meowtel is a cat boarding & cat sitting marketplace. It connects cat sitters with cat owners so they don't have to worry about the hassle of caging their cat in a kennel while they're away. Example demographic 1 Example demographic 2

northerninthesouth2 karma

Thank you for doing this AMA, I have an interview for a Territory Sales Manager spot with Altria. Any advice? Did you supervise any of those positions?

meowsonya6 karma

I did, please send me a message if you'd like to chat.

confusedjake2 karma

Is cat boarding supposed to be a form of torture?

meowsonya3 karma

I wish cat boarding equated to a human being locked in a room full of kittens. But alas, it is not. Torture to some, magic to others.

Hermiesterberger2 karma

Which country mandates the grossest warning labels on cigarettes?

meowsonya3 karma

Great question. I was only involved with domestic operations but based on my own travels, Singapore is pretty gruesome.

irregularpeanuts2 karma

Follow-up: Do you support that sort of labelling in the U.S.? Not that I imagine it changes many peoples minds but it is good to remind people when they're buying a pack. The text label we have is pretty easy to ignore.

meowsonya4 karma

It is pretty easy to ignore. My initial answer would be to do the gruesome labeling. But then when I step back and think how heavily taxed tobacco is, and how much federal and state funding that provides, I ask: what would the government have to tax next if tobacco sales were minuscule? Double-edged sword either way it's played and there's no good answer. But I definitely believe everyone should be exposed to the gruesome reality of what tobacco use can do to you.

DirtyBurqa2 karma

What charities, if any, are you supportive of?

meowsonya5 karma

I support Surfrider Foundation, the Orangutan Foundation, and via Meowtel, I'm able to support Best Friends Animal Society. With that being said, I'm looking to get much more heavily involved in surf/beach/ocean causes and then continue animal shelter work through Meowtel. If you know of any causes that are up my alley, please let me know!

Ca5bah2 karma

What are your opinions on electronic cigarettes/vapes and the way that tobacco companies are trying to villify them with ads such as "You don't know what's in e-juice?"

meowsonya6 karma

You could probably go to any retail outlet that sells a form of vape juice, ask them where it was produced and what kind of quality assurance the production facility had in place, and the retailer wouldn't be able to tell you. There may not even be a customer satisfaction number on the vape juice container (I've never bought any so I'm unsure of what's on the packaging). Big tobacco probably isn't worried about the local guys producing the juice in their garages but what they do want to minimize are the medium-sized, regional vapor brands that could disrupt their share of the market either now or down the line.

Randyraycyrus2 karma

When you were working for big tobacco, how did people react when you told them where you worked?

meowsonya4 karma

There was always an initial shock and they thought I'd be joking. The next question, without fail, was always, "well, do you smoke?" And the answer to that is no. Then the third question was "well, how do you work for big tobacco if you don't smoke?"

zpufnstuf1 karma

How heavily are tobacco companies positioning themselves for marijuana legalization? How does tobacco not become a schedule 1 drug?

meowsonya1 karma

I wish I knew how tobacco is not a schedule 1 drug. Like any smart company, you're constantly staying abreast of industry trends, including adjacency options. I really have no idea how tobacco companies are positioning themselves for potential [national] legalization.

AubreyPosen1 karma

Dearest LP,

Keep being awesome!! You inspire me!!! Where is your next market after Southern California??

meowsonya2 karma

Aubrey, thank you!!! Eugene, OR of course :)

comhaltacht1 karma

During your time with Big Tobacco were there any conversations or attempts to make cigarettes less harmful to users?

meowsonya1 karma

It's always on everyone's mind in big tobacco. Anything a tobacco manufacturer can do to better align with society's expectations of you while still meeting, or exceeding, earnings is the name of the game.

sylvar1 karma

Will Uncle Ben really bring my cat into the shower with him?

meowsonya3 karma

Only if you think your kitty cat needs a bath

123fakerusty1 karma

I have no soul and an engineering degree. How do I get into Big Tobbaco?

meowsonya1 karma

Job postings

jlenders1 karma

Do you agree that secondhand smoke causes SIDS?

meowsonya2 karma

I don't have a medical background.

furiouslyfappin1 karma

Cats are very self reliant.. What makes you think people need cat sitters? Do you think it was wise to quit your 6 figure a year job and invest in that website to pursue such a thing?

page_81 karma

Are you hiring at your kitty boarding company, and can I work there? [serious]

meowsonya1 karma

What type of position are you looking for?

moondizzlepie1 karma

Is cat boarding similar to water boarding?

meowsonya1 karma

Probably if the cats have to be caged

theologe1 karma

Is cat boarding the new water boarding?

meowsonya3 karma

Yes, but way less torturous

KingSix_o_Things0 karma

So, you didn't suddenly have an epiphany and realise that your job was helping disgustingly rich people become even richer by selling death to as many people as possible, but just happily made a total shit load of cash in one of the most poisonous (in every respect) industries humanity ever created and decided one day to do shit with cats?

Good for you.

EDIT: A word.

meowsonya3 karma

I wish it was an epiphany. It was a short-term epiphany. In November 2014, I knew I wanted an out and I thought that out would be grad school. I started preparing by taking the GMAT and applying to schools and such but then on January 16, my cat died. The "cat share" concept came to me because I was so distraught and I never looked back. Oh, and I got into grad school.

DeucesCracked-1 karma

What would you like to say to all the people whose loved ones you aided in the commercial murder of in your last employment?

meowsonya1 karma

Having worked in the industry, I take full accountability for the products I sold and I'm profusely sorry for any losses that have occurred, especially if you have been personally affected by tobacco. The reality is that as long as there is demand for the product, there will be someone there to sell it. I have now chosen to lead a different life that benefits others and I'm very proud of that.

pubkindofnight-1 karma

Did you ever feel bad working in an industry that leads to the death of millions of people?

meowsonya1 karma

Bad, yes. Regrets, no. However, I view tobacco in the same light as the oil, garment, and food industries (just to name a few).

jabbaciv-1 karma

I never knew my father's parents because they died when he was a teen. Lung cancer from cigarettes for her, mouth and throat cancer from pipe smoking for him. My wife's father died from COPD caused by smoking, and now my daughter will never know her grandfather. And it would be great if her grandmother could stop smoking, but she's addicted, and it's all we can do to get her to just smoke outside when her granddaughter is around. But it's cool you made six figures, I guess. Does the tobacco industry have anything planned to replace family members? I'd like to know. Is there an amount of profit that can justify the human cost? What's the dollar value for human lives?

Six figures? Seven?

meowsonya1 karma

I'm so sorry for your losses and I truly mean that. A human life is invaluable and that's probably why big tobacco fears admitting the harm their products cause. Anything remitted to family members would have come out of the Master Settlement Agreement but who knows, there may be something with the corrective statements that will be made. Again, with all my heart, I'm sorry and the compensation employees are provided doesn't make what we do worthwhile. Hence, why I chose a different path.