A Local Finance Whiz Is Helping Musicians Sell and Manage Merchandise
Vanessa Ferrer used her business acumen to found a solo venture that trades in her passion for music.
Photo by Michael O'Donnell
Vanessa Ferrer has an unusually bifurcated brain. She always has. On one hand, the CPA has a bachelor’s degree in public accounting and a master’s in real estate finance and investment. On the other hand, from childhood she could identify a song from its first note. She spent nearly 15 years working as a fund controller for a real estate investment firm in Purchase, yet she could anticipate the progression of a melody before it was played.
“I followed in the footsteps of my mother, who was a controller for car dealerships,” says Ferrer, who is an alumna of Pace University and NYU. “I figured it was stable and pragmatic, but I have always been an artist at heart.”
It was a lifelong cerebral tug-of-war that would be chaotic to most brains, yet Ferrer unified those competing hemispheres into a coherent symphony called Merch Cat (www.merchcat.com), a Web-and-mobile-app business that helps musicians sell and manage merchandise.
Back in 2007, Ferrer had a serendipitous meeting with an aspiring musician during a Vermont ski trip. Though she was in the midst of a successful career as a fund controller, Ferrer succumbed to her instincts and formed InFocus Artist Management, officially moonlighting as an artist’s representative. Sometime around 2013 Ferrer realized that often, the best source of revenue for these struggling artists was from merchandising their brands rather than from performance dates or recording contracts. And with that realization came a new idea.
“There was no convenient way then for an artist to record how much merch was purchased, where, for how much, and simultaneously track and update inventory,” says Ferrer, who maintains an office in White Plains. In 2014 (the same year she resigned her post at the investment firm), she began collaborating with mega-vocal coach Jan “Mama Jan” Smith (Justin Bieber, Drake, Usher), who later introduced her to app developers who would provide the platform enabling Merch Cat to spring into the marketplace about a year later.
Today, following roughly $400,000 in startup costs, the investor-receptive Merch Cat is a thriving online artists’ merchandise hub and downloadable app that helps the likes of Marshall Tucker, George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, and Hollis Brown organize, track, and replenish their merch sales for only $7.99 per month or $84.99 annually. Spurred by a 2018 gross-revenue growth of 80% and 230% growth in its customer base during the same period, Merch Cat launched Merch Cat FAN last July, a spinoff mobile app that for a nominal 7% off the top, sells artists’ merchandise directly to the fan — anytime, at live shows at a show’s merch table or ship-to-home later on.
Ferrer, who plans to expand her soloprenuership again in the near future, says, “It’s a lot of hard work and sacrifice, but I’m finally doing what I love.”