Island Pet Movers Is Happy to Transport Your Aardvark

2023 SmallBiz Editor’s Choice Award winner: Owner Kari Mendoza’s company moves 5,000 pets a year, and sometimes more exotic creatures.
05 23 Hb Best Of Small Business Hero 10 Island Pet Movers

Even as an “army kid” who moved all over the U.S. and Europe, Kari Mendoza grew up with an abundance of pets – from dogs and cats to pot-bellied pigs, pythons, parakeets and more.

Mendoza says her parents taught her that pets are as important as any member of their family, and when it comes to moving, wherever you go, they go too.

That idea stuck with her when she served in the Navy, and when she started Island Pet Movers in 2010.

“I don’t want the word ‘no’ to be a thing for families trying to keep their animals together … we will find a solution for you,” Mendoza says. “If it’s legal, we can do it.”

To prevent rabies in the Islands, Hawai‘i has strict laws on importing animals. If pet owners don’t complete the necessary steps before arrival, their pets may spend up to 120 days in quarantine.

After she saw her best friend struggle with moving her dog to Hawai‘i, Mendoza, who had experience dealing with government agencies, realized she could ease the process.

Mendoza says she and her small team help move an average of about 5,000 pets a year, including dogs, cats, birds, mice and even some monkeys and a giant aardvark for the Pana‘ewa Rainforest Zoo in Hilo. Despite increasing demand for her services, Mendoza says, she has barely changed her prices in the last decade.

Mendoza lost her job and savings when the housing market crashed in 2008, and when she started her business she was $500 short of what she needed. Instead of borrowing from a friend, she gathered a few household items and returned them to Costco. Today, the business remains entirely her own, which she runs with a dozen of her employees.

“I genuinely don’t feel there are many days that I feel like I’m at work,” Mendoza says. “We just really enjoy what we do. We help a lot of families, and we hope to continue doing that.”