Little Wangz Petlife
1807 #2 Caronel Warehouse
By Steven Graff
Six years ago, Kaylani Plain Cruz received a dream offer. The owner of Little Wangz Petlife in Harmon decided to leave island and offered to sell the business to then-23-year-old Cruz after nearly 10 years of operation.
“I’ve always loved animals and work really well with them,” Cruz said. “It kind of made sense.”
So after a year and a half as an employee, Cruz bought the pet and supply store and had a new title: owner and manager. Since then, she has approached the business with a desire to learn and grow it, but also to enact change in a community facing a large stray population and help find the right homes for pets — from fish to rodents to dogs.
“As far as the business side, that was something I had to pick up,” Cruz said. “But I definitely had the passion for the other side of the industry that’s needed for this.” And it’s a love of animals.
What does your store offer?
We sell pets and pet supplies. The things that we get locally are some fish, dogs, rodents and cats, and then the things we import are birds and fish. The cats that we get are all actually local cats. We try to sell them and help out the stray animal population really by getting these animals a good home. As far as dogs, we sell the pure-bred dogs that we get from local breeders. And then we also have at least one adoptee at a time, which is a boonie dog.
Services we provide include boarding for dogs, cats, rodents, even birds, and we have done fish. We do showering for dogs, as well. Boarding is definitely our biggest service.
For pet supplies, it’s really anything you need to care for your animal on a daily basis.
How many dogs do you usually have at a time?
That can be random. Right now, we have a German Shepard and a toy poodle. And we just had Rottweilers. They already sold. They are going to Chuuk.
The dogs that are on consignment, the shots are … paid for by the breeder, but we make sure they are updated. So when [customers] purchase the dog, they don’t have to worry about it. The boonie dogs we take care of ourselves.
Who is your customer base?
We have a lot of locals. We have some military, but I mostly hit the local market. It would be nice to see more military customers in here.
You’ve always had a passion for animals, but running a store was new to you. What have you learned since taking over?
On the business side of things, I would say inventory and taxes. Those have been things that I have slowly been learning about as the years go on. Every little thing that comes up, I learn how to switch it up and make it work. Figure it out. I did start doing my taxes on my own because I needed to know where all those numbers were coming from. I didn’t really know how to look at any sort of tax paper and know how to read it. And I can for some part now, but only because I started doing it for myself.
How has the business changed?
Our suppliers have changed. Prior to me, the previous owner was Chinese, so she [had] sources in Taiwan and other places. I have that language barrier. So, I had to move to find other suppliers. And I try and do things in a way that’s not so wasteful.
The aquarium industry has changed, too. People are looking for more natural types of [decór]. And that’s how our customers have been. I enjoy that because it’s not all the plastic trash. If they throw this kind of stuff out, it’s biodegradable. It’s not harming anything. And for me, we’re a small island, so that does matter. I feel like it has gone that route. People are more into the driftwood, the live plants. That’s not only more natural; it’s also even better for your aquarium and for the life of your fish.
What makes your store standout?
Products wise, we do carry CBD [cannabinoid] products [for pets]. As far as the way we run things … I definitely try to go more of a personal route and give customers the full information about the animal before they leave. It’s not only important to do socializing with dogs, but even when you get down to things as small as a hamster, you’ll notice if you don’t spend time with them on a daily basis, they tend to lash out. And with rodents, it’s in the way of biting. And that’s just a lack of socialization.
For me, I feel that is something that really changed with ownership. Because when I took over, I didn’t really understand the way that people thought about animals on this island. I thought that people who liked animals, thought the same way about them as I did. But I found that just wasn’t the case. I found that there is a lot of ignorance.
What’s the best part of the job?
Seeing those boonie dogs adopted and having good homes. Our stray animal population has really gotten out of hand lately. It’s really sad to see. For me, doing that keeps me sane.
What are some of the challenges of running a business?
Sometimes it gets a little crazy in here and sometimes the crazy happens all at once. There can be people talking to me, someone on the phone waiting for me to answer them, one of my employees waiting to get an answer from me and then my dogs are barking.
It’s taken a lot of changing and trying to figure it out. You learn to manage it all. Every time it happens all together like that, you become better and better at managing.
Any changes coming to the store?
We do plan to do a grooming section. Not just the showering, but an actually grooming spot in the store. We are looking to do that in the next two to three months.
Any advice for young entrepreneurs?
Have the passion for what you do and make sure that it’s something that you are going to enjoy every single day. Because it’s always hard and there are always things that you are not going to enjoy about it. And you need something in your line of work that keeps you there, and keeps you trudging through all the paperwork, all the headaches and all the stress that comes along with it.
Because if you don’t keep going and going, and trudging through that, then you are going to fail. You can’t succeed if you don’t keep going through all the hard things. Give it your all until you have nothing left.