Photo: Woman hugging dog
As a part of its efforts to grow their community Pono Paws hosted an open house and pop-up shopping event. - Photos: Kawena Carvalho-Mattos
Photo: Corey Fellezs and Adrienne Lee
Pono Paws Manager, Corey Fellezs, with the owner Adrienne Lee.

When a local dog daycare in Kakaʻako closed its doors abruptly at the end of 2017, Adrienne Lee and other pet parents were suddenly left without a place to house their pets. These pet parents were left scrambling to find a place to take their pups during the day, and a team of loving dog caregivers were displaced.

“We didn’t know where to take our dogs, especially after they already bonded with the staff at the daycare,” Lee said. “So we thought, ‘What if we were to open our own business and reunite everyone again?‘”

After an 11-month process of business planning, preparation and listening to feedback from other dog owners and pet-industry business owners, Pono Paws opened its doors on November 5, 2018 in downtown Kakaʻako, and reunited some of the beloved former staff members from the old daycare who had joined the new Pono Paws team.

“We wanted to create a positive space for everyone,” Lee said about her vision for Pono Paws, “one that meets the needs of our clients and treats our employees and the dogs that we care for.”

The name Pono Paws was born out of the how the community and dog daycare staff came together to start something new and right for everyone involved.

The new facility offers a safe environment for dogs to socialize as a pack and have fun. Dogs are guided by staff in stimulating activities and games, and owners can add on services, such as treadmill sessions and pool play. Livestream video feed of the dog play rooms is available, so pet parents can be at ease knowing that their furry friends are well cared for while there. Pono Paws also offers basic dog grooming and is looking to start overnight boarding services for Spring Break.

“I definitely have gratitude for everyone in the community who has been supportive and offering guidance, because we are brand new and just getting started,” Lee said. “We’re only three-and-a-half months into business and it’s scary, but it’s also fun. The behind-the-scenes part can be super stressful but when I see the dogs playing, I know it’s all worth it.”

Currently Pono Paws has a team of eight experienced staff members, five being Native Hawaiian. One of these members is Corey Fellezs, Pono Paw’s new manager. Fellezs brings over 12 years of experience in pet industry to the team. Partnered with Lee’s knowledge as a pet parent and first time business owner, Pono Paws is excited for their journey ahead.

To kick off their business, Pono Paws hosted an open house in January. They offered both tours of the new facility, as well as representatives from four other dog businesses who don’t have brick-and-mortar locations: Life on Paws, Belly Rubs, Offleash Hawaiʻi and IAM Love. Pono Paws hopes to make the open house with vendor pop-ups a recurring event.

“We hope to create an inclusive environment for those in the dog community where everyone has growth instead of a competitive environment,” Lee commented. “There is enough business for everyone. We enhance each other.”

Looking for a new daycare to take your dog? Visit Pono Paws at 839 Queen Street in Honolulu, www.ponopaws.com. You can also check them out on their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/PonoPawsLLC, or Instagram at pono_paws.


A new business’ best friend

OHA Mālama Loans is proud to partner with and support Adrienne Lee in starting her new business, Pono Paws. In fiscal year 2018, OHA Mālama Loans distributed $660,000 in loan funds for businesses. The Mālama Business loan is a great opportunity for Native Hawaiian-owned small businesses at any stage to receive loan funding from $2,500 to $100,000. Learn more about the OHA Mālama Business Loan at www.loans.oha.org.