Next up in Driver Interviews, we bring you Nico & Mica Transport. Based in New Jersey, this ambitious young couple moves animals by air or land. They’ve been doing this for only a couple of years, but they’re clearly in the business for all the right reasons.
Nicolas Restrepo was busy delivering pets, but his better half Micaela Fresia was kind enough to answer all our questions. We talked about their humble beginnings, plans for the future, and cats named after anime characters!
To start off, tell us a bit about yourselves. Where are you from, how old are you, what did you do for work before getting into pet shipping?
I was born on March 27, 1999 in Argentina. I came to the US with my mom in 2001, and I’ve lived here ever since. I’ve been working since I was fifteen, though the jobs were mostly boring and routine, so I started looking at ways of becoming my own boss. (At the time, i had NO idea i would have my own business as a 20-year-old.)
Nico was born on October 15, 1998 in Colombia. He came to the US roughly 12 years ago to live with his father. He was working as a busboy for a country club until he said enough was enough – twelve hours a day on your feet was exhausting mentally and physically. Today, he and I live together in New Jersey where we run our up-and-coming business.
On your profile, you say that you’ve been transporting pets for local breeders before striking out on your own in 2017? Could you tell us more?
In 2017, Nico was working as a busboy and I was a secretary/front desk for a few different doctor’s offices. Tired and bored, we wanted to become our own bosses. Then he got a call from his friend, a breeder here in New Jersey, who needed someone to ship a puppy ASAP. Nico had never done it before, but the money was good and he loved animals, so he gave it a shot. That’s how we got started.
We picked up the puppy at the kennel and made our way to Newark International Airport. It went smooth, and we liked the idea of shipping pets because it was so easy once you take away the initial nerves.
You primarily transport pets by air, right? How does that work, do you have some kind of special deal with the airlines? Is it just to domestic destinations, or do you fly international too?
A lot of people ask the same question! We mainly do air transport, with the occasional ground trip for larger pets. We fly standby, getting on the first plane with available seating. This is why we only travel on certain days since the weekends and holiday seasons are peak flying seasons for all airlines.
We are working on making it an international thing, but it’s hard getting through customs since some pets haven’t been vaccinated yet, or the name on the flying certificate might be spelled incorrectly… Basically, we’re working on it.
What about your work dynamic? Does each you have their own set of tasks, or do you share the responsibility of running the business?
Nico and I actually do most things together. I handle the payments, the bookings, the quotes, the budgets, etc. He handles the actual shipments and updates, but we both meddle in each other’s work. We push each other to do better! For example, he’s a little more personable, so I let him do the typing on CitizenShipper. And I’m a little more observant, so he lets
me update the customers. So we usually work together, even though we each have our own “jobs”.
On Instagram, it sounds like you bring your own kittens along for the drive? Don’t they get carsick? And while they’re incredibly cute, I have to ask – what’s up with those names?
My kittens are my babies, I love them to death, but we don’t bring them along for deliveries. All those Instagram posts are from vacation! They love the car as long as we’re both in it and it’s not going to the vet! (I’m pretty sure they recognize the route to the vet, because it’s the only time they cry!)
As for the Japanese names, it was COMPLETELY coincidental! I always wanted to name my kitten Sushi, so when i got my own, it was a no-brainer. I wanted to name the other one Tofu, but Nico loves anime so we settled on Touka! (My cat EATS EVERYTHING and we named her after a ghoul character, so it works.)
You’re very active on Instagram and Facebook, sharing photos and videos from the road. How’s that been working out for you so far? Do you get most of your customers directly from social media?
We also advertise in NYC and Hoboken, where there are more dog parks than kid parks. We actually weren’t really into Instagram and Facebook as much as some of the 20-year-olds we know. But we love seeing pet-related posts and assume others do too, which is why we post so much!
We categorize our clientele into three sections; breeders, customers, and rescues. The breeders are usually repeat-customers. They tend to have their own transportation service, and only call us when that falls through or they need long-distance shipment in a day or so.
The customers are just regular people who moved out of state and couldn’t take their pets with them. We just pick them up from the family, then drop them off. The rescues are the one’s we are most proud (and quote the cheapest) – people who are adopting pets from far away but can’t make the drive or can’t afford a round-trip plane ticket. We feel particularly sentimental about these kinds of shipments, as well as small pets who can’t take the drive because of sickness or age.
You’ve also been using CitizenShipper for just a couple of months now. How does it compare to finding shipments on social media?
CitizenShipper has been a godsend! A few months ago, we didn’t have too many shipments other than the locals here in New Jersey. We made enough to cover the bills, but had to keep our day jobs. So one day, Nico calls me at the office and frantically says “I NEED YOUR DEBIT CARD, I NEED YOUR DEBIT CARD!” Of course, I said hell no, we don’t even know this site, I’m not giving my info away, we’ll talk later. But when I get home later that day, he pulls out an entire PowerPoint sort of thing, saying that your site is on the Better Business Bureau, that it has a lot of reviews, etc.
Once he managed to convince me, we entered the necessary information, and that’s when we started getting shipments from customers and rescues. People feel a lot safer booking us through there. Since we aren’t that big yet, they feel like it’s an added layer of protection from us being a scam.
It also benefits us because, those who pay your service fee are a lot less likely to cancel on us last minute. (This is why we also need a nonrefundable deposit applied to the final total.)
The only disadvantage is that I love making phone calls. I can explain everything through the phone much easier than through typing. That’s OK though, Nico can type!
Even though you’re new to CitizenShipper, we’re always looking for driver input – any suggestions for the site, any complaints, any issues you’d like us to address? And be brutally honest, please.
I would LOVE for there to be a flag/star button for top priority messages (as in, the customers have messaged back and are close to booking us).
Also, I’d like to see a tab where I can access archived messages only. Sometimes I archive them by mistake because on my tablet, the “archive” button is right where the “shipment” button would be on the phone.
This second one is actually a must, if you could! These are probably the only issues we have!
Finally, I hear that you’re looking to hire additional drivers? Can you tell us a little about these expansion plans you’ve got in the works?
As I’m sure you’re aware, dogs grow! We can only take pets by air if they fit in a kennel under the seat. (We don’t do cargo holds – too many horror stories!) This prevents us from accepting most shipments. We want to make ground transport available for the pets that are too large to fly! We plan on doing the booking work for the new employees, so all they need to do is provide the updates which we relay back to the customers, and drive them to the destination safely (providing water, food, potty breaks, and love.)
We’ve starting doing this with some of my family members, having them drive up to Maine and down to North Carolina. It’s less stress on us, and easy money for them.
Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, Mica, and thanks for giving CitizenShipper a shot. Say high to Nico for us!
Thank you for the opportunity! We love animals, so this is such a fun business to get into. It can be stressful, but seeing the pets reunited with their owners is SO worth it!