We had the good fortune of connecting with Devin Jaffe and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Devin, we’d love for you to start things off by telling us something about your industry that we and others not in the industry might be unaware of?
Running a wildlife program out of your home is extremely fun and rewarding, but also incredibly difficult. There are no “off” days. Many folks leave work at work and come home and can relax. I care for living beings that need attention, enrichment, food, water, cleaning, and veterinary care. Just because it snows a lot or I am sick or I really need a day off….I still need to be available to care for the ambassadors. I have had people say “Wow, must be so nice to be able to work from home.” A lot of people work from home, but my work is quite a bit different! When volunteers, interns, or staff call out…it’s me who has to cover. I rarely have vacation days and even when I am on trips, I still have to be available to help team members, book events, and send invoices. Respect those that run wildlife programs out of their homes! We work really hard!

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community? What was difficult? What did you learn?
I founded Nature’s Educators my senior year in College – 2008. I started with my Red-Tailed Hawk, Ares (who I still have), and my Great Horned Owl, Athena. We gave 20 programs to the local community my first year. Now, in 2021, Nature’s Educators has given over 1000 outreach programs this year as of October 1st, has a team of 5 paid staff, a handful of interns, and a crew of volunteers. We offer a variety of programs that both educate and entertain. We also have a flight show 7 days a week 4 times a day Memorial Day through Labor Day at the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park in Canon City.

I am extremely proud of the fact that (even with zero training in business management) I was able to bring together a great team of people and ambassador animals to grow the organization to be what it is today. It was not easy. I was repeatedly put down by other groups here in the state (to which I ignored them and they got even more irritated with me) and was told “You don’t know what you’re doing, you’re too young,” “You will never be able to do what we do,” “Why did you move here?” I had nasty emails, letters, social media posts, phone calls, you name it. It was incredible! I couldn’t believe these people (most of them quite a bit older than me) were acting so childish. I started this journey at a young age and am proud of how I’ve grown the organization over the years with my team. I have a soft spot for young team members and have a very young staff (all of us are 20s and 30s).

Another difficult part was learning how to get our name out there. I did so many trade shows, expos, festivals, and similar for free just to be able to have a table, present some ambassadors, and hand out business cards. Word of mouth worked wonders for us.

The other really difficult thing was building the human team. I have had many individuals that came in to the organization, would go through training, hold a bird, post a pic on social media, then ghost me. This kind of thing is so disrespectful in so many ways. We work hard to train team members and to have someone only there to snap a picture of them holding a bird, post on some social media platform to prove they did it, then leave us high and dry is the worst. Unfortunately, it happens to many (if not all) non profit groups over and over and over again.

I’ve learned so many lessons along the way, but I think the greatest are two:
1. Don’t let the nay-sayers get to you. Ignore, move on, and be better than them. My thought has always been that if you spent the time you’re taking putting me down into making your business/organization better…you might be happier with yourself today.
2. Take risks. I’ve taken many big risks in building this organization. Most of them have turned out to be incredible opportunities that if I hadn’t taken the chance, we would not be where we are today.

I want the world to know that our organization works as hard as possible to offer excellent wildlife programs, care for our animals, and create fun experiences for people to volunteer and be near these amazing animals. However, it is extremely expensive. We have to charge for programs…otherwise we would not exist. We need help and support with sponsors and donors!

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I would first take them to my house to see all the birds! Then to our nature center in Florence to see our displays and herptiles! I would, of course, take them to the Royal Gorge to explore the highest suspension bridge in the US and see our bird show. Sky Line Drive, Red Canyon Park, Blue Heron BLM Property, so many cool places to see here in Fremont County. Florence Brewery is the best brewery I’ve ever been to (not just being biased either). Holy Cross Abbey Winert and Brush Hollow Winery are so much fun. Quincy’s Steakhouse in Florence is amazing. Coffee shops and farm stands galore! Our river walk between Florence and Canon City is also gorgeous.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Betsy Finch of Raptor Conservation Alliance and Diana Miller of the Nature and Wildlife Discovery Center really helped to push me to who I am today! Their training and guidance was (and still is) so incredible. I keep in touch with both and have even joined licenses with Betsy. My Falconry Master, Wolf Brueggemann, also helped me step up Nature’s Educators to the next level by helping me become a falconer (now a Master) and get really good at training birds for flight shows that we can now incorporate into our programming.

Website: www.natureseducators.org

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