We had the good fortune of connecting with Kayla Fratt and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kayla, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
I did not plan to launch K9 Conservationists so early in my career, but was fired in November 2020. Finding myself jobless mid-pandemic and relatively early-career in a very small field was my worst-case scenario. I picked up freelance writing again to pay the bills while I started to launch K9 Conservationists. Now, my goal is to help shape the field of conservation detection dogs through humane dog training and a collaborative approach, both of which were largely missing in the field previously.
Launching my own business has given me the ability to think much more creatively and move much more quickly. Working within a larger organization was difficult for me as a fast thinker and I often struggled with process. Finding a sense of ownership through my own business has helped me learn to slow down while also playing to my strengths.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
K9 Conservationists trains conservation detection dogs – dogs that sniff out hard-to-find things for biologists. We offer field data collection, training, and consulting for researchers and those interested in conservation detection dogs. Our dogs provide non-invasive sampling for researchers. Our handlers provide humane training methods and a keen scientific eye.
We are extremely proud of our work to bring the field of conservation dog handlers closer together and offer mentorship through Yappy Hours, book clubs, training clubs, and a Slack Channel. Historically this field has been very closed-off and difficult to break into, and we are the forefront of changing that. We also train our dogs using humane methods, which is relatively unusual in the working dog world.
Things haven’t been easy. We don’t earn salaries for ourselves yet and all have other jobs on top of K9 Conservationists. While we aim to change that, it’s slow going.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I usually take people xc skiing in Breckenridge or hike the Chicago Lakes trail. If we need to stay closer to Denver, I love Apex/Enchanged Forest trail. For food, Fire on the Mountain (vegan wings) is my absolute favorite!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Dr. Charles van Rees is a dear friend and mentor who has been with me every step of the way with K9 Conservationists. Brooke Mitchell-Norman (Coloradan!) has been a never-ending cheerleader. Rebecca Krueger is my tough-love coach and best friend.