Executive MBA Student, Paige Drobny, was born with a love of animals. Her parents couldn’t keep the frogs and crickets and small animals out of the house. She got her first pet, a cat, at the age of three and there were a slew of house pets and barn animals that came after that. Fast forward to 2021, and she is now competing in her seventh Iditarod with a team of incredible sled dogs.
“I never heard of the Iditarod when I was a kid,” says Paige. “I never dreamt about going up north. It never occurred to me that I wanted to race and I never thought I would be doing this, but I was always drawn to the outdoors.”
Paige’s love and respect for the outdoors has only grown stronger since she moved to Alaska in 2001. She loves the wilderness and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. Since the state has eight to nine months of winter each year, residents need to find ways to keep active in the snowy season. That’s when Paige first discovered dog sledding.
“Fairbanks is unique because many people have small recreational kennels,” says Paige. “Most people I know have dog sleds. It’s a way for people to get around and get out.” The first time Paige contemplated getting on a sled is when her husband and business partner, Cody Straith, made her one for Christmas.
“I gave it to her for Christmas and said ‘maybe we can get some more dogs,’” says Cody. “I went to visit my family a week before the holiday and when I came back she had already gotten three more dogs. Then we could officially use the sled.”
“We actually talked about dog sledding in retirement,” laughs Paige. “We thought it would be a way to stay active when we were older. I always wanted a ton of dogs. We attached them to the sled and off we went. I was hooked from the get go.”
Since that first moment of jumping on a sled, Paige has become an extremely accomplished musher. Besides this being her seventh Iditarod competition, she is also a five time Yukon Quest and Copper Basin Musher.
“I knew Paige was a driven athlete back in 2010,” explains Cody. “She had just finished her first 300-mile race. She got to the finish line and just wanted to keep going. She was just having a great time and wanted to continue.”
Paige’s ambition is apparent both on and off the sled. She is the owner and operator of Spearfish Research, where she is a biological consultant, and her and Cody run a successful kennel, dubbed Squid Acres, an homage to Paige’s work consulting for fisheries. The couple purchased a lodge off the Denali Highway (one of the most remote and scenic highways in the world), and are expanding their business into a high-end tourism retreat where people can learn about sled dogs and the Alaskan environment. “We’re on thousands of acres of wilderness. We can show people the real Alaska,” says Paige.
To get her new venture off the ground, she needed to equip herself with a strong foundation of business development and operations. She needed an MBA education, but needed a program that would be flexible enough to accommodate her chaotic schedule. That’s when Quantic came into the picture: “I wouldn’t be doing an MBA if it wasn’t for Quantic. I love Alaska and I have 50 sled dogs that I can’t leave. Being able to stay home and take care of my dogs, and run my other businesses, wouldn’t be possible without the mobile platform.”
Both Cody and Paige have a background in science. Since joining Quantic in October 2020, the courses have already helped Paige with the accounting side of her new business, and she’s looking forward to learning more about marketing. Always eager for a new challenge, Paige admits, “I’m really excited for the marketing course. It’s not my skill set at all. Business Law, too, I’m excited to learn about the proper way to expand in this new industry.”
Being a newcomer to the tourism industry doesn’t faze Paige, in fact, she says it excites her. And if mushing has taught her anything, it’s that no challenge or obstacle is insurmountable. “Running dogs can be chaotic. There are new obstacles all the time. You need to be calm, cool, and collected. You can’t dwell on the missed corners and wrong turns, you have to learn your lessons and apply them the next day. The business world is the same. You learn from your mistakes and succeed.”
It’s safe to say the dogs instill a sense of positivity in Paige’s racing and, in general, influence her optimistic outlook on life. “Living with dogs is just one giant lesson. I learn something from them every day. They’re happy, they live in the moment, and every day is exciting, and offers new opportunities. When you hang out with a bunch of dogs, you can’t have a bad day.”
The 2021 Iditarod kicks off tomorrow morning, Sunday, March 7. This year’s multi-day sled dog race across Alaska has some major changes planned, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but as always, Paige is ready to roll with the punches. Participants in this year’s 860-mile course will instead race in a loop that begins outside of Anchorage and eliminates many of the stops traditionally required in previous Iditarod races. The teams will travel from Deshka Landing to Flat and then loop back around and return the same way they came, rather than continuing northwest toward Nome.
The Quantic community is excited to cheer on Paige and with her positive attitude and determination, we know she is going to be the leader of the pack. Be sure to follow Paige’s race journey on our social channels. We’ll be tracking her progress and hearing from her throughout the course!