Do you remember when you met that woman who created the most amazing delivery service that you needed to start using? Or when your friend’s friend wanted to grab coffee and share business advice? Or that nanny that was looking for part-time hours? We’ve all been there; trying to keep up with contacts and organizing them in a way that makes sense the following day is a true challenge. Surf Lodge Creative Director Sasha Benz was tired of keeping up with all the contacts that she made on a daily basis – only to find a name (first name only!) saved in her phone 4 months later and have no idea who “Belinda” was. So, she put pen to paper and came up with our favorite new app to hit iTunes in months, Cinq. Think of it as your personal concierge for who’s who in your Rolodex. Heck, think of it as your next Rolodex!
We caught up with the multi-talented and uber chic mama of two at her freshly renovated home in Montauk to get the scoop. Read on…
Sasha! It’s so good to catch up with you. You just launched Cinq, a new app that replaces the business card. Genius! Tell us more about it.
Yes! Imagine reinventing your contact book and obliterating business cards forever! I created Cinq out of necessity – I’m forever meeting new people, connecting with new clients and doing this over every medium possible; email, phone, Whatsapp, Instagram and for every new project I was working on it was frustrating me that I couldn’t keep track of all these connections, or emails would bounce back or I saved someones name or number wrong.
Using Cinq will streamline the process of sharing contacts and organizing your address book. It’s a one click solution to sharing all of your details, from social handles, job title, travel dates and more. If you change any information, it will be universally updated. You will never have a disconnect again.
Um, that is AMAZING! How did you decide upon the name for the app?
We toyed around with a few different options – but knew we wanted something that resonated with connecting. Then on one meeting, both myself and one of the Founders arrived with the words Cinq + Synq resepctively. We immediately knew this was it. We chose the first spelling as wanted to keep it original and sharp – plus we had five people on our team at that time, so it resonated too with the starting five.
That’s kismet that you showed up with the same word! Tell us about your team and what role you are playing at the company.
I act as the CEO of the company and work alongside three highly intelligent guys from New York, all with tech and investment backgrounds. They are all young, and have impressive careers – but all fell equally in love with this project and have committed themselves to Cinq wholeheartedly.
You’re also the Creative Director at The Surf Lodge in Montauk and Founder of the site, All My Friends are Models. How do you find time to do all of them? Do you physically block off time to work on each venture?
I have become meticulous in organizing my time and calendars, between The Surf Lodge, AMFAM and Cinq. I have certain ground or tasks I have to cover each week, so I dedicate time accordingly – whether it be our weekly Cinq conference, or hosting events at Surf over the weekends – however most of the time its just an array of calls and emails for all which I bounce between throughout the day. Its definitely hard to jump in and out of the different hats all at once – but it’s the only way to get it all done. Especially because the kids schedules (mainly Baybi) are unpredictable, my theory is the more I do all at once, the more chance I have on always being on top of everything.
That is crazy busy. What is your philosophy as a business woman and as a boss?
It is so important to find a healthy balance between work and family. Prioritize and be organized, so you are present in the moment you are in. If you are working, be focused on work – if you are with your kids – put the phone down and really be with them. Trying to do both at the same time means that you are giving neither the proper attention.
And then most importantly, something that I really believe in and have learnt over the years, is that relationships mean more than money. Money comes and goes, but building true, honest and loyal relationships is more valuable in business and life than anything you can attain.
We love that you keep evolving your career from stylist to Founder of a magazine to Creative Director to Founder of Cinq. What advice do you have for other women wanting to pivot their careers?
As a women we are capable of being mothers, wives and friends all under one roof – but when it comes to work, a lot of people think you are only able to take down one career path. Humans are capable of many things, and it’s so important to understand that if something feels foreign then it’s worth exploring, not to shy away. Every venture I have undertaken was new at the beginning, and I could have just thought the easy and safer option would be to stick to what I did best and keep climbing that ladder – but instead I dove head first and I have had no regrets. It has always been daunting, but it’s taught me about so much, about myself and my capibilties, and the industries I knew little about.
What has been the most challenging aspect of this new venture? The most rewarding?
I think the most challenging part has been pivoting from a world of creatives which I felt so confident and fluid in, to suddenly being in this alien tech world – where the language and numbers were so far from anything I knew. All of a sudden I felt incredibly intimidated and inferior.
Before my first investor pitch, I stayed up all week writing palm cards, and researching tech verbiage and listening to different podcasts about the VC game – and I remember feeling so overwhelmed and in unfamiliar grounds, and when I mentionmed this to my collague just before the meeting, he said something to me that I will never forget – he said “as nervous as you feel to talk to him, he is just as equally, if not more – to talk to someone like you”. Sometimes being out of your comfort zone doesn’t mean you are the black sheep, its means you are the one they are all looking towards.
And the most rewarding, has been seeing my progress – from being out of my depth, to walking into meetings with some of the most impressive tech guys in the game, and owning the conversation, and also being humble enough to listen and learn from these impressive minds.
Also obviously the most rewarding is seeing the app come to life and watching people using it and loving it.
What do you think would be a game-changer for your business right now?
The obvious answer is to have critical mass, and as many people using it as possible. But something we are toying with, is onboarding and connecting communities. We have been approached by larger companies and retreats stating how valuable this would be at connecting larger groups who attend conferences, summits, or religious communities who are looking to connect with one and other. This is something we are working towards now – digitally uniting global communities.
We love that your app is all about fostering connections and therefore building community (something near and dear to our hearts!). What does your community look like and where do you get the most support?
I think I just answered that question above without even seeing this question! Which proves it is obviously so necessary in building and connecting communities, and I think Cinq will be able to bridge this gap.
My personal community consists of family – that is where I see most of my support and motivation. Not just my parents and siblings, but extended too. I am very close to my Grandparents, and get advice from them on a weekly basis – with all my projects. I’m also close to my cousins, and friends who have been by my side for many years. Sadly, my entire family is back in Australia and most of my friends are on other ends of the world, (the one vice about living at THE END!) but I make time to speak and hear from them all as it keeps me grounded and encouraged.
The last time we chatted you just had your son Rhythm and you now have a 3 month old, Baybi! What has been the biggest surprise in going from one baby to two?
Honestly, I felt quite relaxed having a second child. Oliver and I really loved becoming parents, although having Rhythm was a whirlwind at first (because everything was so foreign and we suddenly lost a lot of our personal time) we loved the whole idea of becoming a family unit and brining in the second child just made it feel complete. The idea of growing our family excited us a lot, and I was surprised at how happy I could feel even with the lack of sleep – I guess the second child is a lot easier as you are prepared for everything already – you know what to expect and how to plan ahead. Rhythm also was particularly good at accepting Baybi into his world, he is very loving and gentle – which I think made things a lot easier.
Plus this time, we are now in our own home and things feel much more manageable – even though I have taken on another business! I told Oli already I am ready for more! (you should have seen how quickly his face turned white).
Since becoming a mother, how has your relationship with work changed? With others?
I have always been a hard worker, and taken on far too much than I can handle – which would stress me out a lot. I think since becoming a mother I have learned what to stress about and what to let go of. Some things just aren’t as important as you think, and once you have kids (or more importantly babies) – it teaches you to prioritize your energy for the things that need you most. It has also made me appreciate my parents a lot more – I am particularly close with my family, but these past years have made me realize exactly what they went through, and sacrificed for us kids. I think it definitely made me shift a lot of the people I surround myself with – my career requires me to be social with a lot of people – but once having a family you start to notice who are the friends you can really count on, and will show up when you need them (not the other way around).
You and your hubby also recently renovated a home in Montauk. What advice do you have for successfully negotiating a stressful project like that with your significant other?
Hmmmmm… that’s a good question! Oliver and I both had strong opinions about the house, but I think we both knew our roles in the renovation – he knew I had the design vision and he was the muscle to make it happen. So knowing who gets to make the final call on certain things really helped before hand. Also, I was heavily pregnant at the time, so I think Oliver’s theory was “Don’t poke the bear”.
How do the two of you find time for each other with all you have going on?
We are quite lucky (Oli may say different haha) in that we have unusual job hours and times and find that we have a lot of time working from home together. We spend most of the day bouncing ideas and questions off each other, which – while it seems like work, its definitely solid time spent in each others company.
We also have very busy social lives through work, so most nights we are out together, and when we don’t have anything on – we make sure to have at least one date night a week on our own (which often involves wine and a movie at home) or something low key with the kids.
Don’t let your kids run your life, they joined your journey not the other way around. I believe you shouldn’t stop going to places or restaurants that you think will be hard with kids, teach them to sit with you and be comfortbale in adult surroundings. We take our kids everywhere and never leave early because of them, and I think it has really paid off in both us being able to continue the lifestyle we had, and them being well behaved in those environments.
Breastfeeding is not only better for your kids, its actually easier in the end! Persevere when it seems tough at the beginning! I have done both – with Rhythm I really struggled and found it painful – but moving to the bottle and formula was messy, chaotic and hard to manage. I also think it caused us a lot of issues with sleep patterns and eating habits. With Baybi I pushed past that uncomfortable point and have really enjoyed it more than anything – it’s easy, cheap and it comes in very sweet packaging. Plus, she sleeps really well, and seems overall very happy!
Don’t listen to anyones advice on baby names. (Clearly we didn’t!) We got very caught up on peoples opinions at first, and almost made that sway our decisions -but in the end we stuck to our gut on both names and are really grateful that we did!