We had the good fortune of connecting with Jess Sato and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jess, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
This is a really great question. Throughout most of my corporate career, the term work-life balance was en vogue. But in my experience, I rarely felt like I was balancing all the parts of my life… and if I was “balancing” it, it was precarious at best. Over the years, and especially since starting 2 Smart Girls, I’ve learned that it’s less about perfectly balancing my work and life and more about integrating all those aspects of my life and business when it makes sense. As a mom and a business owner, my traditional work day is a lot shorter than the standard 8-hour day because I’m dropping kids at school and then picking them up for activities. So, I work in pockets because that’s how I can be present for them, and at the end of the day, I chose to be an entrepreneur for that very reason. But there are also times, especially during launches and other promotional periods where I’m more focused on work. I rely on the whole team to help keep the wheels on the bus. Integration is about life as a whole rather than getting each piece perfectly balanced. That’s what has worked best for me, my family, and my business.
What should our readers know about your business?
2 Smart Girls was founded in April of 2018 after a life changing experience in Ethiopia and a $54,000 phone call. My journey began like many other professional women I know. I followed the plan. I went to college, landed the corporate job, climbed the ladder, and started a family. Throughout most of my career at a Fortune 250 aerospace company, I had dream roles. I worked with DoD and foreign military leaders to strategically craft future warfighting requirements and then facilitated leadership develop programs and coached executive leaders. It was challenging, exciting, and important. But with young kids, a husband that was traveling all the time, and a job that extended sometimes beyond 10+ hours a day, I was at the end of my rope. I needed a change. I left corporate life about 10 years in and stepped into the world of leadership consulting for corporations and non-profits. I loved the work. I set my own hours, got to work on my own terms, and did work that really lit me up! I knew I was contributing and making a difference. In 2017, I landed an amazing, life-changing contract to do work in Ethiopia alongside my now business partner, facilitating leadership workshops for nearly 700 first line and mid-level Ethiopian managers. The work was rewarding, and it allowed me to fall back in love with professional development. Just before our final trip, we received word that our trip had been cancelled, and I was left with a gaping hole in my schedule and the potential for a massive loss of revenue. In truth, I was spiraling. But after checking my contract, seeing that I did indeed have a cancellation clause, and scheduling a conversation with our liaison to talk about rescheduling, I knew I needed to ask them to honor the contract. That conversation changed my life and the entire trajectory of my business. His statement of “I just needed to hear you ask for it,” after I’d been spiraling about the breech of contract made me realize I wasn’t thinking like a CEO. I’d owned my own 6-figure consulting firm for years by that point, but I was still operating like a practitioner, not the boss. After talking about my experience, it became clear that many other female business owners were doing the same. 2 Smart Girls was born with the vision of helping women design a life they want through entrepreneurship, on their terms, and to believe they deserve all the goodness that comes with it. Hands down, this has been the most difficult and most rewarding work I’ve ever done.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
We’d start our trip in Denver, grab falafel sandwiches at FelFel Mediterranean and then head to the Art Museum. Tacos and margaritas at Machete near Union Station, wrapping the evening up with live music at Nocturne in RiNo. The next morning, we’d head down to Colorado Springs where I live to visit Garden of the Gods and the new Olympic Museum. The rest of our time would be spent hitting some of the great places in Colorado – Rocky Mountain National Park, maybe a day of skiing at Keystone or Copper, rock climbing at Shelf Road near Canon City, enjoying the riverwalk in Salida, hiking at Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP, and wrapping it all up at Glenwood Hot Springs. In truth, a week is not nearly long enough to enjoy all the beauty that Colorado has to offer. I’ve been here nearly 5 years, and I feel like I’ve just barely scratched the surface.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Shoutout to Jeremy, Nathan, and Lily – Thanks for supporting me every step of the way, for your encouragement, and all the cheerleading! Love you guys.