A Q&A: Sasha Benz, All My Friends Are Models founder

Sasha Benz has carved herself one of those careers that truly embraces the modern day ethos of chasing your dreams. And what’s more, she’s succeeded. Previously a stylist for RUSSH Magazine and Editor of NZ-based magazine KAREN Magazine, Sasha went on to found online publication All My Friends Are Models and become the Creative Director for The Surf Lodge. But if that wasn’t enough to keep her entrepreneurial mind busy, last month she launched her latest exciting venture  app Cinq.

A new networking platform designed to keep on top of the constantly changing and misplaced contact info that comes with living in a digital age, Cinq.The Perfect Connection is a digital business card where all info is kept current and up to date eliminating any chance of bounce back emails and wrong phone numbers (even if you’re that gal who keeps flitting between Sydney and the Amalfi. We see you).

With the app (and all things Sasha) totally piquing are interest, we set about pulling the multi-tasking maven aside to talk everything from career endeavours, to typical days, to what’s coming up next…

You’ve had a pretty interesting career path, can you talk me through it?
In a nutshell, I knew from the outset that academia wasn’t my strong suite, I didn’t want to go to university and study business like a lot of my friends, so instead I pursued fashion and pretty much interned for every tom dick and harry I could find. From here I worked as a stylist for 8 years working for publications like Russh, Vogue, Vanity Fair, and Harpers Bazaar etc.

After this, I knew it was time to make the move to NY. I struggled in the beginning as with any creative making the move, until I landed a position working for Vs. magazine and signed with an agency to go freelance. Oli followed me over, we got married, and it was during the planning and putting together the guest list that the concept for allmyfriendsaremodels.com (AMFAM) was born. I was sitting there and it suddenly occurred to me that literally, all my friends were models…

Shortly after its launch I was offered the position of Creative Director at The Surf Lodge and 4 years later (and two kids), I am still the Creative Director at Surf Lodge, CEO of AMFMAM, and have recently just launched my newest venture; digital business card app Cinq.

Talking about the app, congratulations on the launch! Can you talk me through why you decided to launch it?
My job is incredibly social and I meet with a lot of interesting and influential people on a daily basis. Honestly, I was sitting with a group of people at Surf Lodge one evening and someone said to me, “You must have the most impressive contact book after working here for so many years…” and I thought to myself, she is right – but I don’t have some magical black book at all, it’s just a bunch of crumpled business cards, disorganised names saved in my phone, or just old email chains to sift through. I realised that in such a digital age, we have never been so disconnected and disorganised with how we meet people and exchange information.

How did you go about developing the app?
I pitched the idea to a close friend and mentor of mine, and he literally said: “I have
the perfect guy to build this for you”. A week later I met with Mike, and he pitched me his take on how he saw the app and our visions aligned immediately. We saw eye-to-eye from day one and it has been a pleasure working with him on this. I’ve worked with tech teams before (building AMFAM) and there is often a big language barrier between creatives and tech, so I was really lucky to find someone who got it from day one. We worked side-by-side for the first few months debating style, function, different placement of buttons, screen slides etc – it’s not an easy process and there is a lot more that goes into it than people think.

How does launching an app fit in with running All My Friends Are Models and The Surf Lodge, as well as being a mother?
It doesn’t – lol. Personally I have far too much on my plate, and that’s not news to me. But they all compliment one and other, and for now I am just trying to find a delicate equal balance between them all.

What does a usual day in your life look like?
6am: Wake up, feed Baybi.
7am: Rhythm is up, and then the day really starts.
9am: Drop Rhythm to daycare and then panic home to power through emails, and get
through all my calls for the day. Work, work, work, calls, emails – a bit of house management, pay the bills… etc. I try to squeeze in a run at some point while managing Baybi through the day.
4pm: Rhythm gets home and then I really like to spend some quality time with the
Family. During the week we try to cook and Oliver and I do dinner and a movie – if I am not
on a conference call, which happens a lot because of time differences. However, from Thursday to Sunday, I am at Surf Lodge hosting events – so I’m in heels and out the door by about 7pm every night, home by midnight, and then we have the 6am wake up call and it starts all over.

Are you still heavily involved with All My Friends Are Models?
Yes and no. I oversee the big picture – so all decisions about partnerships and branding I like to manage, and am always heavily involved in all the events and collabs that we take on. However, as I got busier with the kids, Surf Lodge, and Cinq, I learnt that I had to let go a little and I handed the baton across to Gabby (my COO) with regards to the website content and social media. I trust her implicitly with the website and the AMFAM brand in general, plus she has been with us almost since day one – so it was an easy transition for both of us.

Do you have a team working on the publication with you?
Originally my brother helped me launch the magazine, but it’s now just myself and Gabby full-time, and the rest is pulled together by contributors (writers, models, etc).

Can you give us a little insight into next moves for AMFAM?
The next moves are ultimately expanding and bringing on a partner to expand the company – I always envisioned a Silicon Valley-style office space with an events team, an editorial wing (for shooting), and a fast news division (that’s the dream).

Do you still do any fashion styling?
If I had some spare time, I would!! I loved styling, but it was a lot of work and I very quickly realised that I wanted more full creative control on all the jobs I did, which is why it was such a pleasure building AMFAM. I finally got to produce and style all the editorials and work on each shoot from start to finish.

What would be your top tip for juggling it all?
Be organised! I have a military calendar system for all the different areas of my life: between the kids’ daycare, sitters, appointments, Cinq conferences, Surf Lodge meetings, events and Oliver’s DJ gigs. I also have a meticulous to-do list, every time something pops into my head, I write it down – no matter what the importance (i.e. anything from ‘Buy toothpaste’, to ‘Call
mother in law’, or ‘Renew visa’). It’s important not to drop the ball on anything, which
is so easy to do when you are juggling, so I make sure I write down everything that
needs to be done. So far it seems to be working.

Also, having a good team is crucial – an assistant who knows your next move before you do it, a nanny who you trust with your kids when you are not around, and a husband who is supportive and super helpful around the house and with the kids. I got lucky with all three!

Why do you think you’re so career driven? What would be your advice to other people who inspire to have a similar career to yourself?
My father had a very strong work ethic, and I think that really rubbed off on me. He worked really hard when I was young, and now him and my mum live a very youthful life and spend a lot of time traveling and being with their kids. That to me is the dream, and I want to be able to give that to my family. Be able to eventually relax and travel the world and sit back and look back at a successful career. Even though I feel like I am drowning now and juggling a crazy work schedule, I can see the bigger picture and that is all the motivation that I need.

What can we find you doing in your downtime when you’re not working?
Spending time with my family, which also includes immediate friends who are my
Family. We love the beach and wining and dining – so there is a lot of that happening when I
am not focused on work!

Where will we see you in 5 years’ time?
Hopefully on a gap year traveling with Oli and the kids. My dream is to take a full year off and travel the world with them. Then to come home, and settle down and get 3 French mastiffs – one for each of my kids (Oli being the third).

All images: Sasha Benz | Click here to download the Cinq app

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