Entrepreneur 2 Entrepreneur: Sabina Saksena – Don’t Let Life Setbacks Affect Your Startup



The Entrepreneur 2 Entrepreneur (E2E) series is curated by Sean Higgins and underwritten by Router Ventures.

The the people who say, “You are not your job”, have you ever started a company?!

When you put in the kind of effort it takes to be successful, it’s hard for business not to get personal. But what about when you suffer a personal setback like the loss of a loved one? How does that not negatively impact your business?

Hear from Sabina Saksena, the cofounder & CEO of Cytilife on how you can keep setbacks in your personal life from hurting your business and vice-versa.

First off, what is Cytilife?

Cytilife is the first smart campus technology for contained communities where people are dependent on a finite infrastructure (physical, informational or services). They use AI and IoT to enable people to give people real-time insight on what is available to them (fitness equipment, cafeteria lines, breakout rooms) right when they need it.

In a new startup, separating your work and personal life is easier said than done. As an entrepreneur – how do you manage it?

To me, the formula is there is no work-life balance. Especially for women who want to work and to raise a family. If you’re in the age group where you have kids and your parents are at an age where you are taking care of them or maybe you’ve lost a parent, as I recently did, and you have a business, you need to compartmentalize your day.

I break my day into three buckets to stay focused. You develop a formula for where you should spend your time and you try to use that formula every single day.

To make it all work you divide your day into chunks. For example: from 7-8 in the morning it’s my son’s time to get him to school. From 9-4 it is all work, nothing else to distract me. At lunchtime, I am tending to my parents’ needs. I start every day with my personal time and that’s the only way I have been able to balance.

How does chunking work? What happens when the fire alarm goes off?

I have a running list of things I need to do every week. I plan my weeks out a month or two ahead of time, identifying which parts of my life will need the most attention. There’s room for flexibility but I want to know If I’m coming into back to school season where my family will need more attention or if we are about to hit a bunch of travel for the business.

To me family trumps everything. If there is a fire alarm around the family I will drop everything to put out the fire. It’s family first, then work. Thankfully the fire alarms don’t go off every day.

What is a recent personal/life setback that you had to work through with the business?

I lost my dad in March and we were very close. I had a very big meeting with a large school in North Carolina two weeks later. You don’t get these types of meetings every day, and we had put in work for months just to get there. So I went in. I wired myself up for the opportunity. Having said that, talking about your loss makes it easier so when I go into the meeting I made a point to mention that I’m coming out of a traumatic event and it helped. It showed vulnerability with a client and helped the relationship grow. It also helped me block it out of my head and get back to the matter at hand.

For the business you have to block it out.

How did you do it?

Having a support network is so important when you embark on this entrepreneurial journey. Having people in your life that know how important this venture is to you only makes you stronger when times get tough. I have my support system in place to help me stay the course and make sure I am taking the right amount of time for myself when things hit. This can be your family, friends, or a peer group, but having people you can share your progress and setbacks with helps you manage.

From a demand perspective, it gets easier over time. 6 months later I know my mom is settled. Of course, I miss my dad, but it’s not getting in the way.

The Takeaway:

Planning your time well in advance (chunking) and making sure you are setting up time for yourself, your family, and your business is a great first step to keeping your life and business separate. When things do go off the rails either personally or in your business, address it with the people you work and live with. This enables you to use it as a way to grow your relationship and keeps you moving forward.

If you’re finding it difficult to take the right amount of time outside of work, just remember that you’re trying to work hard, not kill yourself.