By Brittany Maroney / Photos by Claudia Johnstone / Makeup by The Sparkle Bar / Hair by Taylor Gladden
As a vivacious junior in high school – with lots of friends and activity involvement including DECA and tutoring elementary school students – no one would have predicted Sarah Benken’s teenage pregnancy, her choice to drop out of high school, or the struggles she would face in the years to come. Yet, it was Benken alone who took this challenge head-on.
“Like everything else in my life, I had no idea what I was doing,” says the North Carolina native. “I was certain I wanted to beat the odds and show the all the naysayers that I could become somebody regardless of my circumstances. I dropped out of high school my junior year because I couldn’t make ends meet on a part-time job and refused my parents’ financial support. Having a baby was my decision, and one I had to overcome alone.”
Benken spent the next 10 years juggling the hectic life of raising a child, getting her GED, and working full-time. She landed her first job in accounting at 17, giving her a decent paycheck, but deep down she wanted more. Over the years, she suffered through lengthy commutes and long hours; like so many, she was overworked and underpaid.
“One day, I realized I was sick of the rat race and that I had a desire to become my own boss. But how?” Benken says. “I had been going through a period of discovery and reflection for about a year when my mother suggested the idea of opening an errand-running service. At first, I laughed it off, but the idea stuck and within a month I was creating Metro’s Other Woman.”
At just age 26, Benken founded Metro’s Other Woman (www.metrosotherwoman.com) to help restore work-life balance for busy executives and small business owners. As a national lifestyle management firm, Metro’s Other Woman specializes in calming chaos by eliminating pesky chores and “time sucks” – such as home maintenance or personal organization – so people can focus on what matters most. They specialize in business and personal services including housekeeping, laundry, meal prep, dog walking, booking appointments, and event planning.
Within two weeks of launching her self-funded business, Benken was able to secure enough income to walk away from her full-time job. Over the following year, with the help of business partner Michael Foushee, they expanded to an additional market while developing a licensing model. Currently, Metro’s Other Woman is active in four major markets, including Phoenix, with further expansion plans for 2018.
“I think too many women are scared to take the leap into owning their own business,” Benken says. “Here’s the truth: It will never be the right time, and you’ll never be prepared for what an entrepreneur’s life hands you. If you want to open a business, I say be as prepared as possible and, like me, have some great mentors around you. You need grit, so plan to dig deep.”
It’s this drive that Benken is also passing on to her two children. Her kids see firsthand how much work goes into running a business, and she loves that it’s a family affair. Her children, respectively, have attended staff meetings and tradeshows, entered receipts into QuickBooks, helped set up for galas, and even appeared on news segments. She wants to inspire her children, and other women, to have independence and an entrepreneurial spirit. It’s her goal to be a mentor, like so many women were to her over the years.
“Earlier this year, I unveiled the WAB [Win a Business] Program through Metro’s Other Woman,” Benken says. “WAB is a give-back program that awards a Metro’s Other Woman business to qualified women who desire to become entrepreneurs but lack either know-how or funding. The winners receive an 18-month mentorship, where they train directly with me and other location owners. We want to give away 10 Metro’s Other Woman businesses within the next five years.”
With a passion for helping women rise, she has also created the KNOW Tribe (www.theknowtribe.com), a no-cost association comprised of strong, successful business women who want to connect with others like them. Through this, Benken hopes to create a place where like-minded women can meet, create friendships and build business partnerships.
“There are a ridiculous number of women in the Valley doing big things, and I thought that they should be celebrated,” says Benken, who is publishing a book for that purpose, featuring those in the KNOW Tribe. “KNOW Phoenix will be a coffee table-style book released in January that spotlights 150 female entrepreneurs throughout the Valley in virtually every industry. The women featured are a compilation of proven leaders, high producers, and rising stars – truly pillars of this great city.”
Benken has also served as a mentor for pregnant teens, worked with human trafficking causes, and taught courses at Florence Crittenton and the Phoenix Dream Center on topics such as becoming your own boss, overcoming obstacles, removing shame, and moving forward.
Though it’s been a long, winding road for Benken, it’s one that shaped her into who she is, and while she’s seen the light of success, she’s humbled by how she got here.
“I know I am not here because of just myself,” Benken says. “I am where I am today because of everyone who has offered a hand as I stepped up the ladder – and it’s my mission to be that hand for others.”