THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 162: Kirsten Saenz Tobey, Founder of Revolution Foods

Welcome to THE BALANCE PROJECT: a series of relevant and refreshingly candid interviews featuring inspiring and accomplished women talking about work-life balance. I’ve always been curious about how women I admire manage the tragically glorified “doing it all” craze. So I asked them. As I suspected, no one really does “it all.” Everyone’s making sacrifices somewhere. And that should make us all feel a little better. I hope the conversation will be steered toward that reality rather than toward the flawed and dangerous assumption that we should try—or even want to try—to perfectly do “it all.”

By the way, looking for THE BALANCE PROJECT novel that was inspired by these interviews? It’s here.

No. 162: Kirsten Saenz Tobey, Founder of Revolution Foods

Age: 38
Where I live: Berkeley, CA
Job: Founder & Chief Impact Officer at Revolution Foods
Kids: Three girls, ages 2, 6 & 9

Kirsten Saenz Tobey work-life balanceHave you changed jobs or adjusted anything in your career to have more balance?
I’ve pursued a career that balances my passion for having an impact in the world with my desire to be a mom, parent, and active person. If “balance” means working less than the typical person, then no. But if “balance” means finding ways to have a career and a family, then yes.

Do you think having “it all” is realistic or impossible and why?
I think we each have to define our “all.” I do not think anyone can do it “all” alone. I rely heavily on my amazing husband as well as childcare givers and other family and friends to help with the kids and enable me to have the career I do.

What part of “balance” can you just not seem to figure out?
It always feels like I could spend more time with my kids, AND more time on work, AND more time exercising or sleeping. I just try not to get down about it and do the best I can.

What part of “balance” are you getting better at?
After carrying, birthing, and breastfeeding three children for the better part of the last nine years, I’m finally starting to be able to stick to more of a workout routine. I’m hoping to train for a triathlon this summer, which I haven’t done in almost 10 years!

Do you have a favorite time management tool, hack, or other strategy you use that helps you achieve balance that you would recommend to others?
I manage everything in one calendar and one task list. I have only one life, so why manage more than one calendar or list? Everything goes into this calendar: kids’ activities (even if I’m not taking them—I still need to know where they are!), work meetings, airplane flights, exercise, etc.

What’s the best advice you ever heard on balance?
From your mother? “Pursue a career in something you’re passionate about—do what you love and love what you do.”
From your spouse/partner? “You’re a better mom when you’ve gotten enough sleep and exercise.”
From your kids? “You’re never too old to play.”

If you had one extra hour in each day and you couldn’t work or be with your family, how would you spend that hour?
Training for a triathlon.

What do you wish you’d known when you were 20?
Business is not evil.

What do you hope to know by the time you’re 60?
How to just relax and read a book.

What one part of your home life do you wish you could outsource?
Washing dishes.

Whose job do you wish you had?
Wilderness guide, probably in the Sierra Nevada.

Whose job are you glad you don’t have?
Amusement park ride operator.

Favorite books?
In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan.

What are you reading right now?
I’m reading The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien to my kids.

Biggest food vice?
Eating all the chocolate chip cookie dough before it’s cooked.

How many hours do you generally sleep at night during the week?
Not enough.

What do you read every morning?
My Twitter feed—it’s my primary source of news.

Complete the following sentences:
I think I: still have a lot to learn.
I wish I:
 could be in two places at once.
My kids: give me perspective.

Do you have a personal motto or favorite saying?
Don’t put off living the life you want to live—make sure the life you’re living today is the one you want.

Kirsten Saenz Tobey work-life balanceAbout Kirsten:
Kirsten Saenz Tobey founded Revolution Foods in 2006 with co-founder and CEO Kristin Groos Richmond while in graduate school at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. Today, Revolution Foods, with now over $100 million in revenue, serves over 1.5 million healthy meals per week to students in 30 cities across 15 US states and distributes a line of retail food products to over 4,000 grocery stores nationwide.
Revolution Foods was named by Fast Company as one of the world’s 50 most innovative companies in 2015. Kristin and Kirsten were named by the Schwab Foundation and World Economic Forum as Social Entrepreneurs of the Year for 2015. They were also co-named Entrepreneur of the Year by NewSchools Venture Fund in 2010, identified as Time Magazine‘s Education Activists of 2011, and listed among Fortune‘s 40 under 40 for 2013.

Kirsten is an Ashoka Fellow, an Aspen Institute Catto Fellow, and a member of the Culinary Institute of America’s Sustainable Business Council. She currently is a member of the Board of Directors for Mercaris, Net Impact, ARTA River Trips, and The People’s Community Market. She is on the advisory board for Homemade Cooking and Bixbee.

Prior to founding Revolution Foods, Kirsten was a teacher, researcher, and garden educator with Earthjustice, the School for Field Studies, and Phillips Academy at Andover. Her career spanned from leading experiential education programs in the US and Ecuador to evaluating the scalability of school feeding programs with the United Nations Hunger Task Force in Ghana. Kirsten holds an AB from Brown University and an MBA from UC Berkeley. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and three daughters.

Find out more about Kirsten:
www.revolutionfoods.com
Twitter: @revolutionfoods @kirstentobey
Facebook: RevolutionFoods

WANT TO READ MORE ABOUT WORK-LIFE BALANCE? CHECK OUT MY NOVEL THE BALANCE PROJECT!

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