Sara Senkow is a certified sleep consultant through the Center for Pediatric Sleep Management. She is also the founder of Little Fawns Sleep Consulting. Sara has worked for the government for almost 20 years. She works full time as the first and only female in the homeland security division for her county.
She is a powerful force in the workplace and uses her positive attitude and tireless energy to succeed in all aspects of her business and her life. Sara is inspired daily by her son. In her free time, she enjoys hunting and conservation.
Intro: Welcome to Becoming a Sleep Consultant! I’m your host Jayne Havens, a certified sleep consultant and founder of both Snooze Fest by Jayne Havens and Center for Pediatric Sleep Management.
On this podcast, I’ll be discussing the business side of sleep consulting. You’ll have an insider’s view on launching, growing, and even scaling a sleep consulting business. This is not a podcast about sleep training. This is a podcast about business building and entrepreneurship.
Jayne Havens: Sara Senkow is a certified sleep consultant through the Center for Pediatric Sleep Management. She is also the founder of Little Fawns Sleep Consulting. Sara has worked for the government for almost 20 years. She works full time as the first and only female in the homeland security division for her county. She is a powerful force in the workspace and uses her positive attitude and tireless energy to succeed in all aspects of her business and her life. Sara is inspired daily by her son. In her free time, she enjoys hunting and conservation.
Sara, welcome to the podcast. I’m so excited to be talking with you today.
Sara Senkow: Me, too. Good morning, Jayne.
Jayne Havens: Good morning. Before we get started, share a little bit about yourself. Tell us about your family, your career, whatever you want to share.
Sara Senkow: I am a single mom to an amazing five-year-old little boy. I work for the government. Currently, Homeland Security. Soon to be 20 years. November 5, 2024, I’m retiring, and I hope to be a full-time sleep consultant. That’s pretty much it. I have nonstop on call 24 hours a day. It does not stop, and I’m ready to do things on my own terms.
Jayne Havens: I always was so fascinated by you when I first met you. Nobody can see Sara because this is a podcast, but she’s totally strikingly beautiful and has this big personality. She works for Homeland Security, which is just like it’s so weird to me that you work for Homeland Security. She’s going to retire in two years, because she has this grand plan. When you work for the government for a million years, then you get to retire, right? You’ve got like a pension of some sort, I guess. Right?
Sara Senkow: Yeah, I’m excited. After 20 years, I’ll get my pension. I can’t wait.
Jayne Havens: It’s so exciting. Every time I talk to Sara, I’m like, when are you retiring? When are you done? So, tell us why you decided to get certified to work as a sleep consultant. Because it seems to not really go with your other job, right? It’s not at all related to what you do. So, why did you decide to get certified?
Sara Senkow: I mean, a little backstory. 2018 was probably the worst year of my life. My husband who was a police officer, related to a call. He had passed away from a pulmonary embolism. So, I’m stuck at home with a 10-month-old baby. My world was upside down, and my kid would not sleep. I didn’t know what to do.
I had my own stuff to deal with. I just went some time, and I couldn’t. My kid was constantly up, needy. I googled everything. Nothing was working. I don’t know what I was doing, and I had no one to talk to about it. I had no support. I didn’t know what was happening.
A friend told me. She was like, “I’ve used this sleep consultant. Here’s her info. Reach out to her.” I’m not going to lie to you. I thought it was insane. I was like, there’s no way this lady who doesn’t know me, doesn’t know what’s going on, and at this ridiculous price is going to get my kid to sleep. I was like, there was no way. It was at that point where I lost everything. I was willing to try anything. It was a couple 100 bucks. I’ll do it.
Fun fact, within three days, my kid was sleeping. He has been ever since. I’m a believer. Just having that person to talk to, to tell me I was doing good, that meant more. That support system, that just someone to vent to who understood, who was able to troubleshoot with me. That was the biggest takeaway.
Then flashback to maybe a year and a half ago. I’m in this Facebook group, because I’m a psycho Peloton owner. I see this post from you talking about becoming a sleep consultant. I was like, oh my god. It’s not a bunch of hooey. I want to do this. I know it works. I have friends who complain all the time that kids don’t sleep. Well, I want to help them. I want to know the magic that got my kid sleeping.
I signed up for it, I think, immediately. Because I want to go. I want to hit the ground running. I want to do this. Genius. If I knew then what I know now, it has been a game changer. Using some of the modified techniques that you have in your course have really helped me as my kid has gotten older, have helped with day-to-day life, have helped my friends. It’s something I’m happy. I look forward to doing it. Now I don’t look forward to coming to work every day. So, that is huge. Thank you for offering it.
Jayne Havens: Yeah, for you, I think it’s been like such an outlet. It’s been such a source — it gives you purpose. I feel like when I think of you, I think of this work just giving you purpose and something that lights you up when your nine to five or if it’s a 24/7 drives you nuts. But your passion project, your side hustle is what lights you up.
I love that you said that it’s helped you navigate other situations with your own child as he’s grown up. To me, that’s amazing. I love that you’ve been able to take what you’ve learned inside of the course. It sounds like it’s made you a better parent, which it just really makes me smile.
Sara Senkow: I’m there for my kid more. I’m better because I get to sleep. Thank you. That silent return also, I’m telling you it’s a game changer for a toddler.
Jayne Havens: Yeah, the silent return. Then my secret sauce on the silent return is sending them back to bed. That’s like really where the magic happens. For those listening and they’re like, “This isn’t supposed to be about sleep training,” it’s not. But sometimes these are the tools that we live by. It’s not just work, but it’s life. It’s parenting.
Sara Senkow: It’s amazing. Ask my friends. They’re tired of hearing me talk about it. Everything is just, I hear you’re pregnant. You should call me. I’m here for you. I just thoroughly enjoy doing it. It doesn’t feel like work.
Jayne Havens: Yeah, I love that. Actually, that sort of leads me into my next question. I wanted to ask you how you’re juggling it all. Because you’re really busy at work, your real work. You have a big job, and I know it takes up a lot of your time. How are you managing to have a full-time job and be a single parent and have this side hustle passion project? What does that look like for you?
Sara Senkow: Chaos. I’m also very Type A. So, I need things blocked off in certain times. I’m up at 5:30. 5:30, I make lunches, I make the breakfast. I start on dinner. I throw it in the crock pot. I get shower. I get dressed. I know at 7 AM, the hatch light changes. My son wakes up. He starts to get dressed; he goes down to eat. While he’s eating 7:10, I have an alarm set on my phone every day to check in with the client. Then by 7:30, we’re out the door.
Between 7:45 and 8:15, on my way into work, I can call a client. Do a discovery call. Get that done, or just enjoy quiet time. I can’t really do anything from then until my lunch break at noon. I’m just focused on work. But at noon, what I’ve been doing — because of my work schedule, I focus more on networking and making more connections.
From noon to one, I check in with people I partnered with, see how they’re doing, what I can do for them. Maybe if they have leads for who they’ve partnered with, and if they’d be interested, and then I’d reach out to them. I continue to work through my day. I know when I’m leaving work to go to the car pickup line, I have a solid half hour 45 minutes discovery calls. What else am I going to do with that car ride? So, those are great.
I don’t want to say they’re scripted, but I know what I’m saying now.
Jayne Havens: You have a system down.
Sara Senkow: So, easy to figure out what they need, get it done. I just use that time in the car for something. Hopefully, land a client. But it’s doing something. I pick my kid up. We shove dinner real quick. We’ve run out to sports. We either football or swimming. God knows what else.
Then we quick at home. At 7:30, he puts himself to bed. We’re at the point where he’s like, “Mommy, it’s time.” Okay. Quick shower, brush your teeth, pajamas. We’d read a book. He’s in bed. That hatch has gone off, door shut. Normally, by eight, I’m sitting on my peloton. I can either have that half hour to myself, or I hit this just ride feature. I’ll write up plans, talk to clients, have a glass of wine. I’m in bed by 10:30, and repeat the next day.
Jayne Havens: That’s incredible. For people who say, “I don’t have time,” I always just want to say everybody has time. You’re like one of the busiest people I know, and you’re making time for something that you love and that feels important to you.
Sara Senkow: If you want it, there’s time. At my lunch break, I could eat. I do, but I’m also making phone calls, or I’ll shoot a quick text, or share something that someone I’ve partnered with they posted. It takes two seconds.
Then that car ride, would I enjoy listening to music? Probably. But I can make my time a little more efficient for something I want to get done.
Jayne Havens: What does it look like for you to support families when you actually are helping clients, like you’re working a full day? Are you able to stop your work and text message back and forth a little bit to answer questions? If you have a little four-month-old that is taking junk naps, and mom is stressed about it, how are you navigating that with your clients, with your full-time job?
Sara Senkow: It’s not easy. I do make it clear, like, “I am here for you. When I’m able to respond to you, I will.” So far, that hasn’t failed me. I tell them when I’m awake, I won’t respond to you. Immediately, I have a daily alarm, I check in.
I have a five-and-a-half-month-old right now. I think we’re in the middle of teething. Mom’s worried about nap time, but that’ll happen. Then normally, when I finally get a break around noon, I’ll reach out again. We’ll talk about it.
But also, I feel sometimes that little break gives the parent some time to figure things out on their own. They need to. It’s ended up working. I’m here for you, but you need to do this on your own. I’m here to support you. You can do this on your own. It gives the parent a little more confidence. But it’s hard. I’m not super — if you text me, within a minute, I’m not not responding.
Jayne Havens: But that’s okay. Right? That has worked for your clients, and that hasn’t been a problem in your business.
Sara Senkow: No, and if they need to sit down, if we need to talk, I block out a time. I will put any meeting I have off. I make it work. Like right now, I scheduled a meeting.
Jayne Havens: Yeah, right now, you’re working, and we’re recording a podcast. Don’t tell the government.
Sara Senkow: Yes.
Jayne Havens: No, I totally get it. Actually, I think that the way that you’re operating with your clients is really beneficial to them long-term. As you said, when our clients are really heavily leaning on us for instant information and instant support, that’s helpful in the beginning. But at a certain point, we do have to back off those supports, because our goal is to send them off on their way and have them be confident parents with thriving babies and toddlers.
The only way they get there is if we sit on our own hands a little bit, and let them. We can’t enable them the way that we — right? We don’t want them to be completely enabling their children. Then we also want to not completely enable them so that they can learn to trust themselves and to get this done on their own.
Sara Senkow: Yes, 100%.
Jayne Havens: I think you completed the course about 18 months ago. I’m wondering if you remember where you landed that very first client, and then I also want to know what your workload looks like now. How many families are you supporting at a time?
Sara Senkow: So, the first client was a friend. The first, honestly, four or five clients were friends. It was free. It was pretty much like I needed to establish I’m legit. I wanted to use them as guinea pigs. So, if they’re listening, I’m sorry. I really need to figure out my flow, how everything goes. I went to see if it worked. So, I think the first four or five, honestly, were friends. I needed them for reviews.
Jayne Havens: But what about the first paying client? Where did the first like real legitimate client?
Sara Senkow: From a friend.
Jayne Havens: A friend of a friend.
Sara Senkow: My friend saw me post something on Instagram. She told her friend, and her friend reached out. She was like, “Hey, a mutual friend of ours saw you opened a business. Help me,” and paid me on the spot without even talking to me. No discovery calls. I didn’t know what to do. I was like this is not how this process goes. But this is my first. Well, I’ll happily take your money. Then it just snowballed. Friends told friends who told friends.
I will admit, I don’t actively advertise as much or market myself. I wish I could figure out this Instagram reel thing. I’m working on it.
Jayne Havens: I can’t either.
Sara Senkow: I can’t. Some people are so creative, and they have all this time to do it. I can’t. I want to. It just doesn’t work for me. In the summertime, normally, I’m busier. It helps out because I’m down the beach a lot. So, I can support up to seven families comfortably.
Jayne Havens: At a time?
Sara Senkow: Yeah, currently, right now, I’m at two or three a month. That’s working. But what’s really worked for me is because my schedule is insane. I created digital downloads, and they’re cheap, too. But it’s just a quick outline of a method with what bedtime should look like. We’re going to brush her teeth, low routine — a free sample schedule of what your sleep should look like for $5.
That has snowballed. Because it’s so cheap, people aren’t per se paying for the full package. They’re downloading and downloading. That’s working, for me, as passive income also. I’m not working for that. That’s doing it on its own.
But then there are few clients — I have a discovery call with one tomorrow who downloaded the thing. She wants one-on-one help now, which that has really turned into people are like, “Wow, this information is great. I want to know more.” I found to the more free info you give them, they’re like, “Oh my god. She knows what she’s talking about.” Then they pay me for the same info I just gave them for free.
Jayne Havens: But they’re paying you for the support. That’s what I’m always trying to tell everybody. It’s that you can give it all away for free. That’s not why people pay us. People pay us because they want the hand holding. They want the accountability, and they want the support through what feels like a really stressful process.
Sara Senkow: You want someone to listen to you. You want someone to understand what you’re going through. When I went through it, having that girl I could call and just vent to, that was one of the biggest things. Hearing I’m here for you, that’s huge.
That’s what I found has really helped with a lot of the women I’ve worked with. Even their husbands have been on board, too. A lot of them. Just being there for someone, being a friend. Two of the girls I’ve actually actual friends with now. The support is huge. The support is probably the biggest part.
Jayne Havens: For sure. Can we go back to the digital downloads for a second? Because I think this is something that people are going to be interested in. I’m really excited that you brought it up. Honestly, I had no idea that you were doing this. So, I’m just excited to hear.
How are people finding this digital download? Because I think a lot of people create “freebies.” People create these freebies, but then nobody knows that the freebies exist. If you’re generating any sort of substantial income from this passive resource, how do people even know that it exists?
Sara Senkow: For me, it’s been word of mouth. My friends are my biggest advertisers. A girl, Alexis, I sent her one of them for free. She was doing it with her daughter. It worked. She shared it on Facebook, and then it just snowballed. So, they are doing it free, my friends, honestly. Your friends and your family are your biggest advocates. They’re advertising for me for free.
If do have time, I’ll post on a Facebook page for a sleep tip. Instead of offering my full package, I say, “Hey, well for $5, I have a digital download if you want to do it on your own. Because I understand some people can’t you know afford the full package. But if you do need support here, so I offer it. For them, most of the time, they’re just download, download, download. It snowballed.
Jayne Havens: That’s amazing. I love that you say that your family and your friends have been your biggest advertisers and your biggest supporters. That has also been the case for me. I think it’s really important to leverage your existing community when you’re growing a small business.
My business was built off the backs of friends of friends. I, too, supported friends for free just because I was happy to. They were struggling, and I wanted to help them. I did. Then they would tell their friends, “Jayne helped me with this. She can help you.” Those people paid me. Then those people became happy clients and referral sources for me as well. For me, Instagram reels, they will never be my thing.
Sara Senkow: I’m with you. I can’t do that.
Jayne Havens: That will never be my thing. For me, it’s always about treating families with the most respect and patience, and showing empathy and just supporting them at the highest level. Then when you do, they share your name with friends. It’s sort of that easy. I love that that’s what’s happening for you.
Sara Senkow: That was one of the major things. You’re right. Your friends will tell friends, who’ll tell a friend. They’re all there to support you. Your friends and family want to see you do great. So, they’ll constantly talk about you. It’s been nice. I don’t think I’d be where I’m at without friends and family.
Jayne Havens: I love that. I think for a lot of us, we get into this work not because we’re trying to create an empire necessarily. We get into this business because we’re passionate about healthy and independent sleep hygiene for children.
But at the end of the day, our time is valuable. This is a business, right? I know your goals. Well, I’d love to hear you share a little bit about your goals. I don’t want to speak for you with your goals. But why don’t you share some of your big goals for the next year or so?
Sara Senkow: I have a pretty lofty goal for next year. I’m not really—
Jayne Havens: Say it out loud. You told me, so put it out there into the universe.
Sara Senkow: I would like to ideally make close to what I’m at now, if not more. For 2023, the goal is over 100,000. I’m not sure how it’s going to happen yet. But I think where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Jayne Havens: 100%. If it doesn’t happen for you while you’re in your full-time job, I’m really confident that it’s going to happen in the next year or so after your retirement. I can’t say your retirement without laughing, because you’re like — I don’t know how old you are, but you look like you’re 27. You’re retiring in two years. So, I can’t say it without laughing.
But I think if you don’t hit six figures in your business before your retirement, I am super, super confident that it will happen for you once you can truly treat this business as your full-time job.
Sara Senkow: I’m hoping. I do feel that it deserves more of my time. I’m not sure how to fully do that right now.
Jayne Havens: Yeah, when you can, you can. You know what? I think it’s important to acknowledge that it’s impossible to have two full-time jobs, right?
Sara Senkow: Yeah.
Jayne Havens: For people who are listening, a lot of people reach out to me, and they’re like, “I hate my job. I want to do sleep consulting. I want to ditch my job.” But they make a decent salary. They can’t just give that up. I think it’s really important to have reasonable expectations and manage your own mind around this, which I think you’ve done a really good job of.
You’ve always sort of kept it front and center that you have this job that pays you well. You can’t just leave today. You’re going to leave in two years, but you can’t leave today. In the meantime, you’re growing something that has passion and heart behind it. You’re just slowly growing this business, so that when you have more time and you have the freedom to turn it into something bigger, you will. If that day was to never come, then I think this still would be something that still brought you a ton of happiness and all the good things.
Sara Senkow: I absolutely love it. I think one of our biggest faults is comparing ourselves to others. I work full time. I can’t make it super big right now. I can’t. But what I can do is enjoy the small amount of clients I have, find joy in that. Continue to do my full-time job, and just enjoy this as what it is. Take it for what it is, and be happy for the people who’ve made it huge. I’ll get there eventually.
It’s more walking, and then running first. But that’s okay. I feel like there’s a piece of the pie for everyone. We all have our own strengths that we can bring to this.
I work with a deaf community. That’s been a huge thing to bring. But then, there are other are people who are very good at making those Instagram reels. We all have something we can bring to it. It is possible working full-time to do this. But if you think that you can do this full time and your full time job—
Jayne Havens: Yeah, it’s really hard.
Sara Senkow: But it’s possible to thoroughly enjoy this, help families and support them all at the same time.
Jayne Havens: I love that. Where can everybody find you if they want to check you out, your reels on Instagram, your website? Share whatever you’d like to share.
Jayne Havens: Perfect. Sara, thank you so much for chatting with me today. I can’t wait for everybody to hear this interview. I can’t wait to see all that you do in the next couple of years. Congrats on your success!
Sara Senkow: Thank you.
Outro: Thank you so much for listening to this episode of the Becoming a Sleep Consultant Podcast. If you enjoyed today’s episode, it would mean so much to me if you would rate, review, and subscribe. When you rate, review, and subscribe, this helps the podcast reach a greater audience. I am so grateful for your support.
If you would like to learn more about how you can become a certified sleep consultant, head over to my Facebook Group, Becoming a Sleep Consultant or to my website thecpsm.com. Thanks so much, and I hope you will tune in for the next episode.