Mark Carroll is the founder and co-chief executive of Dubai-based Kcal Healthy Fast Food, offering low-fat, low-calorie meals. Mr Carroll, a Briton who moved to Dubai 10 years ago to work in property, launched the first Kcal outlet in 2010 and plans to have eight by the end of this year.
How would you describe your financial journey so far?
I took a sabbatical for two years before arriving in the UAE 10 years ago. That experience helped me a lot on what I want to achieve in life. When I arrived in Dubai, it was like the Wild West - there was a gold rush happening and it seemed as if anything was possible. My Dubai career started in real estate, which took off like a rocket ship. Shortly after learning the ropes of the business, I started my own real estate company with my friend and business partner, Andreas Borgmann. Then, with the economic downturn, we were forced to close down and instead of going back to the United Kingdom, I decided to stay and in 2010 we opened our first Kcal Healthy Fast Food restaurant in Jumeirah Lakes Towers. No one expected the business would grow exponentially as it has. We recently opened our fourth branch, which is in Dubai Mall, and towards the end of this year, we will have eight branches in the UAE along with more planned abroad. There's always a struggle in the beginning, but through passion and hard work, they get overcome, like climbing a mountain and when you get to the top, you can see the journey of success is never ending.
Are you a spender or a saver?
As a business, we have to spend or invest money to make money. Personally, I would say I am a saver. Although it never rains in Dubai, you just never know when that rainy day will spring itself upon you.
What is your philosophy regarding money?
Experience has taught me a few things that have influenced my philosophy regarding money. One is to listen to your gut, no matter how good something sounds on paper. The second is that you're generally better off sticking with what you know. And the third is that sometimes your best investments are the ones you don't make.
Have you made any financial mistakes along the way?
Aside from a few bad investments which could have been better, I've been quite lucky. I try to calculate my investments wisely - or as wisely as an entrepreneur can - and I tend to go with the mindset: "if you can't afford to lose it don't gamble it".
Do you believe in planning for the future?
Yes, indeed. I came to the UAE with an objective to earn my first million. I immediately identified that the fastest way to achieve that, considering my skill set, was through the real estate sector, which was booming at that time. The key is to identify opportunities and base your future plans on it to achieve your financial objective. Whether you're an entrepreneur or an employee, the same rule applies. With our current business, through planning we have managed to expand our enterprise in a short span of time. Andreas and I started our business with two employees and now we have over 200.
What does financial freedom mean to you?
That's the point where you know you don't have to spend time worrying about the "what-ifs" in life any more, and you're at liberty to focus more on the "why-nots".
What do you enjoy spending money on?
I like the finer things in life although at the moment I'm enjoying investing more into the business to help achieve my non-financial goals. I also have a passion for cars, especially classics.