Rhian Lindley is the managing director of Zo-etic, a Dubai-based boutique business and marketing consultancy she set up in June this year. The Briton, who moved to the Emirates 18 months ago, started her career working as a management consultant before setting up her own pre-school education brand in the UK.
Describe your financial journey so far.
Growing up, I always felt like I was fighting for everything I had; nothing was ever handed to me on a plate. I come from a single-parent family in south Wales, was an only child and my mum worked full-time. We basically lived week to week, so I was aware from an early age that money was very tight and I almost conditioned myself not to ask for anything because I didn't want to make my mum feel guilty for not having the funds. At university, if I wasn't working to support myself, I was in the library. I was very driven because I realised the sacrifice my mum had made by me going to university, so I needed the three years to be a success.
What is your philosophy towards money?
Money gives you security and options - without it, life is very uncertain. When I left university, I had a well-paid job as a management consultant and my career really took off. It was the first time I had money and, while it was very liberating, I also found it quite daunting because I did not know how to manage cash. I was almost afraid to spend it. It took me a good six months to realise I could have a much better quality of life without hoarding everything in the bank and being afraid of having nothing.
Are you a spender or a saver?
As long as there is enough in the bank to cover our home, investments and our children's education, I am definitely a spender. I like to spend on life's luxuries. I'm a real foodie, so wouldn't think anything of going to an expensive restaurant such as Nobu at The Atlantis. I like nice clothes, nice haircuts, experiences that give you memories, such as great holidays or sky-diving, and activities for the kids like horse riding, gymnastics and tennis. I support my mum financially now as well. I pay her rent every month and her flights whenever she comes to stay. Being able to do that for her is very rewarding.
What has been your most valuable financial lesson?
Watching my mum calculate groceries to see if she had enough money to feed us that week. She'd take a calculator to the supermarket and add up the bill as we went around the shop. Quite often, she'd put things back, which taught me a very valuable lesson early on to only spend what you have. It also made me very aware that if I wanted to get out of the situation we were in, I was going to have to work very hard.
What has been your biggest financial challenge?
After I had my three children, now aged six and four-year-old twins, I had a reality check because I couldn't do a job where I was working 14-hour days and be the mother I wanted to be. So I took voluntary redundancy to be at home, but going from having a great salary to having nothing and relying on my husband's salary frightened me. It took me back and made me worry what I was going to put my children through. Not being able to contribute to the household bills affected my self-esteem. So I set up Pyjama Drama - a pre-school education brand - that I could run around my children. We employed about 10 people and had to make sure they got paid at the end of every month. Sometimes, my business partner and I didn't earn anything ourselves. That was difficult in terms of motivation because you are working, not seeing the paycheque at the end of the month and incurring costs such as childcare. The company did take off and when I sold the business before moving to the UAE, we had 13 franchises.
Why did you decide to set up your own business in the UAE?
When I first moved to Dubai, I planned to spend a year settling the children in and then get a full-time job as a management consultant. But I quickly realised that would not be feasible with the logistics of picking the children up from school. After helping a few friends who have small businesses with their marketing and PR, I decided to set up my own business. I was a bit nervous about getting a trade licence because in the UK it costs very little to set up a business, so it was a big step to take.
What financial advice would you give you own children?
When I was 21, my mother gave me £3,000 (Dh17,970) from an insurance account she'd been paying £2.50 into every week since I was born. It was the most money I'd ever had in my life and I blew the lot on clothes. The realisation when it was all gone made me feel sick, so with my own children I tell them to be very careful with their money and always save for a rainy day because you never know when it's going to rain - or how long for.