Nadia Ivanova Briggs is the owner of The Cure, a spa in Media City, Dubai, that she opened in 2003. The Russian, who arrived in the UAE in 1996 to work as a tour operator, devotes a large proportion of her time to helping children in Russian orphanages.
I was born and raised in Soviet Russia, when there was no inherited wealth. Back then, people lived in apartments, very few had cars, going on holiday was a luxury and Coca-Cola was a huge treat. Everyone was in a similar situation. Then, when the Soviet Union broke down, all of a sudden some people became really wealthy. My father was one of the first US-dollar millionaires in Russia, but because my parents were divorced, I was not completely exposed to it. Like all families, my mother and I didn't have that much money, so when I arrived in Moscow at 16 and realised that one of the biggest events in Russia, the international music festival, was owned by my father, I was a bit shocked. My father had never spoiled me and back then, I was a little upset. I'd think: "He's so wealthy and he's not buying me fast cars or diamonds." I didn't realise it was his way of teaching me financial independence. I don't think my father has given anything to me up until now and everything I have made, I made myself. I'm very grateful to him for that lesson.
When did you set up your first business?
I opened my first business at 19 because I wanted to be financially independent and travel the world. I set up a little gift store with two friends while I was at university studying English and psychology. My partners were older than me and could afford to pay their share for sales assistants, so I went to university during the week and worked in the shop as a sales assistant in the shop on the weekends.
Why did you move to Dubai?
To work as an inbound tour operator in one of my father's businesses. After the mafia-driven Russia of the 1990s, it was such a safe place. It was here I opened The Cure, which I set up from scratch. I have no background in beauty, so it was purely entrepreneurial optimism. Back in 2003, we were the only spa beyond Burj Al Arab and people asked me if I was stupid. It was a huge risk and I probably wouldn't do it again.
Are you a spender or a saver?
Both. I spend if it makes sense to me, but I don't like wasting. I'd rather invest any money I save into better-quality products for my clients. I don't buy the cheapest tea, for example, because people don't know what tea I'm serving. I also spend money on my staff rather than advertising, as I'd prefer to have them happy than shouting to the world how wonderful this place is.
Why is charity important to you?
I like making a difference. I don't just give money, I work with specific orphanages in Russia. I believe the future depends on children and, unfortunately, those that are abandoned usually end up on the sidelines of society. Some of these children wait for weeks to play with a teddy bear because they don't have a single toy of their own. We try to give hope so that they don't believe the world is a terrible place.
What is the best financial advice you have received?
I set up my third business, an events company, in 2005 with a friend. I was running two businesses and I was so busy it wasn't fun anymore. Then my mother passed away and in one of the last conversations we had, she asked: "Nadia, do you really need to make so much money? You're neglecting yourself and your husband." She was absolutely right. When she passed away a few days later, I called my partner and said: "I'm stepping out." I realised I don't do anything just for money.
Is money important to you?
Yes, because I know what to do with it. I'm not going to waste it on huge diamonds and yachts. I know that with it I'll create something; it could be a job or an educational opportunity for an orphan. So, yes, it's important.