Nadiya Kassam may have started her career as a banker, but the lure of owning her own business was too strong. These days, the Dubai-based footwear designer, who is originally from Pakistan, is running her own company after realising there was a lack of high-quality sandals on the market. Her handmade, jewel-encrusted shoes have captured a niche demographic - and enabled her to create a self-sustaining business.
Describe your financial journey so far.
After graduating from college in Chicago, in the United States, I returned to Pakistan and joined Deutsche Bank, where I worked for three years. Finance was a subject I enjoyed and showed a natural aptitude for, so it made sense for me to pursue it at the time. However, sensing a dearth of high-quality sandals in Pakistan, I always had a vision of starting my own footwear business. Fortunately, since I grew up in a home where creativity and designing was encouraged - my mother herself being an apparel and soft-furnishing designer - it didn't take much for me to begin experimenting my ideas.
How did you start out?
We began with hiring a few artisans, bought minimal machinery, rented a workshop and it started from there. I would describe my journey as one from a designer to business owner; where I began with my vision of creating trendy, yet comfortable footwear and then established that into a self-sustaining enterprise.
Are you a spender or a saver?
I would say I'm a bit of both. At times, one has to spend to achieve personal and commercial objectives. Let's say I spend money freely if it makes sense to me.
What's your philosophy regarding money?
In the words of my friend, Zain: "Look after it and it will look after you!"
What made you decide to be a shoe designer?
I was frustrated by the dearth of trendy and comfortable shoes and slippers available in the Pakistani market. Like most women, I love my shoes and it seemed like the perfect commercial venture for me. I feel it is very important for one to enjoy what they do to be able to put in their 100 per cent.
What inspires you in your designs?
Inspiration can be drawn from almost anything, but I find most of my inspiration from my travels. For instance, my new collection has been inspired by a recent trip to Istanbul, where I have tried to draw from their rich cultural heritage as well as simple experiences I may have had on the streets.
Did you make any financial mistakes along the way?
Yes, I certainly made mistakes along the way, but the important thing is to learn from those mistakes. I feel I was very conservative when I first started my business. I operated out of a small studio and was reluctant to open my own stand-alone stores or expand beyond my existing client base. My business multiplied as soon as I took the step to expand and there has been no looking back. Even now, I find I need to learn to be a little more aggressive at times.
Do you believe in planning for the future?
Yes, I definitely believe in planning for the future. However, I also feel it's important to strike a balance and sometimes learn to live in the moment.
Is money important to you?
It is important in the sense that it helps achieve the goals one sets for oneself, whether those are personal or commercial. But I also strongly believe in the phrase, "Money cannot buy happiness".
What is your idea of financial freedom?
My idea of financial freedom would be to freely spend on things I find value in.
What do you enjoy spending money on?
I enjoy spending money on what I find personally fulfilling, whether it is art, travel or helping the less fortunate.