Chelsea Gregory is the co-owner of DanceFit, a new dance and Zumba studio in Dubai. The Australian, who moved to the UAE eight years ago, says having a plan for the future and putting her earnings back into the company are key to the success of her business and its expansion.
Describe your financial journey so far.
In the past, I have been in times of save and times of spend; kind of flood-and-drought style. I purchased my first home when I was 26 years old. I have always tried to maintain a balance between having the lifestyle that I want and also having security and plan for the future. Having children is a great way to shift your focus on to your financial situation because you have to bear so much financial responsibility with raising them and providing for them. But that is all very rewarding. I would say that hunger for success becomes far more alluring once you have a family to provide for.
Are you a spender or a saver?
I spend when I need or want to and save when I need to. Right now is a time for saving and definitely not spending. I just started my company, DanceFit, so my priority is the business. All the money I earn, we are putting back into the business to grow it and open more studios.
Have you made any financial mistakes?
Credit cards in my early 20s. Now I don't own one - and haven't for years. I live by the rule that if I can't afford it, I won't buy it. This was the golden rule my grandfather taught me and I have always tried to keep my feet on the ground and be realistic about my financial situation. It's easy to get swept up in living a lifestyle you want to. Banks can make it very easy for us to live a life of credit, but I believe it's important to keep it real. There is no escaping debt and you don't want to be paying for something you purchased two years ago.
What is your philosophy towards money?
Never lose respect for it and never place too much importance on it in life. Money will always have a way of coming into your life and out of your life - and you must never lose the value.
What has been your most valuable financial lesson?
Be thorough and always investigate all your options in any transaction, from seeking finance to making a purchase. Be cautious always and if something seems too good to be true, then I guarantee you it is.
Why did you decide to set up a dance studio focusing on Zumba?
Forty million people per week can't be wrong! Zumba is a fitness phenomenon and it's infectious. I knew immediately it was something I wanted to invest in and be a part of because, while a lot of fitness programmes fail, Zumba is so much fun that you don't feel you are working out. Motivation will come and go, but if you are doing something you love you never stop. My business partner has so many people taking her class. With the research on Zumba and studying the market in Dubai, we believe it is a good business decision.
Why is Zumba so popular?
It's a great workout that is highly effective and you will never feel the time pass. I always struggled to stick to a structured gym workout and Zumba is a long-term solution. Zumba is sexy and it's definitely a great way to gain confidence. We have one client in particular at the moment coming every single day. She has lost a lot of weight and still some to lose, but I see her blossoming every day because she feels healthier, she is looking a lot better and it shows on her face and even body language.
What has been your biggest financial challenge?
At the beginning, there is a lot of payments going out [with DanceFit], so you must always have enough working capital to keep the cogs turning until the business gains momentum. There will always be things that you did not allow for or plan for and didn't know would be a cost, so it's important to do as much research as possible and be prepared.
What do you like to invest in?
Anything sensible, nothing high risk. Something that is a need to the consumer.
Do you plan for the future?
I plan, but not too far ahead - no more than financially two years ahead. That is realistic for me. Anything more and too many variables come into play. But I would say something like an education fund, yes, you can plan for and that is important. You must also set yourself financial goals and ask yourself where you want your business to be in two years, five years and have an exit strategy in case you need one.