Money & Me: Old fashioned values on finance
Astrid Ellis is an entrepreneur whose company The Shower Tower has created Dubai’s first “soapenir” – luxury soap in the shape of Burj Khalifa – targeting the souvenir and corporate gift market. Ms Ellis, 40, from Germany, lives in City Walk, Dubai.
How did your upbringing shape your attitude towards money?
My parents have been very responsible with money. I learnt from very young that to have pocket money I had to earn it. I worked various jobs before university, from supermarkets to delivering pizza, and shifts at factories during summers.
How much did you get paid for your first job?
I worked in a supermarket; I was 16 and probably made 5 Deutsche Mark (Dh11). My first after university job as a junior event manager paid €650 (Dh2,696) monthly.
Are you a spender or saver?
If money is tight I know how to make it last longer. If there’s plenty, I love to spend two days at beautiful hotels in the UAE, far enough not to get tangled up in daily routine. It allows me to take a look at myself and my business; evaluate if I need to adjust in some areas. I also love spa treatments; to get pampered is wonderful.
What is your most cherished purchase?
The first car I bought, BMW Z3, 17 years ago. I still have it in Dubai. I brought it with me when I first came in 2004. I’ve had several cars, even expensive ones – which I paid cash for – but this one will stay with me.
Have you ever had a month where you feared you could you not pay the bills?
I have had several months not knowing how to move on. Being an entrepreneur you always must be aware you can lose everything in a heartbeat. If you trust your instincts and believe in yourself you will always be able to make it. If you’re smart, you learn from mistakes.
Where do you save?
I have a piggy bank where I collect coins. Big cash I stash in a Swiss private bank.
Do you prefer paying by credit card or in cash?
I have credit cards, but I prefer cash. I’m old fashioned. I grew up in times when business was confirmed by a handshake and cash was the way to pay. If you carry cash you know exactly how much you have.
What has been your best investment?
The first car still puts a smile on my face and I own a property in the United States. Investing in your own company, your dreams, is always the best. It takes courage and has risks but I would not want it any other way.
What do you most regret spending money on and how much was it?
A pair of shoes I never wore. They were very expensive and not practical; the heel was too high to walk in – even from the car to the restaurant. A famous French haute couture house lured the money out of my pocket.
What financial advice would you offer your younger self?
Invest in yourself and travel; it shapes you like nothing else, allows you to grow and the memories stay with you. Travelling as a backpacker in less fortunate countries allowed me to understand how blessed I was being born in a safe country, able to go to university. People I met were content with what they had. In a city where high-end brands rule your lifestyle, it’s easy to forget true values in life.
Do you have a plan for the future?
I am a guest in this country and at one point I have to go. Building a business is building a future. The first years are the hardest, but once up and running it allows you to take precautions for later life.
If you won Dh1 million, what would you do with it?
Take my business to the next level and travel places I always wanted to go; through New Zealand and to see Bali.
What would you raid your savings account for?
Survival; paying the rent to be able to keep building the business.
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