x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Money & Me: Entrepreneur taps maternity wear market

Using her spare time, the Dubai-based digital creative director Loretta Kiss used her existing skills to set up her own website after hearing pregnant friends yearn for fashionable clothes.

Loretta Kiss works four days a week as a digital creative director; blushandbloom.com is her after-hours project. Duncan Chard for the National
Loretta Kiss works four days a week as a digital creative director; blushandbloom.com is her after-hours project. Duncan Chard for the National

Loretta Kiss is the founder of www.blushandbloom.com, an online maternity store based in the UAE. Ms Kiss, from Australia, who also works part-time as a digital creative director, launched the company last month after spending two years setting up the business in her free time.

Describe your financial journey so far.

I come from a modest background. I grew up in a loving home that was comfortable and where money wasn't the be all and end all. The focus was always on enjoying ourselves. My father used to say, "When you die you can't take it with you" and I've always kept that in the back of my mind.

Are you a spender or a saver?

While I'm probably quite cautious with my money, I'm also prepared to spend it. So it's kind of a yin and yang when it comes to money and me. I definitely think you need to put money away, but I like to be spontaneous at the same time. But here, I don't get sucked into that expat thing of having to have the biggest, fanciest car or the biggest house. We live quite modestly because we're saving for different things in our lives.

Why did you decide to set up your own business?

For me, having my own money means independence. While it has nothing to do with the relationship with my husband - everything we have is jointly shared between us - I have always seen earning my own money as my way of ensuring I can do the things I want to do. I am fiercely independent. My parents say I was independent by the time I was three. When I was 12, I sat my parents down and told them that I would be leaving as soon as I could, which they found funny because I always had this goal to get out there.

And why did you set your sights on a maternity business?

A few of my good friends here were pregnant and literally screaming for good maternity wear that was not overpriced or dated. Maybe I'm also an opportunist because I could see a gap in the market and felt that women in Dubai deserved something more. I have friends who complain that everything here is focused on the children and not the mother and I think when women are pregnant, they are even more conscious of how their body looks. One of my philosophies about my business is that I just want women to feel good about themselves and to feel pampered.

What has been the biggest financial challenge?

Working and saving to set up my business. I work four days a week as a digital creative director, so blushandbloom.com is definitely an after-hours project. I started working on the site in May 2009 and I wouldn't like to count the amount of work I've put into it. Some people can get a site designed within three months, but because I design e-commerce stores for a living, doing your own thing is not easy because you keep changing your mind. But I wasn't in a rush because I'm not all about hard sell. I'm just tiptoeing out into the market to see what people like and if things in my store don't sell, then I'm open to suggestions. Interestingly, one of my most popular products so far is Preggie Pops, which help to ease morning sickness.

What advice would you give to anyone else setting up a business?

If you can help it, don't take out a bank loan. Save whatever you can and take longer to set up the business if you have to. The worst thing is to start a business, see the money coming in and then have to give it back to the bank. You should be starting to pay yourself back and feel a sense of accomplishment because you've done this on your own. For me, it all comes back to being independent.

Have you made any financial mistakes along the way?

Yes, two. The first was when I was in my 20s and bending the old credit card and, while I wasn't in a huge amount of debt, it was enough to have to take out a bank loan to pay it off. The other mistake was to put a lot of trust in a PRO to set up my business and he ran off with all my money. I got receipts from him, but they were his dodgy receipts, so that was a big lesson to learn.

What do you like to spend money on?

I love buying gifts for loved ones, things for the home and holidays. My drive is planning where we are going to go next. I like to go to new places and that's one of the reasons my husband and I live in Dubai. It's been a fantastic opportunity to meet lots of different people and cultures and travel. In the past year, we've been to Egypt, Portugal, the UK, Oman, Jordan and India. I also like to spend money on charities that involve animals, women and children. I give away about A$500 (Dh1,970) a year and when I make a donation, I feel good because I feel that I have helped someone who needs that money more than me.