Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 July 2019

Money & Me: 'I deprived myself of a lot of fun to set up my business'

Carole Moawad, co-founder of M’OISHÎ, says she now invests more in travel and spending time with loved ones

Carole Moawad set up M’OISHÎ, a homegrown brand of Japanese-style mochi ice-cream, in 2017 and now has 13 UAE outlets and a franchise in Saudi Arabia. Reem Mohammed/The National
Carole Moawad set up M’OISHÎ, a homegrown brand of Japanese-style mochi ice-cream, in 2017 and now has 13 UAE outlets and a franchise in Saudi Arabia. Reem Mohammed/The National

Carole Moawad is the co-founder of M’OISHÎ, a homegrown brand of Japanese-style mochi ice-cream with 13 UAE outlets and a Saudi Arabia franchise. Ms Moawad, 32, and living in Downtown Dubai, started her career in healthcare management in a Lebanese hospital before moving to Dubai in 2014 for roles in healthcare institutions including Eternity Medicine Institute and PwC. During a 2016 trip to her native Beirut she discovered mochi, which incorporates mochigome, a short-grain japonica glutinous rice, and began conceptualising her 2017-launched Dubai business.

How did your upbringing shape your attitude towards money?

The youngest of five, I have two brothers and two sisters and wasn’t pampered. My father got a job as procurement manager for the United Nations, located in Croatia and then Congo. We used to go to Croatia as a family for three months and Christmas. It was a tight budget, but the best time of my life. This taught me you can do amazing stuff with little money. The rest of the time I lived with my mother, a housewife, and family in Lebanon. She once tailored her wedding dress to make dresses for me and my sister for Easter. We never felt we were less than anyone else. My father didn’t do proper budgeting, but allocated money for what he knew he could do. His priorities were always family, with education his top priority; he never went cheap on this.

I wanted to be part of something big and to make it happen. I opened on City Walk, March 2017, and resigned the next day.

Carole Moawad

What were you paid in your first job?

For my day job I was an activities coach in a summer camp for $200 (Dh735) per month. My other job was as a waitress in a mall, for another $200 - I worked from 8am until 9/10pm. I was 16, still at high school. Dad didn’t want me to work, but I wanted to be independent, earn my own money. I felt guilty he was away from us - I wanted to earn so at least he wouldn’t worry about my pocket money.

I came to Dubai to work with PwC in 2014, as assistant manager consulting healthcare. My sister used to live here. I’d invested in my education, paid for my MBA, and felt opportunities were limited in Lebanon. I later moved to a re-insurance company, also in healthcare consulting.

Why swap a career path for a luxury ice-cream start-up?

I’m a foodie. I was having dinner in a Japanese restaurant in downtown Beirut. I saw mochi on the menu, liked the experience and started researching. It was booming in the US and London. No-one was doing it here. That night I had the vision to create a mochi ice-cream brand.

To go to the office was torture for me. I didn’t get why I had to wake at 7am, in at 9am, doing something for someone else for nine hours just for the salary and to have something stable. I wanted to be part of something big and to make it happen. I told them (my employer) I had this business idea and they were supportive. I opened on City Walk, March 2017, and resigned the next day.

Are you a spender or saver?

Spender. Although now I feel like I’m saving with my company. I like fashion, good quality, but I never search for brands. I feel the need to be elegant, but not to be elegant wearing fancy or expensive stuff. I always shop during sales and promotions. With the business I think of every penny I pay, when and why; I’m very strict with the budget. At the same time I don’t compromise on quality. The way I handle cash in my company is the exact opposite of how I do it on a personal level.

Are you generous with money?

When I go home I have to have a gift for everyone. I spend 50 per cent of my shopping time on my father, maybe a nice suit, but it’s not something I over-calculate. I also love food. There’s no way I can go to a country and not try the top 10 restaurants on TripAdvisor, no matter how much it’ll cost.

What other luxuries do you spend on?

Whatever I put aside before, I invest in my company. Now I’ve decided to invest more in my travels and time with friends and family. I couldn’t do this before because I didn’t have time. I deprived myself of a lot of fun. Now I can afford to have it, I want to allocate a budget to travel every month to a new country or to go home more often. It is in my personal account. I book the ticket the minute I have the money. I’ve booked New York, Japan, and Portugal.

Ms Moawad says now that she can afford it, she wants to travel every month and return home more often. Reem Mohammed/The National
Ms Moawad says now that she can afford it, she wants to travel every month and return home more often. Reem Mohammed/The National

Do you save for the future?

Yes, but I don’t believe in leaving cash in banks. I read Bloomberg every day and have lots of ideas for investment. I will go more into real estate, an apartment in Croatia or Greece - places I would like to be at some point - and to have enough to buy a motel in Croatia. Plus stocks, if I have the chance and financial freedom. It’s better not to put all your eggs in one basket.

What is your best investment?

The business. Financially it made sense, because it’s profitable. It turned out to be a successful business and makes me happy every day; it changed my life. What more could you wish for?

Is a luxury brand likes yours not vulnerable to economic fluctuations?

There’s a risk element especially as we expanded mostly in 2018/19, when the economy was getting tough. Our price compared to other ice-cream products is higher, but it’s affordable at the same time. Many customers are locals - even they are changing their spending behaviour - but it’s not that they’re not getting it anymore. Even labourers sometimes come to the shop; they cannot get six pieces but can get three.

I want to take M’OISHÎ worldwide, more franchising in the GCC, wholesale to supermarkets, and to develop a Japanese cafe concept.

Do you have a philosophy with money?

Not to overthink it. You end up losing a lot of energy thinking about money you’re spending or saving and not doing the real job that generates money. Energy is consumed because you’re worried you didn’t save this month as you’re supposed to; then you don’t have energy to come up with new products or create new business. As an entrepreneur, you cannot think of the money every day and be creative, ambitious and inspired.

Do you prefer paying by cash or credit card?

Debit card. There’s no interest and I’m not spending what I don’t have.

Would you give financial advice to your younger self?

Yes, not to be so arrogant and proud when it comes to money - don’t let these drive you. My father wanted to pay for my MBA but I insisted I wanted to - I just covered the loan, last year. It dragged on for so long. I couldn’t travel with my friends (because of repayments). Instead, I could have made it easier on myself and let him pay.

Updated: June 30, 2019 07:39 AM

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