Valerie Reynaert, an executive in the beauty industry, says having a massage every week helps her take time out and relax
Money & Me: 'I spend up to Dh5,000 a month on beauty and pampering'
Valerie Reynaert is the managing director of Sisters Beauty Lounge, which has branches in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and the international business development director at The Grooming Company Holding, owner of brands N.Bar, Trevor Sorbie, JetSet, 1847 and Sisters Beauty Lounge. Ms Reynaert started her career as a beauty therapist in Belgium before moving to Dubai 14 years ago. She has also been the brand director of Nayomi Beauty Salon ME. Ms Reynaert, 40, lives in Downtown Dubai.
How did your upbringing shape your attitude towards money?
I am very blessed with my parents. They are hairdressers with their own very successful business. In our region they are well known. They have customers who fly in and have their hair done. We always saw our parents working very hard. I have an older sister. We had everything we could dream of, went to one of the best boarding schools. Dad said ‘as long as you’re young and studying we’re paying for everything - once you’re an adult and have to provide for yourself you will have to work hard enough’. We were quite spoiled but always told we’d have to work hard to keep that lifestyle. I used to spend time in the salon. People would come in; by the time they came out they’d be smiling, confident - it was nice to see that transformation.
How much were you paid in your first job?
I told my father I wanted to be a beauty therapist. Once I started (studying for that) I found it unnecessary to go every day. My father arranged a placement and said ‘you’re not going to pay her’. So I started working at 21 for nothing. After two or three months the owner came with €1,000 (Dh4,282). I said 'I’m not allowed to accept that'. She said ‘if you don't I don’t want you back because you’re working on customers, generating money’. She won.
How did you end up in Dubai?
I came for love. I met someone who was moving to Dubai. Love didn’t last, but the love for Dubai stayed. It has given me great opportunities. My first job here was as a beauty consultant with the biggest beauty supplier in the Middle East. Then I became the trainer, then training manager for GCC. I did my masters in marketing here, graduating in 2013.
Are you a spender or a saver?
Both. I believe you create your own happiness. It’s nice to have nice things; to spend on things that make you happy, but then again I also invested in property back home so I always make sure my mortgage and credit card are paid. I save what’s left.
Where do you save?
In Belgium in a savings account. As soon as I have a certain amount I transfer it.
Are you wise with money?
In the business I’m very cost conscious. Personally, I’m not so strict. If I like something l buy it, if possible. I believe if you’re a hard worker, money is going to come. We work long hours - I don’t mind because I’m passionate about what I do, but I would regret working hard and cannot buy things that make me happy.
Do you have a philosophy about money?
You need to be smart with it. It’s good to live a good life now but once you retire or get out of your job for whatever reason - you need to be sure you have money to cover a roof over your head and to survive. Don’t throw everything out of the window on a higher lifestyle than you can afford. If you can’t afford it, don’t spend it.
What luxuries do you spend on?
Quite a bit on beauty products wherever I go; when I see something new I need to try it. Also pampering. When I’m travelling I always try spas and treatments in those countries. I love travelling and wherever I stay it needs to be better than at home, otherwise what’s the point. I don’t really count a penny when on leave. I’m curious to see what they have in every country I visit, if it’s something I could implement here. Every Saturday I go for my full body massage. I go to competitors to find out what they’re doing, see if there’s anything we’re missing. It’s a lot about research but I find pampering important; take time out and relax. I’m very fortunate this is my passion.
How much do you spend monthly on beauty and pampering?
More when I’m travelling than when I’m not; about Dh5,000. Otherwise, maybe Dh3,000.
What is your best investment?
My apartment in Belgium that I bought three years ago. It’s always going to be there. It’s my security. For the coming years I plan to, and hope, I can stay here. I want to buy more property back home. I prefer property rather than shares - physical markers.
What’s your most cherished purchase?
A piece of art I bought a few years ago in Italy; it's Murano glass. I paid around Dh18,000. When the sun shines, it’s an explosion of colour. It links to a nice memory; my sister arranged a holiday for my dad’s 70th birthday and I arrived as a surprise.
Do you prefer paying by cash or credit card?
Credit card; I have a Skywards card so collect miles. I don’t pay much by cash. I have dirhams in my purse, in case I need to pay the cleaner.
Is there anything you regret spending money on?
An apartment in Dubai. It was 2007 to 2008, just before the crisis hit. They had foundations and then stopped the project. After a long time paying my mortgage, I finally got a credit note that somebody bought from me. It was a difficult time. I lost money. I was still young and it was the first money that I had and invested. We just have to move forward.
What are you happiest spending money on?
Travelling. Beauty products I find exciting. Of course, I get a lot from suppliers – it’s always Christmas when I walk into my office. Besides that I buy a lot of books, faster than I can read them. That’s actually an addiction. I read lots of business books and fiction to chill with in the bath.
What car do you drive?
I just bought a Range Rover Evoque. I love the Sport, but to spend Dh390,000 on a car…I thought, let’s be responsible.
If you were to win Dh1 million what would you buy?
The Birkin from Hermes. I’d put the rest in my savings. I have a collection of designer bags, which I love, but the Birkin I don’t have. It ranges from Dh50,000 and there’s a waiting list. I’m crazy about bags and shoes.
Do you plan for the future?
I want to invest more, but the way I’m going now is the way I’m happy with. We’re franchising five of our brands, looking worldwide to find franchisees. In this region people will always spend on beauty. You do feel they are more careful, which is different to how it used to be. But people will always spend because they would never like people to think ‘her hair or nails are not done so she must have financial issues’. There is still a lot of potential.