Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 July 2019

Money & Me: 'It was make or break when I got down to my last Dh10,000'

Entrepreneur Mark Drummond saved up Dh160,000 to launch a bespoke gifts venture but 18 months later the funds had dwindled

Mark Drummond, the founder of I Want It Now, says he 'never really enjoyed working for someone else'. Pawan Singh / The National 
Mark Drummond, the founder of I Want It Now, says he 'never really enjoyed working for someone else'. Pawan Singh / The National 

Mark Drummond is the founder of I Want It Now, an online company that designs and creates bespoke gifts for individuals and retailers such as Virgin Megastore. The Briton moved to the UAE to be with family in 2009 after finishing an interior design degree. The 34-year-old went on to work in design, retail and project management before launching IWIN in Dubai in 2015.

How did your upbringing shape your attitude towards money?

I was brought up in Luton, near London, with a good family that let us do what we wanted to do in life. I’m dyslexic and have always been into art and drawing, creative from a young age. My mother worked in retail, while my father is in construction and previously worked on Euro Disney and London Olympics.

We lived in an average house, didn’t have massive amounts of money, but weren’t poor. My older brother and I were given about £2 (Dh9.65) pocket money a week - we had to cut grass, do the cleaning and wash the cars. Mum and dad have always worked extremely hard, doing some really tough jobs. From that, I learned how to work. It gave me an appreciation of money; you have to have it and know where it comes from. Roll up your sleeves, get stuck in and get your hands dirty. I’ve always been hungry to get money and am driven by earning. I get a sense of achievement when I get paid for what I do.

People talk about a turning point in business – that was it. I was lucky enough to land a contract with Virgin Megastore and sales picked up.

Mark Drummond, IWIN

How much were you paid in your first job?

As soon as I was of an age I could get a job, I did. At about 14, I did two paper rounds a week, got paid about £10. I also used to get friends together, knock on doors and offer car washing to buy sweets or go to the cinema.

I was always finding ways to make money. I used to clean carpets, push supermarket trolleys. I’ve never been afraid of hard work, whether it’s McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, I worked in all; for me it doesn’t matter – work is work.

What brought you to Dubai?

My parents came out in 2007 on holiday and really enjoyed it. My Dad secured a job in Abu Dhabi and moved there. I finished my degree and came here in 2009 - I didn’t really have anywhere else to live. I worked in real estate for a while, then in Zara as a manager in Dubai Mall. I moved across as area manager in Gallery One, then project manager for a company that designs and fits out pop-up shops in malls.

What made you swap job security for a start-up?

I’ve never really enjoyed working for someone else. I find myself thinking I would do things differently. Even though you can make a difference you don’t have 100 per cent control. I like freedom to be creative. While studying I purchased a heat press and set up a business designing and producing t-shirts together with buying in products from independent retailers to sell on. I successfully ran this alongside my degree, until the 2007 recession. I found in Dubai there was a need (for something similar). I did a few markets before leaving my job. The response was really good.

Did you struggle leaving a regular salary?

It was a gamble. I’d been earning Dh20,000 a month, so a big leap to go from permanent job to potentially selling mugs. I’d saved Dh160,000, but 18 months later was down to Dh10,000 due to the cost of living, rent, trade license – money goes extremely quickly. My parents went back to the UK in 2009. The reality was, if I couldn’t make my last Dh10,000 work I’d have to go back too. It was May 2016, that point before summer; markets and events are limited - are you going to have enough to survive for summer? People talk about a turning point in business – that was it. I was lucky enough to land a contract with Virgin Megastore and sales picked up. Slowly we began to make more money. The business model now is different in a lot of ways. We’ve transitioned to online.

Do you have a philosophy towards money?

Money gives you freedom to do what you want so use your money wisely and don’t spend on unnecessary things. Know you are your biggest asset and make sure you’re learning as many new skills as possible.

Are you wise with money?

I don’t have loans. I just have what I earn. I know what’s coming in, what’s going out. When you’re a start-up without investment, you cannot afford to spend where you don’t need to, especially when you’ve peak seasons and quiet times. That’s something I’ve got better at and refined. I run the business at minimal cost, which allows me to survive. I wear many hats. I’ve learned something from every job, which I implement now. It’s taken a long time to make sure I’ve hammered down costs.

Do you prefer to pay by cash or credit card?

I use a good old-fashioned debit card. I’ve never had a credit card. I hate the feeling of buying something and having to pay for it later; for me the enjoyment is gone. I want to pay for stuff there and then.

Is there anything you regret spending on?

A few months before I was down to the last Dh10,000, I outsourced the SEO (search engine optimisation). It was a scam; they were saying they were doing things and when I checked they weren’t, but were still deducting.

Are you a spender or a saver?

I like to spend money going to new places, see what’s new in Dubai. But I also like to get my money’s worth so I use things like The Entertainer, always look for deals. I also spend on the company.

Mr Drummond says he would sell his business to buy a ticket to go to space. Pawan Singh / The National 
Mr Drummond says he would sell his business to buy a ticket to go to space. Pawan Singh / The National 

Where do you save?

It’s all into the business. Any surplus is in the bank. Then I know exactly where it is.

What luxuries do you enjoy?

I like to treat myself; I try the latest restaurants, make the most of what’s around. I’m a big fan of experiences. Recently we went to At The Top; we hadn’t been to Burj Khalifa for ages.

What’s been your best investment?

My trade licence because it’s given me the freedom to be my own boss and do what I have passion for.

Do you plan for the future?

I want to travel. I haven’t done as much as I want, so I want enough financial freedom to see a bit of the world, while the business is ticking over. My girlfriend helps run IWIN. I want to get married and have a family down the line.

If you won Dh1m what would you spend it on?

Invest in the business. Number two; I’d buy a ticket for Virgin Galactic. I always wanted to be an astronaut. I knew that I couldn’t, but read about someone who paid to go into space - so to go into space is the ultimate goal. I would sell my business for a ticket. It’s about $250,000.

Updated: March 7, 2019 01:37 PM

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