x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Money & Me: Keep Kalm and carry on financially

Yuwen Zheng and Tara Roux are the co-owners of Kalm Holistic Beauty, a spa they set up a year ago on the Palm Jumeirah

Yuwen Zheng, left, and Tara Roux, say that setting up their spa business in Dubai was difficult, but well worth the effort. Sarah Dea / The National
Yuwen Zheng, left, and Tara Roux, say that setting up their spa business in Dubai was difficult, but well worth the effort. Sarah Dea / The National

Yuwen Zheng and Tara Roux are the co-owners of Kalm Holistic Beauty, a spa they set up a year ago on the Palm Jumeirah in Dubai. The business partners, both long-term residents of the UAE, say the key to a successful venture is finding the right balance, but it is the small details that count when it comes to keeping clients happy.

q How would you describe your financial journey so far?

a We have been very lucky because we chose our location very carefully. So financially, the business has grown slowly and steadily as we are not in a cluttered area in Dubai, where we face fierce competition. There is competition, but the right amount is healthy. The biggest challenge has been to watch costs to make sure we are profitable. Not hiring too many staff too quickly, making sure we source the right products at the right cost, making sure we spend behind the business effectively to ensure maximum return on our investments.

Are you a spender or a saver?

Yuwen is a saver and Tara is a spender. That's what makes us a really good team. It brings balance to our decisions.

What's your philosophy regarding money?

We believe you need to be very careful not to overspend, but you need to be careful that you spend also. It's a tricky balance because you need to build awareness without draining the bank balance. We believe money comes if you work hard, work in a team, get the right advice and keep focusing on an end goal.

What sets Kalm apart from other spas?

Kalm is a beauty salon within a spa concept. With natural surroundings - being on the Palm by the sea - all our products contain natural ingredients, or at least as natural as possible. This means we source products that are not harmful and contain natural elements. It doesn't matter whether you're have having your nails or hair done, massages or facials, our staff are there to lend a helping hand to make sure you feel as relaxed and as taken care of as possible like you are in a spa. It's the little details that count: offering to carry your handbag, ensuring that you have a drink, the latest magazines, even surfing the internet. Happy staff mean happy customers; that is our ethos. Our effort into the execution of this ideal spa concept can be seen in the fact that we have a feng shui expert helping us ensure that energy in the spa flows correctly, to give that really positive feeling; and you can really feel it. Many of our customers always say: 'Wow, there is such a lovely feeling in here and your staff are so friendly and positive.'

What did the feng shui expert identify to help your business?

We were surprised because when we brought the feng shui expert in, we didn't have to make huge changes. We moved a few things here and there, put the water feature in the right place, added some bamboo plants and a few pictures and placement of calabashes. It was very simple and very effective.

How difficult was it to set up a spa?

It was not easy at all. The paperwork that needed to be done was huge. Finding a sponsor, sorting out the trade license, sourcing staff from abroad - the Philippines and Bali - sourcing agents from abroad to make sure they sent us the right girls with the right expertise. We also did all the paperwork for immigration; we don't use a PRO for that, we did it ourselves. Sourcing a supplier to design and build the spa. Mentoring and training the girls, getting in the right experts to help make sure our staff get the right training. Sourcing products that are different to other spas; the list is endless. We got through it - it was a huge learning and a lot of hard work, but very rewarding in the end when you see it all coming together.

Did you make any financial mistakes along the way?

Yes, we did. Our first sponsor was very good, but too expensive for what our requirements were. However, we chose her because she came from a very big company and we assumed that's what we needed. But we subsequently found out we didn't. We have made some very small mistakes around products, but nothing serious. Overall, we have been very careful.

Do you believe in planning for the future?

Absolutely. Planning is key and having a vision is key. Our next Kalm will be open within the next year, so watch this space.

Is money important to you?

Yes and no. Yes because it shows success. And no because there is more to life than money. Health is number one. However, when you have money you have more choices and you can help others. By being successful, we are able to give 20 Asian women good jobs and careers.

What is your idea of financial freedom?

For us, financial freedom would be to open more Kalms without any financial worries.

What do you enjoy spending money on?

On a personal level, it's family. On a business level, it's whatever our next move is: a new product, a new member of staff, a marketing campaign, a new Kalm. It's whatever the business needs at that time. Charity is also important and we have supported Orphans in Tanzania through one of our regular customers.