x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Money & Me: Networking makes persistence pay off

Zareen Khan, the founder of Woman2Woman, says money comes when you do something that you enjoy.

Zareen Khan, the founder of Woman2Woman, says money comes when you do something that you enjoy. Satish Kumar / The National
Zareen Khan, the founder of Woman2Woman, says money comes when you do something that you enjoy. Satish Kumar / The National

Zareen Khan is the founding partner of Woman2Woman (W2W), a company that creates business events purely for women. Originally from Pakistan, Ms Khan, who was born and raised in the UAE, set up the company in 2009 and now has more than 8,000 women in her network.

What is your philosophy on money?

Growing up as an expat in Dubai, I realised early on that life was all about what you drive, what you wear and where you're seen. But my philosophy has always been the opposite of that and with the global recession, I think it's about time people understand the value of money and realise it does not define who you are.

How would you describe your financial journey so far?

I come from a very well-to-do family and we've always had money. But I was never spoilt, which is a good thing. My parents made it clear money does not grow on trees and my siblings and I were told to make our own way as adults and that was the best thing our parents ever did. In college, I worked to finance my expenses, which was very different to the people I grew up with it. They pretty much didn't work until they graduated and actually found it difficult to get into the workforce.

Can networking help you make money?

If you want to make money, the first thing you need is to be good at what you do - networking or not. Over the years, I've noticed that women shift from one thing to another. So they need to be more focused and then be able to market themselves because no one else can do it better. Networking does add value, but it can be a complete waste of time if you don't know what you want and you need to know who the right people are. It's an art form.

What is the most valuable financial lesson you have learnt?

Contracts and not buying into the phrase, "You have my word". No such thing exists. I have had losses where people have given me their word and then claimed they never said it and these are people I know. So now for everything we do, there is a contract.

Has your attitude to money changed since launching your business?

Yes, I'm less carefree. I used to be this person who'd say "Let's go out for dinner" and end up paying for it as well. Now I think about every dirham that goes out and comes in because there are so many hidden costs. Friends are surprised and say, "This is your own business, so you should be able to splurge". But we need to be prepared.

Is money important to you?

It's vital to have money and it is important for so many reasons. But it has never been my goal to make money and I don't think that is going to change. Money comes when you do something you enjoy, but it's a thing that comes and goes, so it's never been one of the most important things to me.

Do you believe in planning for the future?

Owning my own home is next on the checklist, but I don't like to plan too far ahead. I never do 10-year plans; I'll do two years and that's it. Growing up, I was always a big girl and I used to have diet goals that within so many months I would lose so much weight and I saw how failing can make you miserable. I became more realistic and thought, "Let's do goals over a short period of time that I can achieve and not set myself up for failures".

What financial advice would you give to a friend?

Be honest. There are a lot of people here who are not honest about what they have and what they can really afford to spend. If you put your income level and fixed expenses in writing, then you know exactly what you have to spend. But a lot of people think, "I'm OK, I've a got another paycheque coming in" and they live paycheque to paycheque. If people just wrote an honest budget, they would be much better off. You should always control your money, not let your money control you.

What's the biggest challenge you have faced?

Setting up my business. Initially, I wanted to set up an events-management company, but when I started researching how to do it, I discovered how difficult it is to get the right information. There are all these laws and regulations that constantly change and if you don't have the right connections, it isn't easy to get around. So I sat down with my business partner and we decided that rather than just create an events company, we should create an entire support network for women like ourselves. I suppose all the hurdles we faced made us rethink our whole purpose.

What do you enjoy spending money on?

Lately, I've been buying art as an investment. I'm a painter so I paint, sell and buy art that has value. I get attracted to certain styles, especially if they are a young artist. I had my first exhibition at 13 and remember selling and there's nothing more motivating for an artist than to be able to commercially sell.