Fuad Abdul Raza has been business-minded since the tender age of eight, when he sold sweets to school friends.
Money&Me: Work hard and enjoy your earnings
Describe your financial journey so far.
My father was a businessman and when I was eight, I started my own business at school selling sweets. There were these sweets that all the kids liked, including me, so I went to my father and asked him to buy me a bulk carton of them so that I could resell at a profit. He gave me the capital, but the teachers weren't as happy. Since then, I've always been a businessmen. In my early teen years, I bought and sold second-hand bicycles, then it was motorbikes and from there, I became a broker, finding buyers for people who wanted to sell their cars. I started to get more organised, having a diary listing who wanted to buy a car and who wanted to sell. In my 20s, I distributed fish from Oman to people's homes. My friend and I earned good money and set up a transportation company - but when fuel became too expensive, we sold all the trucks and moved into events.
Why did you decide to launch a fashion boutique?
Because it is an open market. There were too many competitors in the events business and it was hard to take a percentage of the market. Plus, I wanted to do something creative. My wife has a passion for fashion and encouraged me to go into it partly because she will never be far from me in this business. We are together all the time and she gives me a lot of advice about the colours and fabrics ladies like. Even though most women in the GCC now work, she will not give her salary to her husband; it is only for her to spend on luxuries. And, unlike a man, when she likes something she will buy it no matter how expensive it is. I invested Dh1.5 million of my own money because if a company is less than three years old here, it's hard to get finance. The company is now worth over Dh3m.
What is your philosophy towards money?
Money is important for yourself and your family - especially in a business city like Dubai - but you should enjoy it as well. In Arabic, we say: "Don't become a guard for the money." Some people save and save and don't enjoy it. It affects their character because they are just collecting money. But if you spend all your money, then you cannot control it, so you need a balance - it's a difficult equation.
What has been your biggest financial challenge?
Preparing my team for our expansion plans. I plan to open up to 30 branches in the UAE and the GCC by 2017. It's a big challenge and my team are a little tired. Yesterday, the development manager said: "We are going very speedily, it's risky." But I said: "We have to because the economic recovery will be there."
Are you a spender or a saver?
I'm a big spender. If I was a saver, I wouldn't have one branch by now, I'd already have 15 to 20! I spend on travelling to Europe four times a year, on my house and on luxury things such as furniture and cars. I drive a Range Rover, a Nissan Patrol and a BMW 7 series. I also give bonuses to the staff as an incentive. My accountant said to me: "Sir, you are giving too much." But I say it is to motivate them and make them more happy so that they will give the job more priority. I also like to spend on my kids. I have two boys, aged 16 and 7, and two daughters, aged 13 and 11. It's expensive. When I buy one iPad, I have to buy four because they will not share. The same with laptops, if I buy one, I have to buy four.
Have you experienced any financial difficulties?
In December, the company didn't earn enough to cover the staff's salaries and I funded them from my personal money. I don't know why the drop in business happened - we didn't even cover 40 per cent of our expenses. The season starts in May, then there is Eid, Ramadan and the summer with people going on holidays and the wedding season. So, it can get a little slow in December.
Do you plan for the future?
My business is my retirement - not only for me, but for my kids. My son already comes to the office on his days off and earns extra money working in different departments. When he finishes college, he will be with me in the business. This will be a family business.
What do you invest in?
I like to invest in other businesses. I'm currently planning an online marketing company. I also invest in shares in the local market, especially in Emaar. There are two kinds of investors - those who sell when they see the shares are dropping and those who buy when the share price drops. I buy when the price drops.