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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

Never be afraid to take risks in life but make sure you do it with a buffer in place

When Nima Abu Wardeh wanted to take her children camping, she stumbled on an entrepreneur with an admirable attitude towards effective money management

Gary Clement for The National
Gary Clement for The National

Money is a choice. Education is an opportunity.

How interesting. It’s the answer a 30-something entrepreneur I came across gave me when I asked what money is to her? ;A choice to pursue it, make it, have it she said. She realises that she is fortunate and that others struggle with making, or having money in their lives.

I say discovered because I happened upon Hari, and her beautiful product, when researching tents. After all, festival season is upon us – and if you’re lucky enough to have: 1. saved the money; 2. the visa if you need it; 3. bought the tickets – then you could be on your way to one of the many spectacular events held over the summer, where you can camp.

I am. Mine is a more mundane affair with young children in tow but still it’s time to look at living outdoors, with no bricks and mortar for days.

A conventional tent wouldn’t do. I’m not a fan of plastic, or flimsy materials; a bedouin camp feel, in the fields of the UK – that would be ideal. Fabric that breathes life, not polluting polymer. I even contemplated whether I could buy a bedouin tent and figure out how to put it up on my own.

Being a single mum, whatever I got would have to be (very) easy to put up in terms of process, time and weight. Add to this that I like a beautiful thing too.

A chat with someone I haven’t seen for 15 years got me onto bell tents. He can’t say enough about the wonderful feeling of sleeping under canvas. Some research later, I happened upon Lotus Belle. Gosh they are gorgeous - a cross between a yurt and a tent. Enough of that – you can look them up online yourself.

They are also pricey. Nearly four times what Bell tents are on offerfor - another type of tent made of canvas. We’re talking circa£2,000 (Dh9,574) for the top spec. Ouch!

Looking into this, I found out that the woman on the other end of the "contact us" number, was the founder of the company.

Talk about rags to riches: Hari’s then husband left her with no money (he knew her PIN number and took every penny). A year later, she decided to resign from her teaching job when they didn’t allow her to go part-time. Two children under four meant that a lot of money could be saved on childcare if she was at home. And so Hari set about figuring out how to make life happen – financially. That was back in 2011; she had no money; no job and two young children. But she had a roof over her head, and obviously passion in her belly. She set up Lotus Belle in 2012. Made £7,000 pounds in her first year. Last year her company turned over £1.2 million.

Don’t you just love these sorts of stories? How did she do it I hear you all asking.

The truth is, she lives the boring but important stuff of "manage your money and your life" that I bang on about. She is frugal with capital letters. She has always saved and always had a cash buffer except when her former husband cleaned her out. That’s when she, ever pragmatic, rented out two bedrooms in her home. The income from them covered her mortgage and then some. She kept up a freelance typing job she’d had since she was 14, and, basically, didn’t spend any money other than on basic basics.

And she set about combining her passions; camping and design, sourced a manufacturer and flew to China. Her first shipment was part paid for with a loan from her mum. The rest is history.

It happened because she just went for it. But also, crucially, because she lived beneath her means. Always has, always will.

Frugal does not mean tight with money. Hari’s view is that it’s about value. Her approach includes: why spend when you don’t need to, and if you are going to, then get something that’ll last and that you love the look of; that you’ll enjoy for a long time. Like the walking boots she bought that at £180 was a huge amount for her at that time; – nine years on, she’s still wearing them. Or the coat that she wears a lot – again she paid more than she needed to, because she loves it, and will wear it to death.

The same goes for her tents. Yes, they cost significantly more than the average tent, but, they are everything Hari looks for in a purchase: beautiful and durable.

Hari is now making serious money. But she’s not driven by it. Her "enough" is having six months' worth of life expenses in cash somewhere. That’s all she needs. She comes across as a free-spirit, life-loving world citizen. With a wise old head on her shoulders.

Her nuggets to share are:

* Don’t be afraid to take risks.

* But do it with a buffer in place.

* If you’re really confident then the likelihood is it will work if you just go for it.

* And never, ever tell anyone your PIN number.

Nima Abu Wardeh describes herself using three words: Person. Parent. Pupil. Each day she works out which one gets priority, sharing her journey on finding-nima.com