Entrepreneur's business built on customised furniture and interior design.
'People are willing to spend money'
A business built on customised furniture and interior design
In my line of work, you meet a lot of people with money. But I think that it's only really important when you have it. It's good to have a reasonable life, but that's it. I don't think money is important for other things.
I moved my business from Spain to Dubai four years ago. When I first arrived here, we started with just furniture and accessories for home furnishings, but the business has moved and expanded into much bigger projects. I have my own line of furniture that I produce and the other line is a bit more standard. I import many of the pieces from Europe and then customise the colours and furnishings.
I have one employee who helps me do all the special finishings at my workshop in Dubai, and another who does paperwork and other matters.
The client can choose whatever style or colour he or she wishes. Some clients prefer silver leaf or gold leaf, for example. We can customise the furniture to the customer's needs. So if you like a chair but it doesn't fit with your house, we can change that. Not very many places do this in Dubai.
Right now, for example, I am working to finish a holiday home for a family from Saudi Arabia. We do the complete house - all furnishings, wallpaper, lights, everything. He gave me the place empty, and we do the whole house. We try to work with the people and create an interior that fits best with them.
This house we are finishing now is a five-bedroom villa and they have spent about Dh600,000 on furniture alone, plus all the upholstery and fabric and accessories, which would be another Dh150,000 at least.
We've also done work for large and well-known families in Dubai. Sometimes we do the houses or palaces room by room, so it's hard to estimate costs. But I can tell you, in furniture, it can cost between Dh100,000 and Dh150,000 for a single room in a palace. People are willing to spend this money.
It was relatively easy to set up a business compared with other places. If you wanted to set up a business from zero in Europe, it's not easy. Here, the main challenge is you really don't know the laws. But once you figure these out and do your research, it's not too bad. When I first launched the business, I invested about Dh2.5 million. All of this money went into the warehouse in Al Quoz and in furniture.
You need to have stock here because people don't want to wait. You don't want to wait five months for a bed or chair. You want to have these things now. Otherwise, transportation from Europe can take 20 to 30 days, so it's a much longer and less desirable process.
We're going to open a new showroom in the first week of January on Umm Sequim Road, near Mall of the Emirates (MoE). We're working on all the permits now. Right now, we have the warehouse in Al Quoz and we have small shop in MoE called Home Design.
I believe the market is promising here in Dubai. You have many nationalities with many different tastes. We have clients from all around the world - Arabs, Europeans, Russians and Americans.
I rent an apartment in Dubai. I really like to spend money on travel and food. I go to Amsterdam quite often, maybe three times a year. I also love Singapore, China and Indonesia.
I was born in Argentina and left for Spain in 2001. I come from a middle-class family and had everything we needed.
When I went to university, I did just two years of marketing and then dropped out. Then I started my own business, which was also my first job. It was a company specialising in stone-washed jeans. At this time they were all in fashion, so I found a couple of machines and did this at the age of 17. I decided to pursue this job rather than go to university. It was very successful because the business did something nobody did at this time.
I'm 46 now and stone-washed jeans are done through chemicals and are quite common. But we used real volcanic stones and hot water. We did it more naturally.
My father had his own business for many years back in Argentina. He owned a laundry business servicing hotels and restaurants, and my mother stayed at home to look after me and my two sisters. We went to good schools and went on nice holidays. In terms of money, it wasn't a very difficult upbringing at all.
I love Dubai and I think it's a good place to live. In South America, it's not safe at all, so you appreciate how there isn't very much crime here. This is really important. You never know when you'll have a problem with this where I'm from.
I'm involved a bit in the stock market, but I bought in at the wrong moment during the financial crisis. For now, I need to recover because it's been difficult. I own a house in Spain, but there the market has also crashed. In a couple of more years, I hope it will be OK. I think now is a good time to buy real estate with prices so low, if you have money.
* As told to Jeffrey Todd