x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Saving for a spiritual endeavour

This entrepreneur moved to Dubai with the goal of launching a halal skincare line, and is now working 16-hour days

Layla Mandi, the founder of OnePure SkinCare, spends a portion of her business budget on researching her competitor's wares.
Layla Mandi, the founder of OnePure SkinCare, spends a portion of her business budget on researching her competitor's wares.

I own a company called OnePure SkinCare, which is a high-end halal cosmetic line. It's aimed at women who want to buy skincare products that are in line with their religious beliefs. My best-selling product is a travel collection that includes cleanser, toner, eye cream and moisture gel. It retails for Dh450.

I moved to Dubai three years ago to set up the company, and I have lived here ever since. I worked on the idea for two years before the launch, which took place in March 2008. I'm 32 and originally from Canada, near Niagara Falls. I guess I grew up in an average Canadian family. I never felt like we were rich or poor, just normal. As a child I wasn't dictated to about how I should spend my money. I received an allowance and was encouraged to do whatever I wanted with it. I don't remember how much my allowance was, but it was enough to buy make-up.

I wasn't controlled when it came to money. I think we Canadians are a little more conservative than Americans and maybe not as interested in keeping up with the neighbours. My parents thought it was important to invest in the future, but I don't think I am very much like them, as I don't believe in just saving money until I die. So you could say I grew up being neither a saver nor a spender. I have no problem spending money if I want something, and if I want an expensive item I'll save up for it, such as gifts for my family.

But I don't think of myself as particularly materialistic, because I don't tend to splash out on big things; at the moment I want to put what I have into building the company. I think that if you are an entrepreneur, you can become paralysed if you think only about the long term and the fact that there might not be a pot of money in the bank. Worrying about that can hinder you as an independent business person.

Before coming to Dubai, I worked as a make-up artist in Toronto for 10 years. My first-ever job was on a futuristically-styled photo shoot for the Toronto Star. I was paid about US$150 (Dh550) for it. I remember I went straight to the make-up counter and spent all of it on cosmetics. But that was my business, so it was an investment. Those make-up brushes aren't inexpensive, after all. Even today, when I do go out to spend - which is rare, because I normally work 16-hour days - I'll buy skincare, make-up and beauty products.

I justify that as business research and have been known to pay Dh2,000 on a high-end face cream if I see a new one in the stores that I am interested in, just so I can see the packaging, the texture and the quality of what is being done at that end of the market. Normally, however, my monthly budget for beauty products is around Dh500. When I set up my company I put in around Dh500,000 of my own money, and I am reinvesting any profit I make into the business. Because I had been working on setting up the project for a while, I managed to save the money myself over time and didn't have to borrow any cash or go into debt.

We officially launched in March 2008. I'm working long hours, but it's been amazing. My attitude to money hasn't changed since being in Dubai; I find the attitude here really positive. It's a supportive place where you feel like anything is possible for a new business, and I find that very motivating. I don't work for the money. If you work only for that you will start to struggle very soon. I can't see that the recession has really affected us because we're still so new as a company, so there is nothing to compare to the current situation. I like to think we're doing well. I don't spend a lot of money on myself. I am still developing the business and my funds are going into that, not into cars or houses. I don't have a house of my own yet. I do try to give myself some treats, though. When I travel on business, to places such as Switzerland, France, the UK, Italy or Canada - I will stay in a nice hotel or do a bit of shopping, but my daily expenses are pretty conservative. I'm not particularly materialistic so I don't tend to splash out on expensive things.

I don't eat out much, although when I do go out I might pay Dh500 for a good meal. I work seven days a week, though, so I don't go out that often. Dubai is great for home delivery, and I probably spend around Dh2,000 a month ordering food in. Another great feature of Dubai is that you can get your bank balance sent to you by SMS, so I always know roughly where I am because of that service. My cousin helps me with my accounting; he's an actuary. I don't rely on him too heavily, though, as I tend to know where everything is with my finances.

I don't worry much about money. I work because I love what I do. It's what gets me up every morning. I don't really go on holidays at the moment, as I don't have time. I haven't really ever thought about money very specifically, so I guess my philosophy about finance is more about work. If you find something you love it won't feel like work, and everything else will fall into place. * As told to Jola Chudy