x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Organic growth and family first for former UAE BlackBerry exec

Money and me: Becky Balderstone talks about her business journey since arriving in the Emirates in 2006 as part of BlackBerry's marketing team.

Becky Balderstone, the founder of a Dubai-based organic food business, says having a family changed her outlook on money. Courtesy Magnet Photo Prod
Becky Balderstone, the founder of a Dubai-based organic food business, says having a family changed her outlook on money. Courtesy Magnet Photo Prod

Becky Balderstone, 31, arrived in the Emirates in 2006 as part of Research In Motion's marketing team for the BlackBerry launch. Ms Balderstone, from Britain, worked in the role for 18 months before setting up her own company called Beka Group, which helps firms to establish a presence in the region. In 2011, she launched her second venture, Ripe, selling local, organic produce. The operation started small, but has since expanded to include farmers' markets in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, in addition to a shop, website and home delivery service.

How would you describe your financial journey so far?

I don't like to have any debt so I only invest what I earn. This is the same in both private life and business. This isn't my home country. I would never want to get into any financial trouble. [After working for BlackBerry] I wanted to do something for myself, with the vision of wanting to have my own family in the future. I can't even remember what year I set up Beka Group. I think it was 2009. [I set up Ripe] in 2011 basically because of my husband James. He is in landscaping and agriculture and he was doing a project here and visited all the farms. I wanted to do something I was passionate about, and supporting local agriculture is something that both my husband and I feel strongly about. After visiting the farms here I had no idea how advanced they were, and the produce was amazing. So it just made sense to start something.

Are you a spender or a saver?

I am a bit of both. I am very conscious of saving, especially now that I have a family but we definitely treat ourselves every now and again. I think it is important to live your life and enjoy it but also having some security for the future. I think everyone's boundaries on spending and saving are probably very different. I spend some money - like I have a car, I have a villa, handbags and shoes. But I don't buy luxury items or go on flash holidays. I'm not driving around in a top-of-the-range sports car.

What is your philosophy regarding money?

Live within your means, I think more so now I have a family. My husband is the same. It's more about my family now. I probably used to spend a lot more money than I do now. It's all about Freya [daughter, 10 months] and schooling.

Did you make any financial mistakes along the way?

No, not really.

Do you believe in planning for the future? Why?

Absolutely. You have to, especially when you have a family. It becomes about them and their future. Everything my husband and I do now is about saving so we can retire as early as possible and spend as much time as a family doing fun things with our children. My husband and I don't want to be working when we are 60 or 70. We want to continue working on fun projects, but we don't want to be making money to pay for things forever. We want to have time for our kids when we are able to, when we are still nice and young.

Is money important to you? Why?

I think money has to be important to some extent. We are not materialistic people and do not spend a lot of money, but we respect that money offers you the ability to have good health care, education and a roof over your head.

What is your idea of financial freedom?

Not having to work for a living - isn't that everyone's? - instead working for passion and enjoyment.

What do you enjoy spending money on?

Fun family holidays, yummy food - local and organic of course. I'm so busy I don't get time to go shopping. But treats for Freya, like little toys.