x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Starting a business changed my spending

Events planning often requires significant up-front investment, say Kristian Valdini.

Kristian Valdini, the owner of Calypso, says that to avoid careless spending he has never owned a credit card.
Kristian Valdini, the owner of Calypso, says that to avoid careless spending he has never owned a credit card.

Events planning often requires significant up-front investment, say Kristian Valdini.

Setting up my own business has grounded me in terms of spending. Now I am a lot more structured with my cash flow. If I'm not paid by the business, I'm not paid at all.

When you work for an employer and you have a monthly wage coming in, it's very easy to spend and lead an expensive lifestyle. I was on a month-to-month basis back then. I had my bills and the money left over I would generally use on having a nice life in Dubai. I wouldn't say I was reckless, but I also never made any plan for savings.

I've never had a credit card, and this might be because of my old spending habits. Because I would spend everything in my bank account each month, I knew that I would probably spend on the credit card as well. I know too many people who over spend on a credit card and get into trouble. I'm well aware of the pitfalls.

In London I was a DJ as a hobby. I used to put on small events and I did that for about 15 years.

But when I came to Dubai about six years ago to visit a friend, I noticed there seemed to be a lot of opportunity out here for somebody to get involved in the events industry. There didn't seem to be too many people doing it at the time. So I went back to London, thought about it for a year or so, and then moved out with my wife 18 months later.

I then went through the process of getting to know the scene and speaking to the right people. Within a month or so I landed a job with one of the main event and entertainment companies.

It was a huge shift. But with the experience that I got from the UK, combined with it being such a growing market in Dubai, the move seemed like a natural choice.

At first I worked for a company called New Dawn. They put me in charge of events at 360° at Jumeirah Beach Hotel.

Two years down the line I had learnt enough about the events industry in Dubai that it seemed like the right time to set up my own business, called Calypso.

The recession hit in Dubai right when I decided to launch my new company. We were insulated against it for a while. It didn't seem to hit the way it hit in the US, Europe and the rest of the world. But when it did finally hit, it came on a lot harder. It seemed to make an impact in a matter of weeks, rather than months.

But the longer the downturn seemed to drag out, the more I saw it as an opportunity rather than a barrier. A lot of the larger companies had to layoff staff and cut down their marketing budgets. Industries that were booming and would sponsor events before the financial crisis now seemed to dry up. This, I decided, was a good time to start a business. I'm not going up against people with endless pockets of cash to throw at events.

As a company our core work is split between lifestyle and corporate-driven events.

On the lifestyle side we work with a number of the larger hotels where we run monthly and weekly events with brands such as Ministry of Sound, Bargrooves and Russian Radio.

On the corporate side we provide creative concepts and services to a number of key clients from Hewlett Packard to Puma.

The most common events are on the lifestyle side, whereas the corporate events tend to follow product launch schedules.

Money management is a challenge. From the company side, you've got to keep investing, especially early on, and especially in the entertainment and events industry. We're looking at doing anything from three to seven events a month, and each one requires a fairly large advance payment for DJs, the venue and staffing. And if you're working for a hotel, you might not be paid back for that investment until weeks or months later.

The advance cost will depend on the size of the event.

The smallest would be around a Dh20,000 outlay, with the largest being Dh100,000.

When you start doing multiple events per month, it can be a pretty big investment. The hotel tends to take care of the equipment and we take care of the staffing and promoting. The split on ticket sales can vary. Generally you wouldn't take less than 50 per cent of the ticket revenue and you'd always be pushing for 100 per cent.

We have a good reputation so we try to be on the higher side.

When I'm not investing in my business, I tend to treat myself to nice clothes. I'm not a shopaholic, but when I want something I'll go and get it. I'm also quite into golf, which can really rack up in terms of cost. I tend to play at Emirates Golf Club, and after a meal in the clubhouse each round can cost around Dh700. I spend too much on one-off rounds, so I am looking into a membership in the future.

In the next two to three years I'm definitely going to serve the market in Dubai. We got in early and at the right time and the business is now growing.

So I'm definitely staying here. If we were to go to another country, it might be the US or Europe. But I don't think we'll be returning to the UK anytime soon.


* As told to Curt Brandao