Money & Me: Wedding entrepreneur treasures first UAE trade licence

Rhiannon Downie-Hurst is the founder of the UAE wedding-planning website The Briton, 35, as lived in Dubai for eight years, launching her business three years ago when she was planning her own wedding in Dubai and noticed a lack of online information for others like her in the Emirates. The entrepreneuer also runs The Engage Academy, a community and consultancy for wedding entrepreneurs.

How did your upbringing shape your attitude towards money?

I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth, but neither was I born into poverty. I had a healthy, happy upbringing, but did skim the border of poverty at one stage during my younger years, when my mother was a struggling single-parent-of-two. She taught me to be careful with money and never rely on anyone but myself. I took this advice to heart and have been reasonably careful with money to date. My mum brought my brother and I up single-handedly and worked several jobs to put food on our table. Her hard work ethic rubbed off on me and fostered my entrepreneurial spirit.

How much did you get paid for your first job?

Would you consider a paper round a real job? I earned £5 a week delivering newspapers and used to babysit my neighbour’s children for around £10. My first real chunk of money came when I was interning for a construction firm at 16. After my four-week stint, I received £100 in cash as a ‘job well done’ bonus. I’ll never forget the feeling; it was really rewarding.

Are you a spender or saver?

I’m a little of both and go through periods being one or the other. It’s all relative to how well I’m doing financially at the time. As I reach my mid-30s and see some older relatives struggling because of decisions they did or did not make when they were younger, I am more inclined to save. There is a real issue among expats not making provisions for their older age; it’s very much a ‘live now, worry later’ mentality.

What is your most cherished purchase?

My first UAE business trade licence. I saw it as an investment into my future and still do, it was one of the biggest decisions I have made to-date. My travel purchases are also cherished, as they created memories that will last a lifetime – I definitely value experiences over possessions.

Have you ever had a month where feared you could you not pay the bills?

Absolutely, especially when I was living in London. I think everyone needs a wake-up call now and then. Been there and done that, never want to go back there again.

Do you prefer paying by credit card or in cash?

By debit card or cash. I only use my credit card for certain purchases or emergency situations. In fact, my husband and I have each other’s cards now to stop us using them unnecessarily.

What financial advice would you offer your younger self?

Save. Even if it was just 5 or 10 per cent of anything I earned, saving is key. And be very careful with your generosity, who you lend money to and who you do business with. Have contracts for everything – there are a lot of shady characters out there.

Do you have a plan for the future?

Yes, to expand my business, which (touch wood) is growing at a steady percentage year-on-year. So far, the business has been bootstrapped, but we may explore possible investment to accelerate growth. I also want to work smarter, not harder, so I can enjoy life to the full.

If you won Dh1 million, what would you do with it?

Keep it a secret for a while, hire a reputable financial adviser and invest some back into my business. I’d ensure we were clear of debt and help a select few of my closest family. I’d also love to donate to an orphanage in my mother’s home country, Sri Lanka, and help animal shelters in Dubai. Dh1m sounds a lot, but in the wrong hands it can easily vanish very quickly.

What would you raid your savings account for?

Emergency situations to do with health or finance. I’d never raid it for things like fashion.

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