"Do not get used to being in the comfort zone of working for other people," was the advice UAE-based Lebanese expat Iman Fawaz, 32, got from her father, who constantly gave her tips from a young age on how to save money and plan for a business by herself.
"If you continue to work for a corporation, remember that every person is replaceable and relying on that is not sustainable,” Fawaz further recalled her dad cautioning her.
“I learnt this the hard way, only when I was laid off from one of my jobs. This pushed me to get out of my comfort zone and focus on investing my time and money into a self-funded business."
If you continue to work for a corporation, remember that every person is replaceable and relying on that is not sustainable
Mistake #1: Not having multiple sources of income
Fawaz considered her biggest mistake was to keep all the eggs in one basket and not find multiple sources of income. She admitted she was a horrible saver who would spend every penny in her pocket. "At a certain point, I needed to understand where this money was going," she said.
This changed over the years; as she learned to question where her money was going and started to think twice before making a purchase, becoming aware of her spending.
"The strategy I implemented on myself was splitting my expenses into buckets from essentials to entertainment. Track your spending and treat your entertainment money with discipline," Fawaz added.
"Limiting your spending money is like a diet; it needs willpower and discipline, and that's what I did. I went on a money-spend diet and disciplined myself to limit entertainment spending to save up for investments."
She believes there's a boss in every person, so to be your own boss, she suggested finding an interest you love and making the time to make it happen. "There will be many sleepless nights, but work hard, and you will get there. So, don't get too attached to your comfort zone."
Lesson learnt: Limit spending by splitting expenses into buckets or categories
Mistake #2: Not knowing where to invest
Fawaz learned that once you get the chance to invest, you should invest your money in something that will give you a return.
She advised in investing in a house which you put up for rent or a retirement plan. “But if that’s not your cup of tea, work on having a backup plan regardless, in order to protect yourself financially and give you a source of income if times go bad."
Her current strategy of savings is to save up to 50 per cent of what you make, re-invest it, and pump it into either a business or real estate. "My retirement plan is to invest in property or tech/digitally-driven businesses."
She was born in Dubai, which exposed her to a modern, digitally advanced education and an increasingly multicultural environment.
"Growing up in Dubai, I learned how to deal with and negotiate with so many different nationalities and cultures, making communication easy for me. This helped me grow from a business perspective regarding working with all my partners," Fawaz revealed.
Lesson learnt: Save up to 50 per cent of what you make, re-invest it, and pump it into either a business or real estate
Growing up in Dubai, I learned how to deal with and negotiate with so many different nationalities and cultures, making communication easy for me
From digital marketing to online jeweller
She always wanted to have an independent business, and in July 2022, she launched Bymystique, a fine jewellery e-commerce platform. Here is how it happened.
Her prior corporate career was in marketing, predominantly digital media focusing on building the digital advertising space for luxury brands.
"I minored in graphic design and always loved creating my jewellery pieces. Coming from a marketing background and being in the digital luxury scene for a while, I decided to merge these two skills and transform them into a jewellery e-commerce business I am passionate about."
What were the main expenses of starting this business?
The main expenses for her business included a business license, manufacturing the gold pieces, branding and printing, and website development. All this, along with marketing assets (i.e. photoshoot content and video), bank account and payment gateway setup, PR agency fees, and social agency fees.
Lesson #1: Planning time is essential; set a timely deadline for expenses ahead of launch
She had self-funded her business via personal savings and planned to split monthly expenses across eight months. This way, it did not overload her with all costs coming at once.
Fawaz detailed how production costs accounted for about 40 per cent of her initial investment, branding and marketing made up about 25 per cent, 15 per cent for website development, social and PR agency fees at 15 per cent, and license and bank account setup cost 5 per cent."
"Plan your expenses, set up a structured expense sheet, and spread it across your timeline towards launching. Have a deadline; set your realistic deadline with an action plan against it."
Plan your expenses, set up a structured expense sheet, and spread it across your timeline towards launching
Lesson #2: Research and look for various suppliers
She emphasised that do not activate blindly with the first partner that gives you a yes to a cost. Always ask for samples.
"My biggest challenge was finding suitable suppliers for production across all elements (gold manufacturer, web developer, studio, branding, etc.) that would offer me the optimal cost versus quality of production."
Be patient, don't give up and always research to stay on top of trends. "What has helped me thrive is my being on top of things, despite working with talented partners to implement my business."
One should always have a strategy and vision and relay the same to all partners. "Get constructive feedback from them to help you achieve your overall vision. Listen to feedback and work with partners you trust and can rely on to grow."
Lesson #3: Don’t expect results too fast and hope to see a quick turnaround to profits
Never be afraid to take risks; even if you do not succeed, you never fail. "You learn to evolve, try the next idea, and become solution-driven while growing. You will only become truly independent if you explore ideas, take risks, and allow yourself the chance to work for yourself.
"My parents often told me that good things don't come easy. You will fall many times in your life, and that's fine, we gain resilience, and there's always a way to get stronger. You need to work hard, do the job, stop telling yourself you don't have time, be patient and be innovative to grow."
Fawaz admitted that an initial income planning misconception in her business was expecting results too fast and seeing a quick conversion turnaround, which is when a website visitor is considered profitable for the website's owner.
“With time you realise that things don't materialise directly, and there is often a challenging awareness phase. I learned to become more agile and re-inventive to re-adapt strategy and to think of new ideas to bring the brand message out loud and allow the brand to brew and grow slowly."