Amanda Powell
UAE-based British citizen Amanda Powell, 44, started six businesses over the span of eight years and already successfully sold two of them. Here's her journey. Image Credit: Supplied

For UAE-based British citizen Amanda Powell, being a qualified doctor and a practicing surgeon were once roles that became too incompatible with her family life. This is what made the 44-year-old to not only quit a decade-long stint with the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), but also pursue entrepreneurship.

The Dubai resident then decided to shift her career focus to a more lucrative field of medicine, plastics and aesthetics, and subsequently went on to start her own clinic. This was the first of six businesses - of which two are now sold - she would later start over the span of the next eight years. But this wasn’t entirely unfamiliar territory for her.

“My father was a very successful businessman with a few businesses. He is my inspiration. Although he had a team of admins, I was his little secretary growing up. He would always get me to type up his letters. Growing up in that environment, I learnt how to earn and make more money,” Powell said.

Juggling jobs pre-entrepreneurship

However, her personal journey towards entrepreneurship began with her taking multiple odd jobs back when she was still studying medicine. “My first job was as a part-time waitress in a Thai restaurant in my first year at university,” she said.

"I had to learn to wash the toilets at the restaurant, serve food, take orders, and deal with inappropriate customers whilst juggling my studies. In the second year of medical school, I had a small boutique shop selling clothes that helped with my tuition fees.”

After medical school, she worked as junior doctor in the UK National Health Service [NHS], earning her a salary then of about 1,200 British pounds (Dh5,664). "I was overworked, underpaid, and underappreciated," she said. So after about 10 years of working a full-time job, she called it quits.

My first job was as a part-time waitress in a Thai restaurant in her first year at university. In the second year of medical school, I had a small boutique shop selling clothes that helped with my tuition fees

- Amanda Powell

Benefitted by a background in medicine

Using her experiences from both medical and surgical background, she went on to first start a business that partners with a chain of aesthetics, plastic surgery, wellness and dental clinics in Marbella, Milan, Rome, Prague and Singapore, to get patients connected to top surgeons worldwide.

Later on, for one of her key businesses, the surgeon-turned-entrepreneur launched in the UAE, she drew inspiration from a K-Drama show on Netflix in which stars donned LED lit skincare masks. “I contacted the South Korean firm, bought and tried the product first, and was amazed,” she said.

The masks, which make use of light-based skin therapy, was developed with US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) scientists to rejuvenate skin, reduce muscle pain and hair loss. Powell’s company now holds an exclusivity patent on the South Korean tech device and made it available in the UK, the Middle East, Africa, and Russia.

Setting up a beauty tech business in Dubai

“In London, setting up a company was easy, and we started immediately with logistics and an e-commerce website. All done within two weeks. Then later, we felt Dubai is the hub to expand operations in the Middle East and a good market for beauty tech,” she added.

Powell started the beauty tech business initially with personal savings. She spent over Dh100,000 on setting up the company. Her experience was mixed with challenges due to misleading information from various sources, ideas, and ways to set it up.

“We were incorrectly informed that we could not form a company and got tricked into paying for personnel and services that were not delivered, which cost around another Dh80,000. In total, we spent over Dh1 million to set up but learnt a lot of lessons,” said Powell.

In London, setting up a company was easy. It was all done within two weeks. Then later, we felt Dubai is the hub to expand operations in the Middle East and a good market for beauty tech

- Amanda Powell

Many costs, but medical background a boon

“Our main expenses at the start were set-up costs that took 20 per cent of the money, followed by licensing with the authority for beauty tech spending, about 15 per cent. Then other costs were 20 per cent in recruitment, salary, 20 per cent in PR and marketing and 25 per cent in stock purchase.”

There were many challenges and obstacles initially, Powell noted, but added that her medical background helped in establishing the brand. She explained the devices better due to her medical experience and passed her personal experience and passion first-hand to her clients as a user.

However, when it came to handling the financial side of her business, and even money matters in her personal life, there were lessons she learnt growing up that benefitted her later on as an entrepreneur.

Learning to delay monetary gratification helps

For instance, growing up, Powell learnt to delay gratification from money. Coming from a fairly well-to-do family, she grew up on strict rules. Her mother was strict, a typical “Tiger Mum”, she calls her. “We had to work for our pocket money at a young age. We were also taught not to waste money.”

Although being stringent when budgeting expenses, she spends on shoes, bags and drinks and enjoys racing cars as her pastime activity. “In my free time, I also enjoy cooking, painting, writing, travelling, and scuba diving.”

Powell’s money mantra: “Spend from what you have. Never borrow to spend”
“My strategy is to buy quality rather than quantity. If you cannot afford it, work and save up. Window shopping does no one any good. Have aims and dreams but clear objectives to follow through,” she said.

Powell also advised to not spend unnecessarily, and spend from only what you have. “Credit cards are never the way. I use them for points and pay them off monthly, so nothing is owed, as the interest rates are so not worth it.”