Dubai: When it comes to handling money and investments, Ahmed Al Fahim, a 34-year-old Emirati serial businessman, believes in taking well-calculated risks. This was his approach right from when he began his first venture, an events management agency, which he started in 2016.
"Never invest more than you can afford to lose because if you invest more, you risk significant losses," said Al Fahim, an Abu Dhabi-born serial entrepreneur who since then also launched an electric scooter company and a coffee brand.
He revealed how he learnt his initial investment strategies by watching how his father traded stocks over the phone. His father ran a construction company and a recruitment agency specialising in the oil and gas industry.
Never invest more than you can afford to lose because if you invest more, you risk significant losses
Budgeting spending, saving for future from a young age
"My father would take me and my older sister Hamda to his office to observe how he worked. I would receive Dh200 a week as pocket money early on and learnt to save, plan, and budget. It was exhilarating as I could spend that at an arcade or cinema. However, I managed to budget a spending allowance and save for my future investments," said Al Fahim.
"Then, upon graduation, I received a cash gift of Dh36,729 [$10,000] for graduating with a scholarship in the US. I was looking at my options to invest in stocks, and a friend recommended investing in tech giant Apple stocks. Five years later, I managed to make ten times the return. It was a crucial decision because, eventually, it was the critical funding source for my first firm in 2016."
After launching his first venture, Al Fahim went on to start five other ventures across diverse sectors. Later, in 2018, he launched a food truck booking company in Abu Dhabi which provides spaces or spots to popular food and beverage (F&B) businesses in the UAE.
Why did you last venture into the F&B market for the business?
"As a community-based entrepreneur, I have always believed in disruptive solutions to solve social problems. Hence, a food truck booking company was born out of a need to cost-effectively serve the community," he added.
Al Fahim, who worked for two years in tourism in Abu Dhabi and a decade at a government office before becoming a serial entrepreneur, self-funded his business initially, after which money was raised from an investor.
"Due to a sizable market of food patrons to showcase in the region, we garnered interest from friends and family to invest in the company, leading to our first food truck park. This was followed by Series A funding from Abu Dhabi-based business Al Fahim Group."
"In 2019, at our first food truck park, we collaborated with different F&B start-ups to understand their pain points and partnered with them. Over the past three years, we gradually expanded to over seven locations across Abu Dhabi and Al Ain," he added.
“As we entered the post-pandemic recovery period, we were ready to expand further, and so in 2022, we launched a drive-thru application to modernise on-the-go dining."
Al Fahim revealed that marketing makes up a large portion of the business's expenses. "Besides marketing and sales, our different expenses included start-up costs and the essentials of the restaurant industry, such as labour, insurance, licenses and permits."
Here are three money rules Al Fahim lives by:
Rule #1: “Always reinvest back into the business.”
"Reinvesting assures financial stability for the company," said Al Fahim, who puts back 60 per cent of his profits back into his businesses, about 20 per cent into real estate, and the rest into stock and cryptocurrencies. “Also, much of my income from these streams go back into the businesses."
Rule #2: “Excessive luxury goods are not penny-wise.”
In his early years, Al Fahim felt it was important to reward himself and bought an expensive car. He soon found that maintaining the vehicle and its running expenses were too high. This experience showed him that excessive luxury goods might not be penny-wise.
Rule #3: “Take risks while you are young.”
During his early years, Al Fahim learnt you can experiment and truly realise a possible career that fulfils your passion and is profitable because as you grow older, and as life commitments increase.
"As a child, I was a problem solver and loved finding innovative solutions. I have always had a passion for events and engaging with the community. I also realised the importance of food in creating that, which eventually resulted in the business offering an ultimate food and beverage experience."