"My father always taught me to have a backup plan and ensure I have good savings," recalled UAE-based British expat Nicci Clark, whose father was a lawyer and encouraged Clark to have a profession that she could fall back on if times got tough.
"I am a skilled critical care nurse, and nursing is a remarkable career that I can always fall back on should I ever need to. It is also a good life skill as it teaches you always to maintain a sense of calm in an emergency."
Her first job was as a critical care nurse at the University College Hospital in London. "With nurses in the UK paid, on average, only 25,000 British pounds a year, which is not very much after rent and living expenses have been accounted for, it taught me that I could get by on minimal wages.
"During that time, I also managed to add to my savings by doing extra hours, so I have always understood that hard work is required to reap the rewards.
"I am glad that I invested my money into a property early in my twenties, as I was grateful to be able to use that property to start a business ‘Re:Nourish’ and bring my dream to life." (‘Re:Nourish’ is a fresh plant-based soup brand delivered in a microwaveable fully recyclable bottle.)
I am a skilled critical care nurse, and nursing is a remarkable career that I can always fall back on should I ever need to
Why did you choose a fresh soup brand for business?
Clark always had a background in the health sector, initially starting her career as a critical care nurse at a busy London hospital and then in nutrition and reflexology, a system of massage used to relieve tension and treat illness.
She said, "In 2010, I founded a fresh food delivery business called Nourished, a concept very similar to Germany-based meal-kit supplier HelloFresh. All of my customers loved my soups in particular, so this is when I came up with the idea of creating healthy, nutritious and fresh soups in a microwaveable bottle to offer people a grab-and-go-healthy meal alternative."
When she realised nobody in the world had done this before, she decided to go for it and become the first. "This is how, in 2019, Re:Nourish was born – a rebirth of my brand, Nourished. The new business can claim to be the world's first fresh soup in a microwaveable, fully recyclable bottle offering individuals a nutritious grab-and-go meal option."
Nicci shares her experience on making a dream business real
Lesson #1: If you have a good idea, be prepared to back yourself completely.
She had to overcome many challenges during the conceptualisation and creation of her fresh soup brand, something almost everyone told her couldn't be done. Her main challenge was to find a bottle manufacturer to help her bring the idea of a microwaveable, fully recyclable bottle to life.
She said this process to design the bottle took over nine months as it had to withstand the heat filling process, blast chilling, and then be heated in a microwave without blowing up – while being fully recyclable and BPA (industrial chemical that has been used to make certain plastics) free.
"It was through sheer determination I succeeded. The bottle cost over Dh175,549 [GBP40,000] to design. My bank would not lend me the money despite having a perfect business plan. I had no choice but to sell my beloved family home to fund my vision; luckily, the decision paid off and resulted in incredible success.
"All my savings are currently in the business, so I happily work seven days a week to ensure it is an absolute success. I have no plan B. This is a highly risky strategy, but I believed in myself and the concept.
"It is because of that (paired with a lot of hard work!), the current venture is now the fastest growing fresh soup brand in the UK and is available in eight countries across the globe; as of last year, the company is valued at about Dh87.88 million [GBP20 million]. We are doing very well after just three years.”
The first thing she wants to do when she has savings again is to enter the property market again and buy a house, as she firmly believes the property market is an excellent investment.
When did you start the soup brand in Dubai?
The bottled soup brand was launched in Dubai in September 2021. "Initially, we exported to Dubai from the UK via chilled air freight, which is very expensive. I was, however, determined to swallow this cost as a company, as I saw how great an opportunity is present in Dubai.
"Our brand has partnered with the Alshaya Group, which is starting to manufacture for us locally. This would indicate that we can offer our customers the same high-quality product at a better price and with a longer shelf life."
Initially, we exported to Dubai from the UK via chilled air freight, which is very expensive. I was, however, determined to swallow this cost as a company
Money rule #1: Money comes when you commit to hard work.
In the growing years, Clark earned her pocket money through chores such as cleaning her father's car, tidying up her room etc.
She said, "I am not as strict with my children as my parents were. I believe that education is as important as you only get one chance in life to get a good education.
"My children are at private schools in the UK, but my boys, aged 13 and 14, realise and understand the sacrifices I have made to send them there. My boys get Dh88 [GBP20] pocket money per month and more if they do extra jobs for me or do well in school."
"My boys are very different, one being a spender and the other a saver like me. Selling my house allowed me to pay for their education, and my working hard at my current business will help to keep them in a good school.
"I am back and forth between Dubai and the UK for Re:Nourish, overseeing the small team that I have in there. I think that Dubai offers a fantastic work-life balance, and one day, I hope to buy a property here as I truly believe it will be the world's financial capital in the coming years."
Money rule #2: Rely on yourself to make money, be self-sufficient.
Clark wants to create her life's footprint for future generations. She said, "Designer shoes, bags, watches and material possessions do not bring you happiness. You come into this life with nothing and leave with a footprint."
She wants her future generations to know that she invented something incredible. "Real happiness does truly come from within. I have minimal material possessions, yet I feel the richest in life than I ever have as I have an incredible job that allows me to educate the world to eat better and live a healthier life for longer."
Her advice is not to waste money on expensive bags or material items; instead, spend your money on enriching yourself.