Dubai businessman dances to the right financial tune

The financial journey of Del Piero Olokun, the founder, instructor and managing director of Ritmo de Havana, dramatically changed over the years as he got wiser with money.

Del Piero Olokun is the founder, instructor and managing director of Ritmo de Havana. Jeffrey Biteng / The National
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Del Piero Olokun, who grew up in Syria, has lived in Dubai for 15 years. He is the founder, instructor and managing director of Ritmo de Havana, a business that hosts salsa parties, instructs Cuban dance and hires out musicians and dancers to venues.

How would you describe your financial journey?

It has dramatically changed over the years as I’ve got wiser with money. Music is a passion and I’ve always believed that by following your passion money will come sooner or later. I see myself as an artist, not a businessman. I’ve always wanted to do something that allows me to sleep well.

Are you a spender or a saver?

A little bit of both. I don’t really spend a lot on artificial things so I would not really spend a lot on a car or chair or a mobile. But I would spend on dancers who I believe to be talented. I spend on things with cultural value to add to the community. Since I was young I always believed that the most rewarding path is adding a higher value to whatever you do.

What’s your philosophy regarding money?

I am more interested in how I make money, not making money for the sake of it. Money is important, but it’s not a target as money comes and goes. I always believe that if you add value to the city where you live then you will make yourself proud. You can do that regardless of whether you make more or less money. I have discovered if you target only money you will lose it sooner or later. But if you make money in a way that respects your life and others it is more rewarding.

How did you come to teach salsa dancing in Dubai?

Simply put, I went to Cuba. I was born in Syria and have always loved the dance and I later found out it has a deep culture. It’s about the way you live your life and about your spiritual belief. I started a dance school in Dubai in 2006 and then in 2008 I went to Cuba to study salsa in more detail. I found out so much more by going to the source of the dance. When I returned I tried to bring back to the culture here what I’d learnt. I have a studio at Mall of the Emirates.

What are the challenges of starting a business here?

I see challenges as something you learn from. We cannot change everyone’s identity but we can make something for people who love authenticity, simplicity and culture. We see it as having a message we want to convey to people.

Did you make financial mistakes?

We always learn from our mistakes. Sometimes when you love something so much you want to share all of it. When you see how in Cuba they love everything about the music, dance and culture you think you can bring it all to Dubai. But sometimes it’s not appreciated. It is like bringing an expensive diamond to someone who has never seen a diamond before, they do not appreciate it. Another challenge is the high turnover of people in Dubai so some of your students will leave after two or three months because they move away.

Do you believe in planning for the future?

I have spent around 15 years in Dubai and I love this city and want to ensure I can add something new to the city and the community.

Is money important to you?

It’s not my biggest priority but it’s important as it pays for my musicians and dancers and studio and house. But I see money as a way to allow me to continue doing what I enjoy.

What is your idea of financial freedom?

For me, financial freedom is a mindset and what is more important is to be able to respect yourself and be satisfied.

What do you enjoy spending on?

I enjoy spending money on travel.