Money and Me: Avon round was foundation of Dubai interior designer’s success

Entrepreneur Karen Comber has learnt to curb her wild spending tendencies over the years. Today she refuses to have a credit card and her company is 100 per cent owned by her.
Karen Comber is the founder and managing director of Idolise Interiors. Jeffrey Biteng / The National
Karen Comber is the founder and managing director of Idolise Interiors. Jeffrey Biteng / The National

Karen Comber is the founder and managing director of Idolise Interiors, a boutique interior design company she set up in 2011. The Briton, 42, who moved to the UAE six years ago, has a design portfolio that includes the interiors for chalets in the French ski resort of Chamonix and for luxury hotels in the Maldives.

Describe your financial journey so far.

My experience with money has been a bit of a roller coaster. I wasn’t very good with money in my younger professional years and didn’t see the problem borrowing money to keep up with friends and their lifestyles. In fact I found it easy to spend the borrowed money and didn’t worry about the implications of having debt.

Are you a spender or saver?

I was always a spender. If I had money in my pocket it would burn a hole in it. I’ve worked since the age of 14 to earn my own money. My parents stopped my pocket money once when I was 14 for some reason which I can’t remember and I thought I’ll show them, so I went out and got myself an Avon round selling to friends and my neighbours. I ended up earning four times more doing that than the money I used to get from my parents. So I guess the entrepreneurial spirit was alive in me from a young age. My university years were tough and coming away from uni with a lot of debt isn’t a good way to start your professional adult life. I wish I knew then what I know now.

What is your philosophy towards money?

Now my philosophy is I don’t spend it unless I have plenty of it and I never borrow or spend beyond my means. That way I sleep peacefully at night. I don’t have credit cards or debts. My company is 100 per cent mine with no debts and I am building it on solid foundations.

Have you made any financial mistakes along the way?

Yes, I’ve made many. I got too many credit cards in my 20s to pay for holidays and clothes, which took me forever to pay off and the interest was so high that you pay back far too much in the end. Not saving for a rainy day was a huge mistake as I earned a good salary, but it was never enough. Living for the moment was all well and good, but when things didn’t go to plan having a buffer zone of savings would have been useful. My husband is very good with money and has taught me a lot. I am more of a risk-taker than him, so we make a good team.

If you won Dh1 million, what would you do with it?

I would invest some into my business and some into property in the UK, where I know the history of the property market and the risks. My husband and I have a lovely barn in Norfolk, England and we would like to add to that with some other smaller properties. I’d also treat the family to a nice holiday, but mainly it would be invested and saved.

What do you enjoy spending money on?

Now only when I have money do I enjoy spending it. But I love buying furniture and decorations for my house. For me it is really important that my home is as nice as the projects I design. However, I like stumbling across items that are a little unusual and which are not so readily available. Also while I’m not a huge car fan, I do love the Mercedes SL range of cars. When I was little I used to watch Dallas on the TV and Pamela Ewing had the old-style Mercedes sports in a sapphire blue colour. I would love one of those. However I’m not sure the A/C in a vintage car could cope with the Dubai weather so I’ll stick with the new SL range.

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Published: November 21, 2014 04:00 AM


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