Money and me: Dubai fashion entrepreneur finds sincerity breeds success

Now that she has hit her 30s, fashion website founder Monika Debowski has shifted her attitudes towards money - from investing in luxury handbags to now living a simpler life.

Monika Debowski with some of her jewellery company’s wares. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
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Monika Debowski is the founder and managing editor of, an online store for jewellery and fashion accessories she launched last year. The Canadian, 32, who moved to Dubai in 2010, previously worked as a consultant for a management consulting firm.

Describe your financial journey so far.

I have had my ups and downs with my feelings towards money and material possessions throughout my life – from growing up in a medium-income household, to a sudden increase of disposable income when I got my first job, to a more mature outlook on savings and proper investment. Every time I felt myself going through a high-spending or saving phase I would force myself to review my relationship and readjust to a healthy balance.

Are you a spender or saver?

At this point I would say that I am neither – I tend to adjust to each salary I make. My salary always gets split into my life expenses (rent, utilities, groceries), travel (to see family), and shopping/eating out. My savings tend to be the area that fluctuates if my salary increases or decreases. I definitely waited until I was financially healthy before starting my own business. That way I would not worry (as much) about debt while funding a start-up and I made sure to start it with investors that could support the business financially.

What is your philosophy towards money?

I love what Oprah says about the journey of finding your authentic self being a parallel to becoming successful – being authentic and being true to yourself in your personal life is a key lesson to use in your professional life. This is especially important when creating a start-up – making sure you create a company that reflects your values and your passion is a key part of selling yourself to investors, who can often sense a lack of sincerity a mile away.

Have you made any financial mistakes along the way?

Of course. My biggest lesson came at the age of 23, after graduating from Ivey Business School. I took on some debt during my degree and definitely lived carefully and frugally for that time. I was very lucky to get a good job out of graduation, and the sudden influx of money was a shock. It took me about a year to get the spending out of my system. I really didn’t limit myself. Although it went on a bit longer than it should have, I don’t regret getting that feeling out of my system, which has allowed me to experience both ends of the spending spectrum.

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

My immediate reaction is to reinvest a large portion into to achieve a lot of items on my wish list for the start-up. As an entrepreneur you tend to always think about your business first. If I let myself really dream, it’s to own a villa in a luxurious location like southern Europe, or to buy a small boutique hotel in a beautiful country like Sri Lanka. I’m sure that owning property is something in my future – maybe 10, 30 years from now.

Do you plan for the future?

I probably should answer yes, but the truth is I haven’t started a retirement plan or planned too far ahead in the future. I believe strongly that as my needs change, my life will also change to accommodate my growing needs – for example, once I start a family, I will readjust to provide for my children.

What do you enjoy spending money on?

Now that I’ve reached by thirties, my choice of what to spend on has definitely changed. Luxury items have lost their appeal. At this time, I really enjoy a simple life and spending money on travel to see family or new places.

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