Money and me: Dubai gourmet popcorn founder Sunny Landeros

Sunny Landeros describes herself as a spender. But she admits to planning in advance for her children's university education and her retirement.

American entrepreneur Sunny Landeros at her gourmet popcorn shop, Sunny’s Pop, in Dubai Investment Park. Sarah Dea / The National
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Sunny Landeros is the founder of Sunny’s Pop, a gourmet popcorn company based in Dubai. The American mother-of-five, who hails from Texas, moved to the UAE with her family two years ago. After working as an operations manager at Nstyle and then Sugar Urban Nails and Spa, Ms Landeros, 39, started up her own company.

Describe your financial journey so far

My first job was when I was 14 in the US. My mom is an Arabian horse trainer and I would help on the farm and babysit. My first proper job was working at a home for adults who were mentally disabled. It paid $8.30 an hour. My parents didn’t give us an allowance or pocket money, we had to earn that on our own. I then went to college and worked as a waitress which was horrible; in the US they only pay half of the minimum wage and the rest is tips. Unfortunately, waitressing wasn’t my best skill. I got my first real job at a collectables store in Houston, Texas and they asked me to open their first franchise when I was 18. I went on to become a manager of Gap and then got a break into property management. I became the vice president of that firm. I came with my husband to Dubai two years ago. When I first arrived I thought I wouldn’t have to work, but it is so expensive to live here. Because I had a background in beauty, I worked for a couple of spas here; while the money was great it wasn’t worth it for me to compromise my family time.

Are you spender or a saver?

I’m a spender and not even an 80 per cent spender, 20 per cent saver. I think every entrepreneur is a spender if they’re being honest because you have to be a bit of a gambler. I want to be a saver and every year I think I will become one.

What is your philosophy towards money?

If you work hard enough, you will always make it. I don’t have a goal to make millions or to have millions in savings. I have a goal to live my life a certain way. Money isn’t my focus, but sometimes money does make me happy because it buys the shoes that make me happy. But really it’s about having enough money to facilitate the things that make my family and I happy and secure.

Have you made any financial mistakes along the way?

Too many. My biggest mistake was not properly budgeting and not taking into account the variables you don’t know exist. Opening this business, we had no idea that there was a specific licence for it. It ended up taking us nine months and three licences to know that we are a cheese ball manufacturing company. That took us about Dh60,000 and four months more than we budgeted which ended up costing us money in rent and employee wages.

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

Some of it I’d put away for my kids and then I’d split the rest between our business and charity.

What has been your best investment?

This business. It’s doing better than I had even projected in the time frame. We’ve been open since April this year and we’ve grown to become the exclusive popcorn company for Vox cinemas in the region. We are also in Sweet Factory.

Do you plan for the future?

Yes, I have five children, the eldest is married and in the US. The next one goes to university next month. We will have three children in American universities in three years so we have to plan in advance.

What do you enjoy spending money on?

There are so many places I want to take my kids. The most important thing to spend money on is entertainment. We eat out a lot and then obviously clothes and shoes.

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