Money & Me: ‘Not being able to afford things helped shape the person I am today’

Entrepreneur Kelly Hodgkin says she is sensible with money and invests in property and her many businesses

Kelly Hodgkin, an entrepreneur and the director of global media group PPMG, says she is not a frivolous spender and not a credit card person. Antonie Robertson / The National
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Entrepreneur Kelly Hodgkin is the director of global media group PPMG, where she runs the modelling and promotions division, overseeing fashion styling, editorial shoots and events.

She is also co-director of UAE fitness brand Gym Clothing Co, which she took part ownership of after working as the company's ambassador and model. The Briton also has her own Dubai modelling and promotions agency and is preparing for her final white-collar boxing competition.

Mother to three young boys, Ms Hodgkin, 36, and her entrepreneur husband recently invested in a new sports bar in Dubai, an Italian restaurant and a beach club.

She and her family live in a Jumeirah Golf Estates villa they purchased last year.

How were you exposed to money growing up?

I was adopted at a very young age, along with my two sisters, and moved in with a family in Essex (south-east England). Mum was a teaching assistant, dad was an engineer. We never had a lot of money but I did not feel I wanted for anything.

I worked hard for my pocket money and had to do chores around the house. I have always been super driven and ambitious. I do not think that is purely money driven, it is just built into me. As soon as I could work, at the age of 16, I did.

How did you earn that first salary?

I rebelled and went away from home because my sister did. I went back about a year later but I needed to work because I wanted money. My first job was selling windows. I was paid the going rate, a wage and bonuses if I sold. I was always a good salesperson.

From there, I moved on to (laser surgery provider) Optical Express, started off as a Saturday girl and worked my way up to regional manager. I moved from shop to shop, turning around underperforming ones.

What led you to the UAE?

I was living in Glasgow and was single. The guy who owned my penthouse was setting up a property company here and was looking for a personal assistant. I needed a change, so I sold everything and moved over in 2008. But he needed more time and could not employ me. He paid me for a month, so I gave myself a month to find a job or go back.

A couple were looking for someone to start a modelling agency for them while they worked full-time jobs. I winged it but it was successful. I then started my own (modelling and events agency), Lush Group, in 2009, now called Dubai Hostesses.

It is lovely to have nice things. We are just normal people who have done well, but we are not show-offs
Kelly Hodgkin

Have you ever struggled for money?

I remember in England when I slept on a police bench and another time in a car. I could not even afford a bag of crisps. It was low but those times really shape you. When I moved here, I was renting a room and when I did not have a job, I would clean the house and cook because I was not able to afford my rent.

What are your current spending and saving habits?

I’m a “squirreler” rather than a spender. I hate going to the mall; I am not a shopper. If I need something, I will get it but I am not a “buy it for the sake of it” kind of person. And I am quite generous.

My husband is super driven as well. Neither of us grew up with money but we are enjoying it now. It is lovely to have nice things. We are just normal people who have done well, but we are not show-offs.

Are you wise with money?

I am sensible. Wise, I don’t know. I am not frivolous and I am not a credit card person. I only use one for Skyward Miles and pay it off straight away.

How do you grow your cash?

We have got offshore accounts and I have got my savings plan that builds interest every month. We have different businesses and money tied up in investments. We lived here for 10 years and rented, lived everywhere in Dubai until we found where we liked. In the past four years, we have invested in property.

What is your financial milestone?

When I paid for our honeymoon in Mauritius as a surprise. To be able to do that, off my own back, was the first time I felt I had really achieved something. It was a nice feeling to be able to do it.

Also, the first time we bought a home in Arabian Ranches. We bought it to live in, then my husband found a villa in Damac Hills that he preferred – it was a show home and we did not have to do anything to it, so we moved there instead.

Is there anything you regret spending on?

The Mauritius holiday … we left early because it was not actually that good. It was a lot of money but it was not amazing. And it rained a lot. Since then, the Maldives is our favourite place in the world. I would much rather spend money there.

What is your money philosophy?

It makes the world go round. I am definitely happier with it than without it. But I do not think I go into businesses and look at all the money gain; you hope for the best, but for me it is building a brand. It is great when it is making money but it is not the be all and end all. It is more the process, building it up and seeing it grow. I feel like if you come here, you can do anything.

What luxuries do you enjoy?

I love a pair of shoes and a handbag, but I am not buying one every month. I have always had nice cars thanks to my husband … because I do not [know] anything about them. He bought me a Rolls-Royce Cullinan. That is our biggest splash out on a car to date. It has so much space for the kids, the baby seat and buggies.

I had a Lamborghini Urus before. It was lovely but with three children, I needed a family car. Cars are probably how we reward ourselves.

Is it difficult keeping your sons financially grounded?

We do try to instil it into them that money does not grow on trees and you have to work hard for it. They are totally spoilt but it is hard because we live in Dubai and even if you do not have tonnes of money, it is such a luxurious place.

Do you ever share your expertise with others?

I am currently doing a women’s motivational week every month for a group who have their own businesses. I am really into women’s empowerment. So many messages asking for advice and how to set up a business. I have fallen into this role of helping people. It is something I enjoy … spreading the love.

I will probably go more into that, trying to help women who have start-ups. I am not going to take money off them to do it. I love working and thrive on being busy.

Do you plan for retirement?

We chatted recently about slowing down a bit, not taking on any more investments because we are so busy. I do not know if we will retire because we love working. We will probably leave Dubai eventually and move to Australia – we have businesses there and it is somewhere we would like to end up with the children.

Updated: July 29, 2021, 7:17 AM