Money & Me: ‘It was business as usual when the pandemic struck’

Francoise Albrando Crosbie, founder of Keto Goodies, says being an entrepreneur helped her to structure her finances

Francoise Albrando Crosbie, founder of Keto Goodies, says she is a saver and rarely buys lavish things. Photo: Antonie Robertson / The National
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Filipina entrepreneur Francoise Albrando Crosbie began developing products based on the keto diet at her UAE home after becoming a mum and launched her business, Keto Goodies, in 2019.

She moved to Dubai a decade ago after selling her English-language teaching business in the Philippines, worked for a public relations company and as a human resources director before spending four years as a full-time musician.

As well as being chief executive of Keto Goodies, Ms Crosbie, 34, is a partner in a meal plans business and consultant to other companies.

She lives with her husband, a teacher, and their young son at Dubai Creek Harbour.

Did your upbringing help shape your money attitudes?

I lived in the Philippines, the youngest of eight with a housewife mum and dad who worked in the government. It’s not like we were swimming in it (money). We were comfortable, every one of us had a really good education. I have siblings who are way older than me and my brother was paying for my college studies in nursing. I had a lot to live up to. It’s an Asian mentality that you go to college, you’ve got to work and be successful. It shaped me in terms of values and value for money.

What was your first experience of commerce?

Growing up, my dad had a small business. In 1997, everyone had to go to his computer shop to print everything. I would type, photo-copy and go to the till. I’d get a commission if I could up-sell something, but I didn’t really consider it a job because I was taking care of a family business that was earning us money. I learnt a lot about commerce and also asked classmates from high school to get their computer needs from me.

How much was your first salary?

My first job was in a call centre. They paid well, Dh1,000 per month. I was living my best life. I was out of the house at 18. Once I graduated, my parents told me: “Go fend for yourself”. So I had to work to survive. I tried administrative nursing for a while but back then it would earn you Dh400 per month. I had to choose between earning money and nursing; although I did love it, I needed financial freedom more.

What prompted the switch to busking?

After different jobs in Dubai, I wanted to stop for a bit to pursue music. A few years ago, there weren’t a lot of musicians here, especially female musicians who play guitar and sing. I was earning Dh17,000 per month as a HR director. I was earning Dh600 to busk at Ripe Market. It relieved my stress. But I quit my job and played at brunches for four years.

One of the reasons I did that is because I wanted to travel with my husband; he’s a teacher, so would have two months off. But I was earning good money. Pre-Covid-19, one December, I earned Dh40,000 for all my gigs.

I didn’t have any accountability but now I have to be responsible. I have employees who need money at the end of the month.
Francoise Albrando Crosbie, founder, Keto Goodies

How did Keto Goodies begin?

We had a baby. My sister told me to try the keto diet because I wasn’t losing the weight I was supposed to after I gave birth. I was on the verge of diabetes. I made myself almond bread and posted it on a mums’ Facebook group. There were so many responses to it asking, “Please make some for me”. I had 10 clients in August 2018, it became 20, then 50. I realised this could be a business. I was one of the keto industry pioneers.

My vision is to make it affordable as I want people to maintain the lifestyle and always come back. Now we’re in about 30 Carrefour branches.

What is your attitude to spending?

Everything that I do … my mum’s voice is in my head. I never buy lavish things. It’s always what I need first before everything else. So, I’m a saver and what I spend on is my business in the hope that it will come back to me 10-fold.

How do you save?

We’re just keeping it in the bank, a “rainy day fund”. My husband and I call it a war chest. We don’t like taking loans. If my business needs a little more investing, that’s where we take it from.

Do you have a cherished purchase?

My 20-year-old Taylor guitar. It was worth about Dh18,000. I sold a couple more guitars and replaced them. I needed to sound better and it was really beautiful. One of my weaknesses is when I see a guitar that’s really vintage, I want it. I still have my eye on another Taylor, which is about Dh16,000.

Can money make you happy?

In a sense that it makes everyone around me comfortable, as well as me. I have a child to think about and to give my son what he needs … you need money for that.

Ms Crosbie says she is frugal to a point, but every once in a while she splurges on a spa day. Photo: Antonie Robertson / The National

Are you wise with money?

I am wiser now compared with the first business I owned in the Philippines, where I just spent it all and didn’t know where everything was. Looking back, I realise I wasn’t responsible enough with money at a young age. I needed structure, to have someone teach me how to be organised.

I didn’t have any accountability but now I have to be responsible. I have employees who need money at the end of the month. I have a family. I am frugal to a point, but every once in a while I want a spa day and to be able to live a certain lifestyle.

Do you have a spending regret?

Three years ago, I bought this big, clunky pram for my son for about Dh2,500. It was expensive, heavy and hard to travel with, just a waste. I drive a Mini Cooper and this brand, it folds, but doesn’t fit.

That made me learn to do proper research whenever I buy things and see if it’s got good reviews.

What are you happiest spending money on?

Giving comfort to my employees and my friends. I like to spend on people. For example, we’ll have a night out, watch a movie and that’ll be my treat and we’ll all be happy. They don’t have to think about money and I’d be happy sharing my blessings with them.

Has the pandemic affected your business?

I was one of the lucky ones when the pandemic hit. I didn’t know that the business was kind of pandemic-proof. Before the pandemic, I was already online, doing deliveries. So, it was like business as usual, people were still ordering.

How do you see your financial future?

I guess everyone would like financial stability, to be financially independent when they retire or even before their retirement age. My goal is not to live a luxurious life but rather a comfortable one.

If circumstances permit me – when I’ve sold off my company for, let’s say, a couple of million – I’ll come back to music, travelling and food. Also, my parents need a retirement fund, so we (my siblings and I) have to save together for them.

Updated: August 26, 2021, 7:00 AM