Luke Morris owns and runs Wild Wood, a Dubai-based eco-friendly accessories brand specialising in sunglasses and watches handmade from reclaimed wood. Mr Morris, 33, first moved to the UAE six years ago for a career opportunity in digital media before quitting in 2015 to set up his company. From the southeast of England, he now lives in Dubai Marina.
How did your upbringing shape your attitude towards money?
My dad was always pretty careful with money. He had a decent job as a brand manager for British American Tobacco, but we were not rich; he had to support a family of four so veered on the side of caution, financially. My sister is two years younger and we moved around a lot as kids. When I was seven we lived in Hong Kong before moving to New Zealand, when I was nine. Eventually my parents thought it best I go to boarding school in England to get a more consistent education. The following year Dad got made redundant. My family moved back to the UK and pulled me out of boarding school because he couldn’t afford the fees. Although we were spoiled a bit on birthdays we certainly didn’t get everything we asked for and we did not get a lot of pocket money. I’m appreciative of this as spoilt brats are the worst.
How much were you paid in your first job?
I got my first job at the UK supermarket Sainsbury's at the age of 15. My main task was to stack shelves for Dh16 per hour; earning double on Sundays and bank holidays. I've always wanted to make my own money, take control of my present and future.
What brought you to Dubai?
I was fed up with working and living in London and wanted a lifestyle change. I’d been in the media industry for just over four years and decided to take six months out to go travelling in South America. it reinforced my desire to move and work abroad - somewhere with more sunshine and a more outdoors-based lifestyle. Friends had recently moved to Dubai. After a few recommendations and Skype interviews I had a job with Mindshare in Media City to handle digital media activity for a couple of top clients.
What prompted you to launch Wild Wood?
I’d been in Dubai almost three years and was a bit restless, frustrated with my job. I’d always wanted to start my own thing and at that time was running an outdoor adventure community, Wild Arabia. It was essentially a platform - website and social media channels - that inspired people to get out and explore what the rest of the UAE and Oman has to offer. I did a lot of camping trips into Musandam, posting about them on Wild Arabia. I started getting enquiries, as to whether people could join our trips, so thought about monetising it. The trips went fairly well but were a lot of work for quite minimal return. I decided a product line that ties into the values of Wild Arabia, namely adventure, nature, the outdoors, could work well; that a wooden sunglasses product brand would be a great fit. Not only is it sunny here almost 365 days a year but I believed there was a gap for more sustainable and homegrown brands. I did more research and couldn’t find existing wooden accessories brands in the UAE, so the development phase began.
Are you a saver or a spender?
I’m a saver; always have been. I love a spreadsheet and to set goals. The two are mutually beneficial when it comes to planning what I’m passionate about; adventures and travelling. Travel doesn’t come cheap so understanding the value of money, how to save and set it aside for your goals, is important. I’m also unmaterialistic. I don’t care about the car I drive or brand of clothes I wear. My personal money goes towards food, gym clothes and travelling. The rest is reinvested into my business, saved for a future trip, venture or the long-term savings pot.
Where do you save?
In a UAE savings account, an offshore savings account and property.
What is your best investment?
Probably my business and my apartment in Dubai Marina; a one-bedroom Emaar development in a great location with excellent facilities. Paying off my mortgage is way better than paying an astronomical amount in rent.
What is your philosophy towards money?
Money is a by-product of your passion and work ethic. Find out what you love to do, work your backside off at it and money will eventually flow. It’s important to understand the value of money, but don’t get fixated by it.
What is your most cherished purchase?
Pretty much every trip I’ve been on. My girlfriend and I recently did a trip to Uganda, trekking to see gorillas and chimpanzees in their natural habitat; a once in a lifetime experience.
Is there anything you regret spending on?
Sometimes I get invited to meals at fancy Dubai restaurants where the food is average, but the bill is anything but. It plays on my mind because I think that would’ve been much better going into the travel pot.
What are you happiest spending money on?
Travel and outdoor experiences. I spend quite a bit on camera equipment but not so happily as booking a trip somewhere new. I’m quite into health and fitness so I spend on gym membership where I can learn new skills, improve myself and stay healthy.
What has been your key financial milestone?
Landing my first job out of university, in a global media agency in London, and buying my first apartment, in east London; bought as an investment and renovated myself to make a fairly healthy profit. Quitting my job and starting my business in Dubai is right up there too.
Do you prefer paying in cash or by credit card?
I use both. For anything of larger value I prefer credit card as it contributes air miles. I pay it off every month.
Are you wise with money?
Generally, yes. Ever since I travelled around East Africa when I was just 18 and basically had no money, I’ve been quite frugal. I learned to live off virtually no cash. Changing my ways to allow myself to spend a bit more, not just on myself but family and loved ones, is something I’ve tried to work on. I’m more balanced now.
What car do you drive?
A Ford Ranger. It’s good for transporting loads, but also affordable, pretty efficient. The only time I’d consider spending more on a car would be for an electric one.
Do you plan for the future?
Constantly, both professionally and personally. I’m personally invested in what I want to do with my life; if you make plans to enjoy your work then they become one and the same thing effectively. Saving money is like drinking water. It’s just something I do; not to be rich or spend a load on a motorhome when I retire at 65, it’s to be financially and geographically independent as soon as possible.
What would you raid your savings for?
A trip or experience of a lifetime, a property investment, a new venture or a family emergency.