Fatema Al Rashdi is the owner and founder of Blonde Luxury Beauty Lounge, which has two branches in Abu Dhabi, and premium perfume line Ciel de Paris.
The UAE national opened her first salon in 2016 following a role in the Department of Economic Development’s quality and excellence section.
Ms Al Rashdi, 36, lives in Khalifa City, Abu Dhabi, with her husband, also a partner in the business, and their four children, aged four to 11.
How did your upbringing shape your attitude towards money?
Some people consider it a luxury and privilege to be born in a country most people view as one of the richest in the world. That may be true if we were to look on the brighter side, but for me things did not end with simply having the things I needed and wanted.
I had this lingering thought of developing something I could proudly say I worked for and achieved on my own. My father had big companies, so maybe I have this from him. He gave me inspiration. I love to be the boss of my job, not to have someone leading me.
When did you receive your first salary?
At 23, working in a government job. I started to learn a lot of things and nurtured my skills and plans until I turned 30. Then I started my own business. That is when I felt I finally earned my wage.
Did aspiring for your own business inspire you to begin saving?
With that in mind, I made sure to spend less and save so I could do something about this “vision”. I started to save more so I would be financially able to support myself and the people who would be supporting me on my (business) journey. It was a mixture of self-control, being responsible and sticking close to your goal as a beginner saving money.
How do you save?
In different bank accounts. I am a believer of the saying, “do not put all your eggs in one basket”. My practice is to keep 20 per cent of income in savings and 10 per cent for operating expenses. Consistency is the key.
What prompted you to open salons?
I have always been an advocate of bringing out women's inner beauty, while taking care of the outside. Often, I would go to different salons to get my nails and hair done, yet couldn't find the perfect place I was looking for. This is when I thought I could make my vision a reality.
In order to close the gap, I envisioned a place to help women experience a luxurious ambience, relaxing vibes and modern beauty trends. I had specific ideas that were not in the market, a different experience that clients cannot find in another place.
People want a nice price and nice quality. I tried to put in luxury, quality and time saving at a reasonable price. My goal is to reach everyone. We opened a second branch in 2019.
Did becoming a business owner alter your spending habits?
Slightly. When I had my salary, I’d spend it the way I wanted, because I’d only think about myself. But when I shifted into business, there are many things I took into consideration. My staff through to external parties … I have more responsibility.
After all these commitments, then I can reward myself by having a break with my family – relax and come back full of energy – or, like any woman, I love fashion and shopping.
Life is about balance. You can work with no reward, but I achieve goals and reward myself within a balanced strategy. It is about properly balancing earning, spending and saving.
Are you sensible with spending?
Sensible and studying whether we really need "it" or not. I'm in business … I cannot buy anything I am not needing. I do not buy to show off. I always weigh the impact on my savings and business.
When I spend, I think of people around me who spend their time to make the business prosper. After all, I opened the business to fulfill my goal and to support other people. I dream of making the business grow further and to be able to do that, I need to spend just the right amount. I make it a mission to ensure it will be something worthy.
How do you put your money to work?
I believe more in earning money than saving money; earning money to make new business, keep the capital moving. With saving … your money will be safe, but it’s not moving or being invested.
It’s not the money that makes me happy, what I do really makes me happy. Money comes with the business so, for sure, when you are earning it, money shows you are succeeding.
Is the salon your best investment?
One of the best. We re-invest into the business because I believe in it and have the passion. While I am happy with that, there is one thing that I would love to do for myself, my kids and for other women who love to play with beauty and fashion … if I can bridge the gap between the beauty industry and fashion. It is always best to have alternative plans.
Did the pandemic impact you?
It did, as it did every business, but fortunately we are 80 per cent back to normal and even surpassed our regular sales after a few months (following stay-at-home restrictions). We set out strategies and alternatives to adapt with the situation. I owe it to my team who constantly kept precautions in practice during difficult times and now.
We survived together, tried to think out of the box with creative ideas, how to reach people in their house. We created self-care home kits with equipment and products they needed and did Zoom training and a booklet on how to do it (beauty services) on their own.
We worked on marketing and used Instagram to promote our services. It succeeded, we served all emirates from here and it helped us reach clients who didn’t know us.
In crises, golden opportunities appear and smart people know how to make the most of it. Many businesses fall in that situation by making the wrong decision.
Have you raided your cash reserves recently?
Yes, as we are planning to expand and hopefully, very soon, open our third Abu Dhabi branch in Yas Mall. We also have plans to increase our lines of business, including a clothing collection.
It is my goal for Blonde to be global. Our future plan is to be in famous cities around the world. Maybe, we will also have a franchise offering.
It’s our chance, for my generation, to build something original in the UAE. I have already inspired some relatives and friends as a woman who wants to achieve something to help the country grow.
If you won Dh1 million, what would you spend it on?
Education is a necessity in this generation and not everyone is privileged to attend school. I want to invest in my kids’ education. I would put the money into a college fund for them.