Money & Me: Money, like food, is best used in moderation

Last month Sarah Queen started her business, Nutrition Matters Arabia, focused on healthy eating, and says that managing your diet and budget involve the same principles.

June 14, 2011 (Abu Dhabi) Sarah Queen Director of Nutrition Matters Arabia, consultants for corporate & children's food companies and personal nutrition June 14, 2011. (Sammy Dallal / The National)
Powered by automated translation

Sarah Queen is the director of Nutrition Matters Arabia, an Abu Dhabi-based company offering private consultations and corporate healthy eating workshops. Mrs Queen launched her business last month after successfully running a similar enterprise for the past 14 years in the UK.

How would you describe your financial journey so far?

I grew up on the Isle of Wight in the UK, which is very quiet and rural, so my upbringing was quite sheltered. My dad earned a good income as a solicitor, but we were never spoilt and always knew the meaning of money. I knew early on what my career path would be. I remember boring my friends about what nutrients were in different foods and I studied food and nutrition at school and then did a four-year degree in nutrition and dietetics at university. I was also interested in psychology as that has a lot to do with nutrition and people's eating habits. My clients sometimes tell me secrets about eating that they have never told anyone before, so it can be quite emotional.

Are you a spender or a saver?

A saver. I've always been quite careful with money. Sometimes it would be nice to think "what the heck" and go out and treat myself but I don't tend to. That carefulness comes from my parents and from an early age I knew that having money meant saving it. I always saved my 50 pence (Dh2.97 at today's rate) a week pocket money and because I lived in a holiday resort, I starting working from the age of 11, firstly in a friend's ice-cream shop earning 50p an hour and later in a local supermarket with my friends. I also waitressed in my uncle's hotel during the summer holidays in my later teens. I saved most of it, but some went on fashionable clothes that my mother wouldn't buy me.

Why did you decide to set up your own business?

I've always worked except for when I had my son, Jamie, now 10, and took three years off. After that, I set up my business in the UK, partly to work around Jamie, but also because we moved so often because my husband was in the air force at the time. When we moved to Abu Dhabi, I couldn't sit at home and do nothing and there is definitely a need for nutritional advice out here. I want to get health and nutritional awareness out there to help expats and locals improve their lives. People are less fit and don't eat as well - and many expats fall into the lifestyle cycle of eating out more and doing less exercise, especially when it's hot.

Is managing your diet similar to managing your money?

Yes. With healthy eating, everything is in moderation and it's the same with money - you know what you've got there and what you can afford to spend.

Have you made any financial mistakes along the way?

Maybe I could have been a bit more adventurous in the early days of my business in the UK. I'm not a big risk taker and when you work for yourself, you need to take some risks and I don't think I took enough. In the beginning, you have some outlay of money for things like advertising and because I didn't do that, no one knew me at first. I would have got more work in sooner if I'd advertised locally.

What has been your biggest financial challenge?

Moving out here and setting up from scratch again. My business was doing really well in the UK. The money was coming in and I had some big companies as clients, which I've had to stop working for. I'm going back to things that I don't necessarily want to, such as getting my name out there, but social networking and setting up my website (www.nutritionmattersarabia.com) has helped. It was also very different setting up as a consultant here. You have the initial costs, such as an annual Dh19,000 licence within the free trade zone, and opening a bank account with a minimum of Dh10,000, so you need spare cash to set up. If I was a complete novice and hadn't run my own business in the UK, that outlay would put me off.

What do you spend your money on?

I buy decent food, such as organic and locally sourced products, which is a lot more expensive, especially out here. If I look at other people's shopping bills, ours is always more, but that's because of having the nutritional background and knowing what goes into food. I also buy organic or natural toiletries that, again, tend to cost more. And when you have children, you spend more money on them than yourself, so I don't spoil myself very often.

What financial advice would you give to your son?

He's very astute already. He saves his pocket money and what he receives from friends and family for birthdays and Christmas and then he goes out and buys what he wants. He recently saved up and bought himself an iPod, so I don't think I need to give him any advice.