Money & Me: ‘My best investment was life insurance to protect my son'

Entrepreneur Hiba Van Dyk says her husband's motorbike accident made the couple realise they needed better cover for the family

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - January 17, 2019: ��Money & Me�� feature on Hiba Van Dyk, owner of Chubby Cheeks Organics. Thursday, January 17th, 2019 in Arjan, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak/The National
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Hiba Van Dyk is the co-founder of Chubby Cheeks Organics, a Dubai company that prepares and delivers freshly made organic baby and toddler food. Ms Van Dyk, 34, started the business with her sister, Malak French, in May 2018 after the siblings had children themselves and recognised the difficulty in finding time to prepare healthy, home-made meals for young offspring. A Palestinian born in Saudi Arabia, Ms Van Dyk grew up in North Carolina in the US and Beirut, and moved to Dubai in 2006. She is married to a South African and they have a two-year-old son.

What brought you to the UAE?

There was a war going on in Lebanon in 2006 and so we fled that war and came here. I had graduated from university that year. After moving to Dubai, I got a job as a sales executive for an equestrian magazine. My roles since have mainly been as a sales executive for magazines. Then I was an admissions officer for a creative media institute.

Did you ever think that you would become an entrepreneur?

No, it wasn’t something that was initially planned for. The goal was to move up in the sales and the client servicing industry. My sister really felt that the [organic baby food business] would be a good concept here to have. It wasn’t really until I had my child when I was able to grasp that it is difficult … you’re stuck with not enough hours in a day to do things and the cooking part was overwhelming.

To be able to feel that you have something set up for your child in the worst case scenario, I think that probably was the best purchase we've made.

How did your upbringing shape your attitude towards money?

My mum tells me stories that, even as a young child, I was never the type that says ‘I want this’ and ‘I want that.’ Even at a young age, I’d ask how much something is. I have a big distinction between want and need. We never needed anything, but of course we wanted plenty of things. Having that understanding that you can’t have what you want all the time or you have to live within your means, I think really shaped how I am now with things. People for example hate going shopping with me because I will go into a shop, grab a bunch of things, clothes, think about it for an hour, and then put everything back and leave the shop with nothing.

Why is that?

It’s not something I necessarily need. Of course there were times when I splurged. Financially, things change when you have children. Before, working in sales, getting commission, you feel like you can buy a bunch of things. So there were definitely splurges here and there, but I think in general I’ve always had that idea of only being able to spend within my means.

What was your first job?

My first job was working as a waitress in Lebanon. I think it was $100 (Dh367) per month. I was expecting more money would come from tips, but I worked very close to university campuses and no one tipped, so that’s all I got. I was 18 at the time.

What is your most cherished purchase?

Life insurance when we had our son. My husband has a very active lifestyle and he had a motorcycle accident, so I think it kind of hit us then that we need better preparation because you never know. To be able to feel that you have something set up for your child in the worst case scenario, I think that probably was the best purchase we’ve made.

Do you consider yourself a spender or a saver?

I would say I definitely lean more towards saving. It’s not the easiest thing to do, to save money. But there are some things I’m willing to pay money for and other things I just feel it’s not worth it. I like expensive watches, I like expensive sunglasses, but my clothes are not expensive. There’s a kind of give-and-take with things. I’m still a female at the end of the day. These are staples for me.

What is something that you would splurge on?

Generally, we splurge quite a bit on trips. We do the saving, then we travel, and then there’s no savings. I feel this is a perfect hub to be able to travel and who knows where the world is going to take us; at some point it might be harder for us to go places. But now that we have the opportunity to be able to travel around, we definitely make sure to not do it on a budget.

The last trip we did, we did France, we did Germany, we did the Netherlands. You’re thinking flights, hotels, eating for all three. Those sorts of things definitely add up. But it’s such an experience that it’s worth spending that money for.

How do you manage your money?

Ourselves. Because I’ve just opened the business, currently it’s my husband. He does the tracking. He is the one who pays all the bills.

What kind of car do you drive?

I have a small little economic car, which is the Mazda 2. I like that it’s economic and it’s small, and I really need it just to get from point A to point B. My husband has a Dodge Ram - boys and their toys. In his younger days, he’s always wanted a Dodge Ram. So his first car when he came here was a Dodge Ram and then he upgraded it to another Dodge Ram.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - January 17, 2019: ��Money & Me�� feature on Hiba Van Dyk, owner of Chubby Cheeks Organics. Thursday, January 17th, 2019 in Arjan, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak/The National

What’s your philosophy on money?

To the best of your capability, don’t spend outside of your means. Even if it’s not what you have, you have to be able to know that you can pay that back, that it’s not out of your reach to pay it back.

Even our wedding, we had a beautiful wedding. But I’m not the type of person who wants something very expensive. The first wedding we had, there was no white dress, no suit, no things like that. We were in South Africa, but the intention wasn’t to get married. We called it our ‘blue jeans wedding’ because it was jeans and a T-shirt. I think I was wearing a Jimmy Hendrix tank top and he was wearing a Motorhead T-shirt. There was a ceremony, but it was spontaneous.

The second one we had on an island in the Seychelles and that one was more our photo shoot, because I got my white dress. It was spectacular, it was beautiful in every possible way, and I really don’t think I could have gotten more beautiful photos, but it was so within budget. I’d say altogether it was maybe $2,000 to $2,500. We were going to my sister’s wedding there, so my family was already there. I could have had an extravagant dress, but no, literally it was $100. I bought it online and it needed a little bit of tailoring, and then it was everything I could have asked for in a dress. Who gets to say they got married twice and in such a fun way, too? We’re more into the sentimentality of things, rather than the pricing or how much something is going to cost.

If you won Dh1 million, what would you spend it on?

First I would definitely set some aside for my son’s education and then buy a house. I’d buy property somewhere. I don’t know if it would be Dubai or somewhere else. That’s always been the goal. We want to buy property. Wait, you said a million dollars right?