I have been drawing since I was seven years old. I grew up in Budapest, Hungary. When I finished high school I wanted to go to a design college, but it was very expensive. I don't come from wealthy family. We had enough food but not enough for an expensive education. So I decided to save up some money. At the time I was working for an insurance company. I met someone there who was moving to Greece. I was 19 at the time and I decided to ship off with him. I thought that I would make enough money to start college, but I was wrong. The money was terrible and I made about ?50 (Dh234) a week.
I was a waiter and so at least I got free food at the restaurant. I did that for a month and then worked for a scooter rental place. Eventually I quit that job as well and helped tile bathrooms and kitchens. While doing one of these jobs I met an Irishman who suggested that I return to my roots as a designer and try my luck in Dublin. I moved to the Irish capital in 2004 and lived there for a year.
I really liked it, and money-wise it was much better. When I moved there I had a decent salary at ?2,000 (Dh9,366) a month as a junior designer. At the time, that felt like it was a dream salary. I could pay my rent and live a comfortable life. I had different standards there. In Ireland I wouldn't even think about buying a car, whereas here in the UAE I would of course have one. When I came to the UAE in 2005 the design company I worked for offered me around Dh10,000 each month. That salary grade lasted for almost three years. I was frustrated, especially as rents started to go up during the Dubai boom.
I could hardly pay my rent and I got into credit card debt around this time and became blinded by all these shiny things. So for the first four years it was really a struggle. I worked hard all the time and I still didn't have money. That was a big reason to start my own business. I started quint about one-and-a-half years ago as a side project. Over time I saved enough money and made enough contacts to quit my daytime job at the beginning of this year to focus my attention on the business. We now have an office in Jumeirah Lakes Towers, and the studio focuses on branding, advertising, web design, industrial design and photography.
The business model we came up with is different than other companies. I invested less than Dh100,000 and none of it came from a loan or an investor - it came from the profits the company actually made while I was doing it on the side. The philosophy is to keep our costs low so everything is profit. We only have four or five people working here and payment is all commission based. If someone lands a contract, you receive a certain percentage of the profits. The business development manager, for example, gets his money from the value of the project. So if it's Dh100,000, he would get 10 to 20 per cent of the full amount.
Client-wise, we've been working for different smaller clients in Dubai, but just last week we signed a contract with Unicef. This is our first major account. It's always good to have these international organisations in your portfolio. We're now part of a campaign against child obesity. They want it to be a 20-minute educational animation film for kids. In February or January they are going to show it to kids in schools and take it all around the Middle East.
Quint is currently working on the actual design of the project. We do all the drawings, narration, and sound recording. The actual animation work is being done by part-time employees in Hungary. People are surprised when we do work such as this, which seems beyond the realm of design. We are small but capable of delivering many different services. Recently we also launched a magazine. It is a creative hub for people around the world and a platform for us to promote ourselves.
The magazine is a non-profit iniative at the moment, but if we get it right it should generate money through advertising, although we want to keep it free to buy off the stands. We would like to get all the starving artists together in Dubai. The design scene isn't that developed in the UAE, and since the financial crisis, the landscape has changed. Many companies have closed down, but I think it will be a positive thing for designers and artists in the end. People with true talent will survive. Of course, there are exceptions. But now clients don't throw around Dh2 million for sub-par service. They want to get something really good for their money.
I think my artistic background came from my mother. She grew up in the countryside outside of Budapest and wanted to be an artist. However, her parents were very old-fashioned and everything was pretty limited. She never got an opportunity to work at a proper job, but when I was little she taught me how to draw and I used to watch her all the time. She is almost 50 years old, and now, I am teaching her.
* As told to Jeffrey Todd