UAE design firm nurtured at the roots

Entrepreneur Asha Makhijani is now saving for her future, aiming to be financially secure and debt-free so that she can enjoy retirement without worrying about money.
Asha Makhijani is the owner of Le Grand Atelier furniture showroom in Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National
Asha Makhijani is the owner of Le Grand Atelier furniture showroom in Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National

Asha Makhijani is the founder of This and That Decor and recently opened a 6,000 square foot furniture showroom – Le Grand Atelier in Al Quoz 3, in Dubai – that displays everything design-related from furniture and home accessories to hand-painted wallpaper and lighting. Ms Makhijani, 53, has lived in the UAE since she was 28 and also works hard to support emerging artists by showcasing their work in the showroom’s miniature art gallery.

Describe your financial journey so far.

I moved to Abu Dhabi in my late 20s and set up my own business, This and That Decor. Ever since high school I’ve always wanted to build my own business. I enjoy making decisions, being involved in all aspects of a business and being my own boss. As in most small businesses, the beginning was difficult financially as I invested most of my money into the business. While it was extremely challenging to run, especially as a female entrepreneur in the region, my hard work paid off eventually. I built my clientele and expanded my business. Like my mother, I worked hard and enjoyed the finer things in life. In my 20s I spent on materialistic things, however over the years I have used my money more efficiently – investing in property and my new business.

Are you a spender or saver?

I would say a mix of both. Now that I’m older (and wiser I hope) I’ve started planning for my retirement. I have to, now that age is catching up. All jokes aside, I aim to be financially secure and debt-free in the future. When I’m in my 70s or 80s, I’d rather be enjoying my golden years than worrying about money. However, I do enjoy socialising and a good buy every now and then.

What is your philosophy towards money?

Be sensible about how you spend your money. It’s important to enjoy your money but also not spend irrationally. Invest in property and invest in yourself or family through education and business. I’ve learnt that while it’s nice to have nice things, in the end the material things don’t matter as much as the memories, family and good health.

Have you made any financial mistakes along the way?

Yes – trusting the wrong kind of people. I am a generous person and have been taken advantage of in the past.

If you won Dh1 million, what would you do with it?

I would give some of it to charity. There are others who need it more than me. Then I would invest it wisely but leave some money to travel and check off a few things on my bucket list.

What has been your biggest financial lesson?

I learnt a lot during the recession. The financial crisis was hard on most people, however those that had not extended themselves and had grown their businesses at a controlled pace did not have as far to fall. That is an important lesson. Business is like gardening – if one cultivates a plant so that the roots are strong and you ensure you have enough water for the future then the plant has a great chance of remaining strong. On the other hand, if you grow a plant without due care and attention, without ensuring there will be water for it and start looking to grow another plant, the foundations for both plants are likely to fail. Most importantly, you should always save because you never know what the future has in store.

What do you enjoy spending money on?

I love beautiful things that are timeless, simple and elegant. I have had so much fun putting the collection together at Le Grand Atelier, creating a range of furniture, paintings, rugs and mirrors that will enhance any home, so of course I have spent plenty of money on these things. But I love buying things for my own house, great art, good food and travelling.

ascott@thenational.ae

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Published: May 23, 2014 04:00 AM

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