Money & Me: ‘If I want something, I have to work hard to make it happen'

Entrepreneur Deborah Alessi says her charity that helps survivors of domestic violence has been her best investment

Deborah Alessi, founder of the Beverly Hills Wellness and Aesthetics clinic in Dubai, says buying a seven-bedroom house in Beverly Hills was a key financial milestone. Pawan Singh / The National
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Scotland-born entrepreneur Deborah Alessi opened her Beverly Hills Wellness and Aesthetics clinic in Five Palm Jumeirah Dubai hotel in 2021 and has plans to open a second branch later this year.

While based in the US, she grew another brand – Beverly Hills IV Therapy – with branches in the Maldives, Brazil and the UK.

Ms Alessi, 44, is also founder and chief executive of Face Forward International, a charity providing pro-bono reconstructive surgery and emotional support to survivors of domestic violence, human trafficking and other crimes.

Ms Alessi lives on Palm Jumeirah with her dogs, Highland and Bonnie.

Did your upbringing shape your money outlook?

We had a very nice life. They [my parents] were metal brokers, also involved in the restaurant world. I was spoilt, everything was sparkly and pretty, then my father passed away when I was seven. About three years later, my mother lost everything.

It was like day and night. Because of my childhood, I know both sides. I’ve had success, comfort and security since, but also loss, panic and fear.

It’s a positive and a negative at the same time because if you have a bad month in business, it triggers that fear to be successful and have security as I never want to be in that place again.

I’m going through a divorce right now … it’s a vulnerable feeling going from having security, a home and a husband to being solo and making it on my own.

Did you earn money growing up?

By 10, I was doing paper rounds, working out ways I could make my own money. My first job was brushing and washing hair in a salon on Saturdays for £10 (Dh50) a day. I was 13 or 14.

From a young age, I loved travelling. I worked on private jets and worked my way up the ladder quickly. The cabin [crew] thing was temporary, to travel the world. Career opportunities presented themselves and I started selling private jets and [space on] charters.

I think about investments; I would never have done that in my 20s. Now I think about my tomorrow
Deborah Alessi, founder of Beverly Hills Wellness and Aesthetics clinic

How did that lead into wellness?

I worked for a private concierge medical company, the same type of clientele aviation had. They would pay $20,000 for intense physicals, find things other doctors missed.

Being involved with very high-end individuals gave me a vision of how a billionaire/millionaire works, how to make something into action. And what to expect opening a company; it’s not just a person who makes the brand, it’s the people around them who get them to the top of the mountain.

I got into the wellness world four years ago while working with my husband’s practice and the charity. The Maldives is my favourite place, I would go six or seven times a year and do a vitamin drip before leaving the States and my jet lag would go much faster.

I had an idea and the hotel general manager said: “Let’s try it for peak season.” I came up with Beverly Hills IV Therapy, put a menu together and we opened. Then I opened in Beverly Hills and more Maldives hotels.

Why did you move to Dubai?

This was a stop-over and I’ve always had friends here. I never 100 per cent settled in America, never really felt it was home. Dubai always had a calling for me.

Once you get started, there are amazing opportunities, but you’ve got to have determination and be very strong as a businesswoman here. If you stand your ground and get through the humps, you can be very successful.

Have your spending and saving habits evolved?

Spending for the sake of spending, not knowing when the next dollar was going to come in when I was younger … experiences have changed my outlook on how to spend. Before I would shop and think later, now I think before I shop. If I want something, I have to work a little harder to make it happen.

I invested a lot of personal savings into the brand. And I think about investments; I would never have done that in my 20s. Now I think about my tomorrow, I want to be able to take care of myself, my own success.

I take direction from my financial adviser, whether it’s stocks, bonds, or wherever. He’s always made me money. I look at every dollar now as an investment for something else.

Are you wiser with money?

My outlook regarding money changed. I wasn’t wise when I was younger, but as I’ve become older, definitely. I look for ways to build and grow and take risks in the business to get me to the next level. But I also have direction from the financial adviser, so that gives me balance.

Don’t get me wrong, I love nice things. I had a beautiful car in LA, a McLaren. I just sold it and I miss it, but I’m also not going to do that here right now. That’s the different Deborah; I would rather take that money, invest into the business and wait and see in six months if I want a car.

What has been your best investment?

The charity; I invested myself into it. I don’t take a salary. But by doing something good, I also receive something in return. The non-profit opened so many doors worldwide and made me realise what I can do.

Raising money to build a brand or a business is one thing … charity’s still a “business” and if you look at it with all heart, you’ll fail. We went from making $10,000 in year one to making $1.5 million.

Any key financial milestones?

When we bought the house in Beverly Hills, a seven-bedroom home five minutes from The Beverly Hills Hotel … that was my turning point, I realised how far I had come to be able to do something like that. That’s going on the market soon for $8 million.

What is your most cherished spend?

My dogs. It wasn’t the best “investment” I feel, but I had to fly them from the States, which cost $20,000. They are my little comfort zones in a new country. One is a Bichon, the other a Yorkie.

Also, the first time I bought a first-class air ticket, Los Angeles to London. I realised: “I’ve really worked hard and achieved so much … you’re going to have to work really hard to make this your lifestyle, Debs.”

How do you feel about money?

Money makes me feel secure. Not having money gives me anxiety. Some people live a very basic life and are very comfortable with it. I strive to grow and be bigger and better in everything I want to do.

I’m an overachiever. There’s always more I can do. It goes back to my childhood of having money, then not having money. Freedom, security is important, and health. Without health, you have nothing.

Having it makes me feel free to do things I love to do, but I work hard, 14 to 15-hour days. There is no luck in my situation, it’s taking the bull by the horns and taking a risk when a lot of people would walk away … believing in myself.

What luxuries do you value?

Because I work so hard, I need to be able to switch off at some point, so a nice hotel, travelling and pampering myself is a definite need.

I enjoy the nicer things in life. I’ve got to work really hard to achieve that and I’m not looking for somebody to bring that to me. If I want to stay in the Maldives, I want to be able to because it balances me and I can make better decisions. So that’s luxury that I need.

What are your goals?

To reach the security level where I’m in a place of comfort. The next seven years I want to work as hard as I can, build the brand as much as I possibly can, internationally and locally, sell it and then live life, [maybe] get a villa in the Maldives at one of the hotels.

I don’t want to work for the next 20 years and just make that my life. I’ve invested a lot of money opening this clinic.

I’m taking each day at a time right now and trying to live in the moment, focus on my business, grow the brand, open the second location and make magic happen.

Updated: February 21, 2022, 9:23 AM