Money & Me: ‘I never asked my parents for money after college’

Saving has not been a top priority for entrepreneur Nikki Bisiker because she invested the majority of her funds into her interior design business

Nikki Bisiker, owner and lead creative director of Nikki Bisiker Interior Design, earned her first salary at the age of 14 working at a hairdressers. Photo: Pawan Singh / The National
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At the age of 13, Nikki Bisiker restyled her bedroom in England using money she inherited from a Jamaican great uncle.

Now lead creative director of Dubai’s Nikki Bisiker Interior Design, she honed her skills designing and project managing a UK restaurant, redesigning a Wales hotel and handling a luxury barn conversion.

In the 1990s, Ms Bisiker took a private commission to design luxury homes in France and superyachts in Monaco before launching her first Dubai business, Nikki B Signature Interiors, in 2004.

Following a stint away, she eventually rebranded as Nikki Bisiker Interior Design in 2019, employing her son, 35, as a project manager. This year, she will launch her Nikki B furniture collection.

A keen tango dancer and cook, Ms Bisiker, 61, lives on Palm Jumeirah.

How did money feature in your upbringing?

I came from a middle-class family. My mother was a private secretary for a company, my dad a sales manager. I was very active, had a perfect childhood … ballet lessons, piano lessons, cycling on Sundays, did ice skating, holidays in the summer and had a nice garden.

Money was never talked about. They never seemed to have a lot, but we always had enough to do what we wanted to do.

When I went to college, my mother had to pay half, which is why she carried on working, but I worked holidays to supplement that. I never asked for any money after college.

When did you first earn a wage?

When I was 14, I started working in a hairdressers for £1.50 (Dh7) for the day, then in a restaurant in a department store to pay for driving lessons. I took a private secretary course while in sixth form and during holidays, did temping for offices.

I wanted to be in the hospitality and tourism industry, to have luxury and people around me having fun, so I got a job as a general assistant in a hotel.

I’m lucky to have orchestrated my life to work in a job that I love, as well as maintain an income
Nikki Bisiker, lead creative director of Nikki Bisiker Interior Design

What led to interior design?

Decorating my bedroom was really important to me. Later, I met my (former) husband and his family bought an old chapel. We transformed it into a restaurant and it was really successful. I designed and took care of the whole thing when I was about 21 or 22.

I was lucky to have this opportunity. Then they wanted a hotel; we completely refurbished this and I was there for 11 years. I did all the design and friends were asking me to do things for them. That was a catalyst.

I ended up moving to Monaco, did apartments and a yacht there, and spent six months on the Mediterranean cruising. I did it (designing) more for pleasure and experience, but had it in mind what I wanted to do.

What first brought you to Dubai?

I knew I could do a proper design business here — in 2004, things were growing. We moved into one of the show homes in Dubai Marina and were (among) the first people to bring a yacht.

I went shopping for things for this house and met a local lady who said: “You seem to know exactly what you’re doing, are you an interior designer?”

A couple of months later, she called and by that time I’d set up the company and started doing their house. It went from there.

Are your clients mostly big spenders?

We’ll always do different styles, different homes architecturally and interior-wise. It’s good to have that mix, so we have very high-net-worth clients and clients who are more middle of the road.

A high budget is more fun because you can be more creative. Saying that, you can have small projects in which the client allows you to be very creative and that’s just as much fun — and a challenge.

The client’s money has to be taken care of and the budget used wisely. Everybody’s income is relative. You see all walks of life.

As an interior designer, you’re there not to hold an opinion, other than an opinion on interior design. People need to trust you can be like that. Discretion is everything.

Is money or creativity your motivation?

It has to be both. I work to have an income, as do most people, and I work to support the people I employ. I’m lucky to have orchestrated my life to work in a job that I love, as well as maintain an income.

The most important thing is the client appreciates you. That’s my main goal, whether they’re spending a lot or the budget is more minimal, (for them) to be in love with what they’ve got and, if it’s a restaurant or property development, they get a good return on investment.

Are you a saver or spender?

It’s varied throughout my life, depending on circumstances. I save money for certain things. I haven’t been in a position to save since the pandemic. That’s something that will be starting again, hopefully in the next year.

I’m never an extravagant spender. I don’t buy really expensive handbags, they have no value to me. But certain things mean a lot; for example, I have tango dancing lessons every day and spend on that rather than go out for dinner.

Nikki Bisiker says she is not an extravagant spender, but spends on things that are important to her. Photo: Pawan Singh / The National

I have a few investments here and there, but saving hasn’t been a huge part of my life because it’s been more about making things work in the here and now. I put everything into the company; I’ve never had investment from outside, never borrowed — I started this company with zero.

What are your cherished spends?

Dancing in Buenos Aires four years ago, on rooftops until five in the morning to live music. We also rented bikes, cycled through the centre and rode horses.

The tango holiday is something I always wanted to do. It gave me great energy, seeing different countries and cultures, colours, architectures … everything contributes to your creative mind.

Also, I bought a Harley-Davidson, passed my test and a week later took a trip from Lyon down to San Tropez, in France, with 120 Harleys from all over the world. It was a challenge, but was such a moment.

Does money equal happiness?

Money doesn’t make you happy inside — many people have a lot and are not happy. Does money contribute to happiness? Definitely, because without it you cannot do certain things that make you happy.

Buying certain food, living in a certain place or travelling, going to visit friends or relatives … without money, that becomes impossible.

The most important thing is health; without health, it doesn’t matter how much money you’ve got. With wealth, there’s a middle ground where it provides happiness, stability, security and gives you the opportunity to do things.

Are you wise with cash?

It doesn’t run through my fingers and I’m wise with money in terms of business, because you have to be.

In my personal life, I spend in areas where things are important to me. Time with people, it costs money sometimes … these things I spend on without thinking too much.

In my personal life, I’m more relaxed (although) I’m usually thinking about the value before I spend.

Do you splurge on your home?

The most I have spent money on in my apartment is artwork. A friend who’s an artist has done a couple for me and I have other artwork from France.

And kitchen equipment — I love cooking. In general, I’ve made the house a home, without being extravagant.

Do you have financial regrets?

A house in the UK … I bought at a certain time and lost money when I came to sell. I don’t regret purchasing it, but wish I had kept it for when the market went up again.

Also, I bought a baby grand piano. It was my dream to have this. I sold it and wish I hadn’t, but didn’t have space for it. It was a good purchase but I lost money when I sold it. They weren’t bad investments to begin with.

Do you have a retirement plan?

I don’t want to retire completely. I would probably take a couple of selective projects each year (and have) the furniture line running, spend more time being creative on that.

That takes investment, but it is also my savings plan and retirement plan because it’s something I can do from anywhere. I want to have it made in the UAE, but export around the world.

Updated: April 25, 2022, 6:05 AM


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