After giving birth to triplets, Suman Manning founded TwinsPlus Arabia, the first regional community organisation supporting parents facing, or having recently gone through, a multiple pregnancy.
Established in 2011 and now featuring an e-commerce platform, membership has grown to more than 2,200 families.
TwinsPlus Arabia covers everything from fertility and postnatal support to in-person events and products that help to make life easier for larger families, while enabling them to connect and access expert help and community-based guidance.
Ms Manning, now 47, has been in Dubai for 26 years and lives in Silicon Oasis with her husband Shane, an activity and event services entrepreneur, and their two daughters and son, all aged 12.
Was money discussed during your childhood?
My dad worked in the travel industry in Saudi Arabia, and mum raised my sister and I in Bangalore, India. We had good schooling and lots of international holidays because both parents worked for airlines; mum for Air India.
We had quite a global perspective, but were a middle-class family, lived in a rented home. We built a house and rented it out, but were very grounded as kids. We knew life was not fancy.
Can you recall your first salary?
I studied fashion design at the National Institute of Fashion Technology, graduated and had two years’ experience working in Delhi. I moved to live with my parents, then in Abu Dhabi.
My first salary was Dh5,000 ($1,361). I then worked for Disney Jawa Enterprises in Dubai, helping with product placement with my background in fashion. It led me to my next role at IIR Exhibitions (now Informa), where I worked for 12 years.
What led you to launch TwinsPlus Arabia?
In 2009, my husband and I were trying to start a family. I had a career path in events and exhibitions and it came to a screeching halt because I was pregnant with triplets and took time off.
I set up TwinsPlus Arabia as a support group mainly to help expats like myself who suddenly had their lives massively changed. Being a caregiver becomes your main focus, you have a huge sense of a loss of identity.
We were able to use it to build a community, to let people know there were other families with multiples they could connect with.
How is it funded?
With the pressures of having three kids just starting school, I had to make that choice to go back to the corporate world, purely for a salary.
A couple of years after that, my calling to do support work came back, so we set up TwinsPlus Arabia as a registered licensed company in 2018.
We never wanted to monetise … the support was the backbone of everything we did. In 2020, we launched the website as an e-commerce site, just before Covid-19, because of our collaborations with more brands.
It was a natural progression for the group to become an e-commerce platform for more specialised products for twins and triplets … to be more sustainable, self-sufficient.
What is your spending and savings outlook?
We’re savers in the sense that we have savings plans for our kids to make sure education is covered.
My father does financial planning in India, so we’ve advice from there. My husband’s a business owner as well, so we don’t have somebody else paying for schooling, insurance and flights.
I have basic savings. The investment side is done by Shane, but I’m looking into the cryptocurrency trend. We have stocks and invested in gold.
What are your investment milestones?
Taking that leap and hiring staff and an office. Another is getting help with marketing and PR; it’s really important getting word out there that we exist.
To grow our business to big-ticket items, we needed a physical space, so we’re opening in Times Square Mall, a pop-up for the first couple of months. To be able to sell strollers … people like to test drive them.
Any landmark purchases on the horizon?
We’re planning to buy a house. It’s taken us a long time to grow back to having savings and liquidity after years of spending money on kids.
Our next big purchase will be our own home after living here for so long. Being self-employed … banks don’t recognise either of us in terms of a mortgage.
How do you feel about money?
Money has never been a driving force. Money comes in, money goes. I’m not a big planner or saver, but I’ve had to learn and respect money a lot more.
Since I arrived here, when I was 22, I’ve always been financially independent. You lose your financial independence when you assume the role of a mum and stop working. That also pushed me to be an entrepreneur, to have my own money and financial security.
Have you become wiser financially?
I know things can change very quickly here, so it’s important to have savings. That is something that’s changed since I’ve become a parent.
You cannot live in Dubai or sustain a lifestyle here unless you’re employed or have savings. I’m not emotionally attached to money, but I make sure we have our ducks in a row.
Being privy to families that have had things taken away, circumstances changed that put them in financial difficulty … knowing that could happen made me more aware of money.
As a business owner and a mother, there are so many more responsibilities. I’ve taken money more seriously.
What are you happiest spending on?
We spend more on travel; because the kids are older, they enjoy it. We spend on experiences or hotel stays … doing stuff, eating stuff.
I’m not a big spender on clothes, I don’t have to have a Louis Vuitton bag.
Do you teach your triplets financial literacy?
Very much so. We were talking about getting the kids their own savings accounts for them to be responsible for their own money and understanding it. It’s good for them to be able to navigate that, to save, see how it grows.
It’s so different to how we were growing up, what we had access to and aspired to. It’s good for them to know they could save and buy something, to understand they have to wait for something, rather than it just being bought for them.
One of the extra-curricular activities in school is an investors’ club. They’re already starting to think about shares, investing in certain brands and watching the market. If they get it right, we can all retire.
Do you have future financial goals?
Being business owners, it’s not so easy for us to up and leave, so we need to make sure our businesses are financially attractive to someone to buy or invest in.
For me, the goal would be to go pan-GCC and expand; to make it really lucrative for someone to want to take over, or financially sound and it just runs itself and grows.
I’m far too young to retire … I’ll keep going for as long as I can.