Brazilian Maria Pavani launched Dubai-based brand Tres Marias Coffee Company in 2019 after a decade as a coffee specialist, including judging competitions globally.
Her company specialises in producing environmentally conscious coffee from beans sourced around the world.
Now 31, Ms Pavani became a barista in 2009 while studying in Portugal. In Brazil, her interest grew before taking a head barista role in Dubai in 2013. She later became general manager of the region’s first speciality roaster.
Tres Marias also produces plant-based milks for baristas in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain and Qatar, with other territories and retail planned.
Ms Pavani lives in Jumeirah Village Circle, Dubai.
Where did money fit into your childhood?
We came from a very humble family, on my father’s side. I don’t think my parents had much understanding about financial education.
When they married, we had our own house. We started having problems and by the time I was eight; they had to sell.
My father was a journalist and local TV presenter, my mum got a scholarship to do her masters and PhD when I was 12 and went to Portugal.
My father was fighting to bring food to the table. It was a struggle.
From very early, I understood I had to work, build my life and fight for what I really want.
How much did your first job pay?
I was 16, my father helped me to get a part-time job at the traffic department, combined with high school.
I would work four hours per day and get (equivalent today) Dh350 ($95) per month. I was able to have credit on my phone, get my first mobile.
My friends were doing other stuff, because most didn’t work. I knew I had to because I wanted to buy my own stuff. Starting work early on gave me an advantage.
What led you to Dubai?
A friend working in a hotel who was hiring a head barista. I wanted to travel, but knew in Brazil it would be much harder. My only option was finding a job abroad.
When I came to Dubai, the industry for speciality coffee was just starting. I saw an opportunity to create my career.
I always wanted my own business. I knew the first step was becoming a coffee professional, respected here but also in the coffee community worldwide.
For that, I had to travel a lot and do certifications. Travelling the world for barista championships and exhibitions gave me good insight.
So you invested in professional growth?
It was the most valuable thing I have done. It was clear the path I had to walk to achieve what I wanted, but at that time, the profession was low paid, so I took loans and had credit cards funding my certifications. You have to pay for plane tickets, hotels, a week of food.
I’ve cleared my debts now, but many times it was a lot of pressure, especially during Covid, running my business — you prioritise your team rather than yourself.
But tough and good situations come and go, so we must find balance and focus on the bigger picture.
Do you manage to save?
Not at the moment, but 2023 is time to start a new financial phase in my life.
Acquiring my own apartment in Dubai is part of the plan, and creating a savings account for emergencies. I have some savings, but I don’t save regularly right now because my priority was to clear debts.
I learnt how to live with the basics. I’m not hungry for the newest stuff, a bag or shoes. I use everything until I cannot use it any more.
Any cherished spends?
I went to Brazil after four years and dad was in a tough situation, unable to pay rent for months, so I purchased an apartment and put my father there without rent. Today, it is fully paid.
I was only able to do that because I grew my career.
When I left Brazil the first time, my dream was to acquire a house for my family. I didn’t see it as “I’m buying real estate”.
At that time, I was 26 or 27 and it was not like a choice. But it is a big part of my journey — my hard work in Dubai was being realised.
Now, I have different dreams.
What else have you put money into?
I bought a beach house owned by my grandmother. She passed away during Covid.
As kids, we would go there during summer vacations. It is special for me and I would like to one day rebuild that connection we had as a family through these memories.
I work to become better myself, but also to give more stability to my family and, at some point, start spending more time with them.
How else did the pandemic affect you?
We grew the business three times in the first year of the pandemic. A lot of people were at home, we had a website, were delivering a lot of orders, selling coffee kits for home. We turned the downstairs of my villa into my factory, packing coffee.
It was a great moment for us to come out with the brand because everybody was in front of their phones or their computers.
How do you feel about money?
It doesn’t really impress me. I never did anything I do for money — it was always for a better life.
Of course, money is needed and without it, I couldn’t do what I did and want to do into my 40s, 50s, 60s.
I came from a humble family that gave me great values based on the essential things in life.
Money is a tool that allows me to stay true to what I love, but it’s not what will rule my life.
What do you enjoy spending on?
Good food. I love to go to a nice restaurant, but not because I want to show that I have the money to eat there.
And family … whenever I can, I bring them to visit me. Also, I love to travel.
Any financial choices you would change?
When things started to get a bit more comfortable for me financially in Dubai, I decided I wanted a bigger home, so moved to a townhouse.
But I was paying a lot of money and would barely spend time there because I was working and doing sports.
I had to remind myself to think smarter and use this money to do something else. I don’t regret it because I learnt from that. Today, I live in a small apartment.
What are your future financial goals?
To have more properties and I have been studying different types of investments, for example, blockchain and digital coins.
Sometimes I go to workshops. I’m not the type of person to do things unless I’m 100 per cent sure.
I would love to be part of start-ups. Having my brand succeed would make me confident to guide other entrepreneurs that have the same dreams. That could be a potential way to invest.
My goal is to make Tres Marias a global brand and find more ways to keep growing my wealth, making sure that when I’m 40, I’m able to retire if I want to.