Monty Stewart is co-founder of Dubai events agency Nova Management UAE, Stewart and Fox Marketing and a graduate of Britain’s Academy of Contemporary Music, which counts award-winning singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran among its alumni.
He began running UK events in his teens and recorded and performed as a solo artist until Covid-19 restrictions halted live music.
Mr Stewart started playing Call of Duty on Twitch, leading to the Beyond Games team scouting him for tournaments, and briefly worked for Netflix as an actor stand-in on Bridgerton prequel Queen Charlotte.
Call of Duty: Vanguard — in pictures
Now 24, he relocated to Dubai with his girlfriend and business partner, Arielle Fox, last year, vowing to bring new international talent to the city and provide “opportunity to up and coming musicians”. Their first event was “jazz experience” Prohibition.
Where did money fit into your upbringing?
My background certainly wasn’t affluent: a single parent family, my mother was a freelance lawyer, but had health complications.
I grew up on numerous council states, moving house every couple of years. If I wanted a toy, we’d have to sacrifice something else.
Schools were a mix of private and state, the private ones paid for via bursaries or scholarships.
It was a case of study, study, study while trying to have a job on the side to be more financially stable.
It was weird trying to balance jobs and going to a school such as Winchester College, the all-boys boarding school everyone wants to go to.
The boys came from incredibly affluent families, an entirely different world, very materialistic. Coming from somewhere we had to budget for milk or bread to these guys throwing around Gucci or whatever … definitely a culture shock.
How did you earn cash?
First there was a paper round, up at 5am for £27.50 ($34) a month. I saved to buy a PlayStation 3.
The job that I had while at Winchester was in a milkshake joint, but I dropped out of college at 16 or 17.
I started Nova; that’s when I realised there was money to be made. I originally started running club nights for 13 to 16 year olds, a getaway for kids. I got a job at Starbucks and used that money to fund Nova and the event.
What brought you to Dubai?
I’m a bit spontaneous. I started this marketing company with Arielle back in March and the next thing, we’re becoming more financially stable and I was, “let’s do something more creative, go back into the [music] scene that I love”, so we came here. I’ve also seen a gap in the market for marketing.
What is your spending outlook?
I don’t spend on stuff I don’t need and never buy something I can’t afford.
If it’s spending in regards to investing in something, then you try to make the correct calculations, the correct financial decision. Nova was a big financial decision, to come out here and start a company.
When we first came it was more a trial, two months to see that we liked the place and get preliminary foundations laid. It’s all funded by myself: I don’t do loans, after having a student overdraft.
What is your saving strategy?
I put it in the bank. I set myself a threshold in my head and won’t go below that. I never really ventured into the stock market or long-term investments, apart from investing in companies I believe will work.
I’d rather have money in a venture and it failed than it (all) just sitting in a bank. If you try to do something yourself, you at least earn with the experience and can come out with something better. You invest, earn some more and then do it again.
I never see money as a goal. I’m not the guy who wants millions in the bank. If I’ve enough to look after myself and repay my grandma and mum for what they’ve done for me, that’s what matters to me.
And leaving a legacy, strong financial stability for generations after so they don’t have to go through what I went through, having to worry about bus fares.
Have you ever struggled with the cost of living?
One hundred per cent. I moved to London in August 2021, in with a mate, £900 a month for a room with bills included … extortionate.
I moved with the idea to get a job, find a career path. I couldn’t land a job anywhere, had only so much saved.
I ended up having to sign on to (social) benefits. Before I met Arielle, I was living on instant ramen and hot dogs because that’s all I could afford. I was late on rent a couple of times, couldn’t buy Christmas presents.
Was that a financial turning point?
It was a case of "I have to do something". I totally understand why people end up living off the dole, it’s easy to do when you have no motivation, no money, you’re spending all your essential emotional energy worrying about money and have no opportunity to earn.
You can fall into the whole mental health trap as well and feel very sorry for yourself. I met Arielle. She always wanted to start a marketing company and had years of experience. I met the right person at the perfect time.
Do you have a cherished purchase?
That PlayStation 3 when I was about 11. It was my first entrance into gaming, which then led to the Call of Duty aspect.
Or it would be the first guitar that I bought off a mate at school, this really old flamenco guitar is where I properly entered the musical scene on my own.
How do you feel about money?
The concept of money is interesting. I see it almost like a video game. You could have somebody so emotionally developed, wise and amazing, and they can have zero in the bank.
It doesn’t buy you happiness, it provides stability and peace of mind.
Sure, you can go on nice holidays, rent supercars, do all these cool things.
But if money is your only drive and mindset, you’re only earning for yourself, you’re not trying to build something for your family … that’s when you need to step back and look at why you’re doing it because you are definitely sacrificing something along the way to make that kind of cash.
I wouldn’t even call money a motivation, it’s a by-product. It’s not something you should strive for, you shouldn’t aim to make money, you should aim to make a legacy.
What do you enjoy spending on?
I love good food. It’s something you can enjoy in the moment with people. I did a bit of cheffing with a mate at festivals and events. That’s where my love of food came from.
What are your goals?
I want to build Stewart and Fox Marketing to a point where we have clients smashing the door down to get on-boarded. With the events company, as well.
A retirement plan is to be able to sit back and watch other people get brought up to the same level.
And a charity in the future; my business partner I’ve known for years, we grew up together, we’ll find younger versions of us and try to offer opportunities, maybe start a foundation to help young entrepreneurs.