Multicultural upbringing, passion for beauty led long-time UAE resident to run an e-portal
“When you start earning money for the first time, all the money lessons you knew during your childhood suddenly feel very real.” Haifa Addas, 45, recalled her first job experience working in Canada in customer service, where she got a small wage, paid every two weeks.
During that time, she realised her financial choices started to impact her life, as she had to manage the consequences of her decisions. She said, “You begin to pay more attention to your choices and decide whether or not you want to purchase something or save your money. You start to think about how the money you earn comes from your hard work, so you know you’re also spending your time and energy when you spend it.”
Addas is a Syrian-Lebanese expat, who holds a Canadian passport and has been living in Dubai for 18 years.
Addas’s dad was a self-made businessman who started from scratch to build his business. He focused on reinvesting money and using it as fuel to power the business. In contrast, her mother liked to spend the money she earned on what made her happy – to enjoy life.
She grew up learning two widely opposite views about money, developing a balanced mind-set where she learned the value of money and how to be wise with it and enjoy the cash by buying the things that make her happy.
She went to business school and learned financial management and accounting skills. Her business understanding further came from her dad, who took risks.
In Dubai, the financial skills and rules that she already knew but never really implemented became fundamentals of her life. “I began to look after the money I had and learned the value of earning it.
“Though I was taught delayed gratification at a young age by my parents, making my way in this country showed me that if I invest my time today, I will reap the rewards later in life.
“I knew I needed to understand financial literacy, ranging from money management and budgeting to investing. The financial literacy I gained during my early career helped me in the business to keep it afloat.
“My brother and business partner, Abdelaziz, also helped set up the business. He acquired my dad’s company and financial traits, and therefore, we make a great team. My brother’s skills allowed me to learn from him and keep the business flourishing.”
Addas grew up with a passion and sense of appreciation for beauty and glamour and was surrounded by women who inspired her daily. “My mother, a makeup artist and hairstylist, influenced me in every aspect of my life.
“My grandmother, who was Miss Lebanon at a very young age and still had her hair and makeup perfectly done until her last days, was an example of how a woman can take good care of herself and her image at any age, any time, and any place.
“I lived in many different countries – Saudi Arabia, the Levant, Europe, and Canada. As a result, I learned about many cultures, which led to a multicultural upbringing in which I discovered that the demand for beauty is universal. The realised desire to look good and feel good about oneself is essential for every woman.”
She had applied makeup to my friends, cut and dyed their hair, recommended beauty salons, hairdressers, and makeup artists and helped them book appointments worldwide.
“I worked as a marketer for luxury brands like L’Oréal, Lancôme, Ralph Lauren, Giorgio Armani, and Helena Rubinstein. In addition, I worked for Pan Arab magazines as well,” Addas added.
“Halfway through my journey, it became pretty clear to me that no matter where, when, or who it is, everybody needs to be pretty and glammed from time to time. But, more importantly, everybody has the right to look great and feel great about themselves, regardless of age, circumstances, and wallet size.”
This thought became the foundation of starting INSTAGLAM, an online portal and mobile application that provides on-demand beauty services and lets you book make-up professionals for weddings and other such events.
“We initially self-funded the business from Dh1.5 million in savings, which we established in July 2016. For our company, expenses were all government requirements, such as ensuring we had licenses and an office. Branding was also an initial expense, and we also ensured to obtain legal advice. Then there was the business’s tech side, such as adding the payment gateway, which increased our expenses.”
Haifa’s initial challenge was to ensure the business concept had validity and room for growth. “I did not want to create the online platform unless the business would provide value to the market and succeed.”
“I faced the usual start-up challenges, such as where to start with funding and financial management to guarantee I could cover the start-up fees. The business is the beauty and tech industries, so finding the right app developer became crucial for us,” Haifa added.
“Our app is the face of the brand and the platform where we connect with most of our customers and beauty professionals. Once we had the app ready, we had to link bank accounts and arrange payment gateways to guarantee the end-users seamless and smooth process.
“I learnt not to start with the legal entity before having a product ready and soft-launching. We paid for the first year of our trade license, bank expenses, and a payment gateway, but it felt like it was a waste to do this when the tech side got delayed for different reasons.”
“When we started, I felt myself multitasking between every job to do everything to set the business and not necessarily knowing every process. I went through self-doubt and criticism, making me a more assertive businesswoman.
“Establishing a business is not easy, and trying to do everything myself was a mistake. As a result, simple errors during the start-up process took up more time as I invested my time in everything rather than hiring and sourcing people who could help me with specific tasks.
“Over the years, each mistake I have made has built me into the businesswoman I am today. I learned to stop questioning my abilities. I knew I could create INSTAGLAM and sometimes needed to remind myself that I could do this. I had worked within the beauty industry for over 20 years and had a network that allowed me to connect my business with these people.”
Addas liked to enjoy life, and before owning a business. She would spend her money on things she desired. However, her priorities changed when she set up a company. “I saved and reinvested my money into the business.”
“I still believe that you should enjoy life with the money you earn; however, I also understand the significance of financial goal setting, saving, reinvesting profits, obtaining assets, and proper accounting more now than before. My business helped me find a purpose where I am willing to reinvest my earnings back into the business.”
She has invested in real estate, ensuring a stable cash flow, equity, and greater control over costs. “I have also invested in a retirement plan, which provides some financial backup and protects my assets. I am also currently learning about NFTs and the benefits of investing in them.”
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