‘TWO JOBS KEEP MY FINANCES IN ORDER’
▶ Melanie Swan finds out what drives Ahmad Ammar to maintain twin careers as an engineer and fashion designer
Ahmad Ammar is one of the many in today’s diversifying economy, juggling two careers. The Dubai resident, 33, works as a civil engineer and a luxury fashion designer for the rich and famous as part of Dubai fashion duo Aavva. The Lebanese businessman works seven days a week and says that when working on what you love, it helps soften the sacrifices. His dual career began when he set up Aavva in 2014 with his Brazilian co-founder, Vincenzo Visciglia, in the spare room of a Motor City apartment. The pair continued working on the side, Mr Ammar as an engineer and Mr Visciglia as an architect. Now the company has a team of ateliers in Dubai Design District [D3] and Aavva’s flagship boutique opened in City Walk this year.
How did your upbringing shape your attitude towards money? A
I was the eldest of two sons and we lost our father when I was 14. We were not a rich family, and Beirut at that time was in a very bad economic situation and just coming out of war, so I knew that it was important to continue my education and to work hard. Luckily my grandparents helped support my education, but from a young age, I became aware of money and its importance to us as a family.
How much did you get paid for your first job?
Before I graduated, I worked during university in the summertime in my grandparents’ coffee shop. All of us in the family had to do that: cleaning floors and dishes and serving tables. It was the first time I’d worked and I was paid $200 (Dh735) a month. Then, as a fresh graduate civil engineer, I was receiving $750 a month working on a cinema project in
Beirut. It was very little money at that time for a civil engineer.
What is your biggest financial milestone?
Expanding my brand and opening the atelier in D3, then opening our flagship store. It has taken us several years to reach this point, from having one atelier in a spare bedroom in Motor City, to having this team, and the store was always a dream until this year.
What has been your best investment?
Investing in my own business, in order to stop working for other people. That was an empowering move and though it will take time to give back, it is the best investment I’ve done. It is more responsibility and you need to be committed to work for yourself, to plan ahead, but I wouldn’t change it.
Have you ever had a month where you feared you could not pay the bills?
As a business owner we’ve definitely gone through this, and had to invest all our money into that, putting the business first, before our own lives. While we were building Aavva, we went through it but have definitely come a long way since then. Having two jobs has really helped me manage money better, allocating resources and being organised, so luckily this hasn’t been something common.
Do you use a financial adviser?
I still don’t use one, though I would consider that when I feel the business is growing and it’s out of my hands to handle this and the expenses. When we build the brand outside the UAE, it is the first thing I would do.
Are you a spender or saver? I’m a saver. I don’t like to spend a lot on things in general.
What is your most cherished purchase?
My dogs, I paid almost Dh10,000 for each – they are Chihuahuas – and most definitely it was the most special thing I’ve purchased. I have four now, and they are like my children. I love them so much and they give me a lot of joy and purpose outside of work life.
Do you have any financial regrets?
Sometimes you have these small regrets on purchases like when I buy rolls and rolls of a fabric because of a rash decision. I just liked it, without thinking through if it actually fits into the collection. I am super conscious of what I spend on, but these are not huge items or regrets, just my more frugal mind that does not like to be extravagant.
Do you plan for the future? Planning is very important.
With fashion we always have to be ahead in our business, and in engineering we always have to have six-month plans, so it is in my mindset in all I do, meeting deadlines and so on, so I think that translates into my finances too.
What luxuries are important to you?
To be able to travel and discover new countries and cultures is really important but being healthy and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is certainly a priority. I spend money on healthy food, my personal trainer and gym membership, and have always done this even when I had less money, because it’s not something I will compromise on. It’s a luxury to some people, but a must for me.
How much do you have in your wallet right now?
What car do you drive? A BMW X5
Do you prefer using a credit card or cash?
I don’t like credit cards at all, it’s like a prison for me and especially because I am an OCD person. It drives me crazy to keep calculating and to keep checking what I used, etc. I always think it’s not my money and feel indebted, so I use debit cards because I feel at peace and I know it’s my hard work and my own money.
What financial advice would you offer your younger self? Save for the future.
What would you raid your savings account for?
Any health issue or emergency, especially as I live in Dubai and my family is all in Beirut, including my mother. So I raid my savings for urgent trips or things for the family.
What would you do if you won Dh1 million?
I would share it with those close to me; I would take my mother on a nice trip and dedicate some bonuses to my staff.
What has working in the luxury fashion business taught you?
There are a lot of very rich people in the world.
Ahmad Ammar co-founded his fashion brand Avva with Brazilian Vincenzo Visciglia in 2014