▶ Me­lanie Swan finds out what drives Ahmad Am­mar to main­tain twin ca­reers as an en­gi­neer and fash­ion de­signer

The National - News - - BUSINESS MONEY -

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.

Reem Mo­hammed / The Na­tional

Ahmad Am­mar co-founded his fash­ion brand Avva with Brazil­ian Vin­cenzo Vis­ciglia in 2014

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