“I was making £2.72 per hour (about Dh12),” said British expat Dan Bolton, 40, when he recalled taking his first job aged 13.
Bolton needed to get two weeks of work experience as part of his education system, so he chose to work in a hotel, shadowing waiters. Soon after, he was offered a part-time weekend job at the same hotel.
For months, Bolton would save what he earned to buy whatever he wanted, not relying on funds from his parents. “I’m incredibly stubborn, so this was a big milestone for me in my growth and independence from my parents, as well as rewarding me for the hard work I had put in.”
Hailing from the British town of North Manchester and raised in a working-class background, he recalls his parents having to juggle multiple jobs to make sure the bills were paid and the family had everything they needed.
“My mother worked in finance, so she was always very frugal with money, knew what was essential and what was luxury. We were taught that if we ever wanted something, we had to work for it. get and make money make more money. This has been the foundation of my career for the past 20 years.
When and how did you start the business, and what were the initial start-up costs?
“I started my own talent management business in 2015, and it all happened pretty quickly. I had originally planned to spend some time doing freelance work, but before the first month was up, I “I already had an impressive list of clients and projects lined up. To facilitate those projects, the first steps were then to apply for and process my business license.”
“Back then, the options weren’t as extensive as they are now, and I had spent around Dh30,000 to have this processed. Other costs I incurred during that time were the marketing and branding costs Luckily, I had a friend who is a designer, and he created my brand at a discount, which otherwise would have easily cost me an extra Dh20,000-30,000 .
Plus, Bolton added that when you start a business, there are so many hidden costs that you might not be used to if you’ve been employed by someone else. These include bank set-up fees, bank charges, deposits, email setup, website building, business cards, printing, coffees, meetings, taxis etc.
Bolton’s entrepreneurial journey began in the events and entertainment industry at the age of 16.
“I worked with a UK-based entertainment company as a booking agent before moving to the UAE in 2008 and starting an entertainment division for a leading modeling agency. But I had discovered that there was a small space for progression in my professional career, so going freelance and then owning a business was a very natural progression for me,” Bolton added.
“I wanted the opportunity to do things differently, and the only way to do that was to control my destiny and start the business. We have two companies that specialize in talent management and creating shows and performance nearly seven years later. The second most recent venture is an experiential agency that creates innovative and engaging experiences for brands around the world.”
Five lessons Bolton learned on his journey to becoming an entrepreneur
Lesson #1: Grow your business to achieve financial freedom.
People think of Bolton as a workaholic, but he said that wasn’t true. “I work hard to make money and continue to grow the business. I want to get to a place where I am completely financially independent.
He has worked in the events and entertainment industry since the age of 16 and started at the bottom of the ladder. “I was the person who picked up and transported the boxes, dropped off the costumes, booked the talents, made sure they arrived on time and returned home, all while dealing with the many challenges that arose in the mad world of events.”
Lesson 2: Reinvest your earnings to build and grow the business.
Everything has a cost, and to grow you need to reinvest the money you’ve earned to continue building a business, Bolton said.
“We achieved this by investing in infrastructure, people, training and knowledge development. When done correctly, it helps to develop additional finances, continuing the process. Through this thought process, we grew about seven times (600%) in business last year due to a global pandemic that essentially shut down our industry. »
Lesson 3: Have a savings strategy to deal with unforeseen situations in business.
Bolton’s business is about dealing with people. He said sometimes things happen that are entirely out of your control when dealing with people. “People get sick and have to cancel a reservation and customers can have an opinion about a particular performance so you can’t please everyone. Then there are issues like COVID-19 which have completely decimated our industry and still cause problems to this day.
The situations of the past few years have made him prepare for a rainy day. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think our industry would be legally prohibited from operating. I never anticipated this, and looking back now I know that having a strategy and savings to navigate through the uncontrollable is not only necessary but essential in a rapidly changing world like this,” he added.
About ten years ago, Bolton launched a monthly savings plan. “I had to start planning a day when I might not want or be able to work anymore. I spoke to a financial advisor, and she recommended and set up several investment plans where I would deposit 15% of my salary each month.
“Admittedly, at the beginning of 2020, I had to cash this in, but I used the money saved to keep my business alive during the pandemic. Having the funds readily available to protect my business has allowed us to weather the COVID storm and grow exponentially during this time.
At the end of this year, Bolton added that he should be able to recover the money he initially had to withdraw and be in a much stronger financial position than he was at the end. of 2019. “None of this would have been possible if I hadn’t started saving at an early age.
Lesson 4: Find your niche and devote time and resources to understanding how to meet customer requirements.
Bolton has been in Dubai for almost 15 years now. In its early days, the entertainment and events landscape was just beginning. This gave him several opportunities to work.
“Dubai is the type of city where you get what you invest. I believe that we have found our niche and our place in the business world, it has allowed us to grow to where we are today, but that is not all. I want to continue to grow our business, diversify revenue streams, explore all possibilities and arrive at this financially independent place for the team and me,” he added.
“I don’t think I will ever retire, but I will slow down at some point, which will mean giving away parts of the business to others or potential investors. Until that happens, I want to make sure that we grow in the most sustainable way possible and develop the business so that it is in the best possible financial position when the time comes.