The pre-loved princess: Natalie Humphrey, founder of Baby Bazaar, tells us what makes her tick

The pre-loved princess: Natalie Humphrey, founder of Baby Bazaar, tells us what makes her tick
29 May 2013

What’s Baby Bazaar all about?

Baby Bazaar is set up like a flea market and is for mums to buy and sell quality, pre-loved baby, toddler and maternity clothes and items. It is held in Times Square Center Mall on Sheikh Zayed road and is an extremely organised event! Everything that is sold is in good quality but is essentially second-hand. It is a really social event and there is always a good vibe at every market. Mums saving money as they buy and mums making money - there’s a lot to be excited about! 

How did you get the idea?

As soon as I had my son I realised just how quickly babies grow out of their clothes (and toys!). In just one year I had piles and piles clothes (and a lot of the clothes were hand-me-downs from my sister’s baby) Riley was growing out of his baby-grows every two weeks and I was spending more money on my six-month-old’s wardrobe than I was on my own! I joke that I set up Baby Bazaar for me but there is some truth in it! I was doing the majority of my bargain hunting in the UK (where flea markets are a dime a dozen) so I just decided that it was time Dubai profited from the flea market concept. There is such a need for it in this region with so many families coming and going. The last thing they want to be doing is paying to ship home a load of baby and toddler items they don't need any more.

How did you finance it?

Baby Bazaar has pretty much grown organically apart from the first three months which required a small investment from my side. I used my savings for the initial set-up costs and subsequently used the profits I made from the table sales to finance my marketing costs etc. 

What sort of background are you from?

I grew up in Twickenham, London. I went to the University of Birmingham where I studied French for four years (and lived in Aix-en-Provence for one year of it which I loved). I moved to Dubai in 2004 and have had a plethora of careers ranging from marketing to oil brooking to life and business coaching and now I work in logistics and flea markets! I started my own business and have been running Easytruck moving and storage with my husband Chris for the past four years. I started Baby Bazaar in October 2012. I absolutely love both for different reasons but mostly because I secretly love working with people.

Has the nasty economic downturn affected your business?

I think the economic downturn has completely changed people's attitude towards money and spending in Dubai. Before the economic downturn, Dubai was quite a 'splash your cash' world (and still is to some extent) where you wouldn't really even consider using an entertainer voucher, unlike now where we only eat in restaurants where we can use one of our vouchers! People are happier to look at different ways to save money and make money and there isn't such a stigma attached to doing things like participating in flea markets unlike before the GFC. Baby Bazaar is perfect as mums are not only saving money and buying good quality second-hand items for their kids but they are also making money. Some sellers make up to Dhs5,000 just selling clothes and toys their kids don't play with anymore - and making some much needed space in their house.

What about your personal purse-strings?

I have learned how to be a good saver over time. I definitely still make silly splurges (and always seem to do this the day after pay day!) but generally I am quite conservative with my spending. I started working for myself in 2007 so had to learn pretty quickly how to lively frugally and spend wisely. When we started Easytruck four years ago we literally poured our life savings into the business which meant we had a few more years of conservative living! When my son came along 15 months ago we realised the importance of starting up a savings scheme for his education because it certainly isn't cheap. Budgeting and forecasting is key in my financial philosophy.

What’s been your biggest financial challenge?

Starting up Easytruck, hands down! We had so many big start-up costs to start this business (from buying trucks to hiring removal men and sales staff - I was on the phones for the first two years!). We didn't actually realise how much investment it would require to make it the business it is today and we've had many sleepless nights but it was worth it all! Easytruck is four years old now and is what I would consider a successful business - and will hopefully continue that way.

And achievement?

I think I would have to say Easytruck again. We have lots of big and exciting plans (which includes expanding regionally) so I sincerely believe it is my biggest financial achievement in the making.

What’s your spending philosophy?

Save first and spend what you have left. Never use credit cards to pay for something you can't pay off at the end of the month. I only owned my first credit card three years ago and getting one has been the best and worst decision of my financial life.

Debt is a loaded word. What’s your opinion on it?

I think there is good debt and dangerous debt. Good debt is when you buy something your ordinary salary could not cover on its own and is considered an investment that will grow in value or generate long-term income (like a house or setting up a business). Bad debt is something you can't afford and pay for on your credit card which then acquires a high interest rate. I think bad debt is especially bad news out here - banks certainly became a lot stricter after the financial crisis - and for good reason!

Hit us with your three top financial tips for consumers today...

Don't spend more than you earn. Simple!

Budget: Know where your money goes and track your monthly outgoings

Pay your credit card off every month to avoid credit card fees!

How are you ‘making it happen’?

For me, it's just about being mindful and not living in denial of how much money is left in my bank account towards the end of the month. It's very easy to make a purchase I can't afford and think 'I'll find a way to pay for that later'. But the reality is always the same - if I don't have it, don't spend it!

 

Comments

  • nima
    nima
    2013-06-03T08:57:09

    What a great idea! I'll definitely be visitng the bazaar. I'd love to know what Natalie's goal is. What's she aiming for? + how does she juggle the work-life balance? Great that she has one business that is child-friendly :)

  • natalieroo
    natalieroo
    2013-06-04T12:19:49

    Hi Nima! Thanks for your comments, I hope to meet you at Baby Bazaar soon! Our next market day is on the 29th June in case you're still in Dubai :) https://www.facebook.com/events/337047303090736/

     

    Baby Bazaar took off a LOT quicker than I had anticipated which shows how much of need there is for pre-loved baby/toddler/maternity clothes and items out here (people come from Abu Dhabi, Sharjah etc!). One of my goals is to give mums another option to the usually over-priced baby gear out there. At the same time, I like to think that Baby Bazaar contributes to reducing waste and recycling in the UAE by re-homing toys, books and clothes that are in perfectly good condition. It also allows mums to make more space in their homes and lives!

    Juggling the work-life balance has been an extremely difficult task that I don't think I will ever be satisfied with! At the moment, I feel iike I have found a balance but as my son grows up and goes to school (he is currently in nursery 5 days a week from 8am-1pm) the dynamic will no doubt change again. I think it's just about being aware of what's important to you and not trying to 'do it all'.   Spending time with my son will always be my number 1 priority but sometimes it's just not possible to spend ALL of my time with him (I need to work to pay for his education and food!). If I have a busy week and he needs to stay late at nursery for example, I will make it up to him (and myself) but doing something extra special with him on the weekend (which usually involves spending quality playing time).

     

    I hope that answers your question! 

    Thanks :)

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