Shaista Aggarwal founded Made By Confetti – a United Arab Emirates brand that makes bespoke cakes, baked goods and party decorations – in 2019, after working in advertising.
Born in New Delhi, she studied in the United States and Singapore before joining Ogilvy and Mather in Mumbai, then moving to Dubai with her husband 10 years ago.
Ms. Aggarwal, 35, draws inspiration from her family for entrepreneurship. She and her husband, a landscaping contractor, live in Barsha South with their children, ages 6 and 8.
Did you grow up around money?
In India, many men inherit their family businesses. My dad wasn’t one of them, but he worked hard at his construction company. He struggled, but never made us feel like we weren’t going to have our next meal.
We were a small family and had everything we needed. We have been told that happiness is in your needs, not in luxury. So not everything was “available” even though it was. Mom’s thing has always been simple: “Let’s see if it’s a requirement or a luxury.
What did you learn from this?
The priorities in life. My father told me to be careful with money. We had to figure out how to creatively get the money on our own, because nothing is given to us. I listened to daddy on the phone doing business, how he jostled each other every day trying to support two children.
How much did you earn in your first job?
When I was 19, I went to the United States to do art college for my first year. I took a part-time job. He only paid $ 6 an hour, but it was just for the experience, assisting a school teacher.
I’ve always wanted to go to work, do what other people do, be able to earn my own money and be independent. Coming from a very traditional family, that was a huge thing.
Why did you switch from advertising to starting a business?
I wanted something of my own. We had kids so I didn’t have time to work for anyone, even in the family business.
I’m used to doing creative stuff and there was no outlet for me. I don’t want to do anything nine to five, so I started creating stuff and getting requests in no time.
Here there is a lack of locally high quality bespoke products. Much of my target audience is bakers and moms.
What are your spending prospects?
There are unnecessary expenses and there are expenses where you reinvest in your business. I am a very careful spender; I really have to think about it – do we really need it or can something be done frugally?
If anything is required and is of quality, I will make that purchase. My work equipment is my best investment. These things are not cheap, they are very technical machines.
Can you save?
I am responsible for the personnel. I have to make sure that I have enough to be able to pay them and for the expenses of the family. All we can, we save in savings accounts.
I will always save for a rainy day. It’s more firmly in place after the pandemic. If a family member is sick, how will I support them?
What is your financial stage?
One of the most important is being able to double my work setup with a 1,500 square foot office. It is a huge financial step.
We are planning to do a lot of online retail products. There are a few products that I want to make on the market that help artisans.
What is your most expensive purchase?
My first basic card material pack. It wasn’t over Dh50, but I was like, “What can I do with it?” The idea was to see if this was all going to be sustainable before going to commit all that money.
It was the start of everything; I’ve done so many creative things out of it and here is where I am today. I didn’t know where it would take me. I created some cool stuff and went online. Instagram is a big part of how and what I achieved.
Did it bring a work-life balance?
Absoutely. Being your own boss also means you have the creative freedom to do whatever you want. You can set your own rules, your own limits and have your own schedules.
What is your philosophy on money?
It is not something that would equate to happiness; for me it’s the quality of the relationships in my life and the way other things work. None of this matters whether you have the money or not. Money is just something I use to pay bills. Everything needs money.
Is there something free that you enjoy?
Listening to what your elders tell you… I have learned a lot from the experienced people around me. They have something to share because of their struggles. I told myself early to listen if, out of 10 people, eight or nine point you to something. There is no cost in taking advice. Whether you take a risk after that is up to you.
Do you share tax wisdom with your children?
Absoutely. It is so important to them. They multiply and add stuff for me. They see that I have to earn money every day, it doesn’t grow on trees. That’s how you can buy this or do that. They also help me buy from overseas suppliers.
Are there any regrets about spending in your life?
Everything is learning. It makes everything grow, so there is no regrets, because everything has been an educational experience.
There should be a reason for everything I buy. But if I made a purchase and it was just hanging around, it teaches me not to waste money on it, even if it was just a bunch of markers.
What are you most happy to pay for?
My husband and I get up at four and work out [with a personal trainer] in the morning. It is a luxury that is a necessity because we have all designed our lives to be so lazy. We are only getting older, we have children and responsibilities.
Ultimately, if we can’t take care of ourselves, nothing we try to achieve in life is going to get us anywhere. If you are not going to take time for your health, you are going to have to take time for your illnesses.
How has the pandemic affected you?
A lot of people have lost their jobs, they are not able to do anything for their children. People would approach me and say, “How can you add sparkle to a celebration? They were trying stuff for free.
I did a lot because I was going through a lot on my own. Being able to add a little to people’s lives has given me the greatest joy. I have connected with many clients on multiple levels. Many are now amazing friends and loyal customers.
My numbers have probably increased 10 times after the Covid-19 lockdown and we are looking at solid expansion plans. We’re an online business, so there’s a lot of digital penetration in terms of social media.
Update: November 25, 2021, 7:00 a.m.