‘Money is not a driving force in my life’

After giving birth to triplets, Suman Manning founded TwinsPlus Arabia, the first regional community organization supporting parents facing or having recently experienced a multiple pregnancy.

Established in 2011 and now featuring an e-commerce platform, membership has grown to over 2,200 families.

TwinsPlus Arabia covers everything from fertility and postnatal support to in-person events and products that help make life easier for large families, while enabling them to connect and access expert help and community advice .

Ms Manning, now 47, has been in Dubai for 26 years and lives in Silicon Oasis with her husband Shane, an activities and events services entrepreneur, and their two daughters and son, all aged 12 years.

Did we talk about money during your childhood?

My parents kind of kept us away and sometimes I feel like maybe that wasn’t the best plan. We haven’t really discussed savings. My mother was very practical, always had stocks, stocks and bonds.

My father worked in the travel industry in Saudi Arabia and my mother raised my sister and me in Bangalore, India. We had a good schooling and lots of international vacations because both parents worked for airlines; mom for Air India.

We had a pretty global perspective, but we were a middle-class family, we lived in a rented house. We built a house and rented it out, but we were very much in our childhood. We knew life was not fancy.

Can you recall your first salary?

I studied Fashion Design at National Institute of Fashion Technology, graduated and worked for two years in Delhi. I moved to live with my parents, then to Abu Dhabi.

My first salary was 5,000 Dh ($1,361). I then worked for Disney Jawa Enterprises in Dubai, helping with product placement with my fashion background. This led me to my next position at IIR Exhibitions (now Informa), where I worked for 12 years.

What led you to launch TwinsPlus Arabia?

In 2009, my husband and I were trying to start a family. I had a career in events and exhibitions and it came to an abrupt end because I was pregnant with triplets and took time off.

I started TwinsPlus Arabia as a support group primarily to help expats like me who suddenly had their lives changed drastically. Being a caregiver becomes your main goal, you have a huge sense of loss of identity.

We were able to use it to build community, to let people know that there were other families with multiples that they could connect with.

How is it funded?

With the pressure of having three children who have just started school, I had to make the choice to return to the corporate world, just for a salary.

A few years later, my call to do support work came back, so we set up TwinsPlus Arabia as a licensed company registered in 2018.

We never wanted to monetize… support was the backbone of everything we did. In 2020, we launched the website as an e-commerce site, just before Covid-19, due to our collaborations with more brands.

It was a natural progression for the group to become an e-commerce platform for more specialized products for twins and triplets… to be more sustainable, self-sufficient.

What are your spending and saving prospects?

We are savers in that we have savings plans for our children to ensure education is covered.

We are considering buying a house. It took us a long time to regain savings and cash after years of spending money on children

Suman Manning, founder of TwinsPlus Arabia

My father does financial planning in India, so we have advice from there. My husband also owns a business, so we don’t have anyone else paying for school, insurance, and flights.

I have basic savings. The investment side is done by Shane, but I’m watching the cryptocurrency trend. We have stocks and have invested in gold.

What are your investment stages?

Take that leap and hire staff and an office. Another is to get help with marketing and public relations; it’s really important to let people know that we exist.

To grow our big ticket business, we needed a physical space, so we are opening at Times Square Mall, a pop-up for the first two months. To be able to sell strollers… people like to test them.

Flagship purchases on the horizon?

We are considering buying a house. It took us a long time to regain savings and cash flow after years of spending money on children.

Our next big purchase will be our own home after living here for so long. Being self-employed…the banks don’t recognize either of us in terms of a mortgage.

What do you think of the money?

Money has never been a driving force. Money comes in, money goes. I’m not a big planner or saver, but I had to learn and respect money a lot more.

Since I arrived here, when I was 22, I have always been financially independent. You lose your financial independence when you take on the role of mom and stop working. It also pushed me to be an entrepreneur, to have my own money and my financial security.

Have you become wiser financially?

I know things can change very quickly here, so having some savings is important. This is something that has changed since I became a parent.

You cannot live in Dubai or maintain a lifestyle here unless you are employed or have savings. I’m not emotionally attached to money, but I make sure we have our ducks in line.

Being aware of families who have had things taken away, changes in circumstances that have put them in financial difficulty…knowing that this could happen has made me more money conscious.

As a business owner and mother, there are so many more responsibilities. I took money more seriously.

What are you most happy to spend on?

We spend more on travel; because the children are older, they like it. We spend on experiences or hotel stays…doing stuff, eating stuff.

I’m not a big spender on clothes, I don’t need to have a Louis Vuitton bag.

Are you teaching financial literacy to your triplets?

Absolutely. We were talking about giving kids their own savings account so they are responsible for their own money and understand it. It’s good for them to be able to find their way around, to save money, to see how it develops.

It’s so different from how we grew up and what we had access to and aspired to. It’s good for them to know that they can save and buy something, to understand that they have to wait for something, rather than just buying it for themselves.

One of the school’s extracurricular activities is an investor club. They are already starting to think about stocks, invest in certain brands and observe the market. If they succeed, we can all retire.

Do you have any future financial goals?

As business owners, it’s not that easy for us to get up and go, so we need to make sure our businesses are financially attractive for someone to buy or invest in.

For me, the goal would be to go pan-GCC and grow; for it to be really lucrative for someone to want to take over, or financially sound and run on its own and grow.

I’m far too young to retire… I’ll continue as long as I can.

Updated: September 23, 2022, 6:02 p.m.

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