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'Rapid growth meant we had to learn fast'

By Staff Reporter

Published 04/08/2015

Oscar Woolley, head of Suki Tea, shops at a range of places
Oscar Woolley, head of Suki Tea, shops at a range of places

Every week we quiz a businessperson about their own personal finances. This week, it's the turn of Oscar Woolley, who is the Nottingham-born managing director of tea blender Suki Tea in Belfast.

Q: Are you a plastic or a cash person?

A: A bit of both. 

Q: How much money do you usually carry around with you?

A: About £20 in cash. 

Q: Do you see personal debt (ie, credit card, personal loans) as inevitable, or best avoided?

A: Best avoided, I don't have a personal credit card and haven't for years. 

Q: Apart from a house or car what's the most expensive thing you've ever bought?

A: A painting by Robert White - an artist and friend of mine. I think it was just over £200. It was a piece of work that he did based on a trip to Saigon when we were both at Nottingham Art College together.  

Q: Are you a saver or a spender?

A: I'm very savvy if I have a budget to work to but I find it difficult to set budgets myself. 

Q: What are your best - and worst - spending habits? 

A:I grew up going to antique fairs and jumble sales so know a bargain when I see one. My bad habit is buying contemporary fashion or design magazines and photography apps for my phone. 

Q:  Did you get pocket money as a child and if so, what was the first sum you received in pocket money?

A: I didn't get pocket money but was allowed 5p when we went to the jumble sales. It sometimes went on the tombola and I still have a leather suitcase I won when I was about seven.

Q: Did you have a part-time job as a youngster? What was it?

A: My mum and I went to a local flea market every Wednesday night and I'd have my own section of the stall where I sold Beano magazines and Star Wars figures I'd picked up on the cheap - that was  a regular thing from the age of five. My first official job was dishwashing at the age of 14 in the local restaurant where I got £1.25 an hour.

Q: If you had a huge fortune, would you leave it do your children?

A: It depends on what you consider to be huge but why not, I wouldn't be taking it with me.

Q: Where do you do your food shopping?

A: Everywhere and anywhere.  St George's Market,  local chain supermarkets, small delis and budget supermarkets like Lidl. I try and support local and independent when I can. 

Q: Did the recession teach you anything about personal finances that you're bringing with you into the recovery?

A: Running a business gives you a great insight into finance management and the fast growth of the business meant that we had to learn fast. We took financial sacrifices to support the business in the earlier years - so recession or not it was difficult enough.

Suki Tea was set up in 2005 by Oscar and Anne Irwin. The business started out with a stall in St George's Market and has grown into a major supplier, with customers including Marks & Spencer

Belfast Telegraph

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