EXPATMONEY has been around for some time helping a lot of expats in the UAE and overseas adjust to their new life abroad by providing information regarding diverse concerns including finance, business, banking, inheritance, real estate, education, human resources and more. But not a lot of people know about the husband and wife tandem that is the driving force behind EXPATMONEY – that is, Derry and Karen Thornalley.
So how, exactly, was Expat Money conceived?
“Derry used to be an advisor, and upon becoming an expat, he realized that there was not one website where expats could go to find out about anything to do when it comes to finance. People only move abroad for one thing, and that is to better their lifestyle. And when they arrive at their new destination, they need to be able to find companies that can help them find their way around, and that is where EXPATMONEY can give information (only), but no advice, just facts. It’s a portal for anyone moving from country to country, and who needs help finding information as an expat,” says Karen matter-of-factly.
Starting a company from scratch was no easy task. Karen recalls, “It has been a challenge getting companies involved. However, because the idea is unique and they can now see the benefits of getting involved with EXPATMONEY, that is, people no longer need to search for companies offering specific services at random since we have already done this since expats can already read about each company we work with and decide right there and then which they are interested in contacting.”
But Karen would not have imagined being the better half of the EXPATMONEY leadership 20 years ago, at least, not in the whole new arena she is in. In fact, her field of practice was in hairdressing.
Asked to describe her career journey, Karen recounts, “I was a hairdresser in the UK for 34 years, having eventually started my own hairdressing business at one point. I started as an apprentice. After three years, I was offered a manager’s position within the company I was working for. The salon was then taken over and, after two years, the lady owner asked me if I would like a share in the company. After many long days looking after my clients, I realized I was ready to work on my own. At the age of 32, I started my own business in the next town from where I was. I grew my team from 5 to 22 in my first salon. I built up a training company within it to enable us to professionally train our own newcomers and from other salons nearby. After 7 years, I built two more salons. And then after 18 years, I felt that I had already accomplished my goal, so I sold off two of my salons leaving me with my original salon. Then, when I had already been in the UAE for over a year and I knew for certain that salon life was no longer for me, I decided to move here for good where I still have the ability to be my own boss, with skills to help me move forward. I was ready for a complete change so I left my salon with my manager to run and came out to help my husband put EXPATMONEY and the e-magazine together for expats.”
Women have to achieve self-sufficiency all over the world, and it is easier in some places than others. It wasn’t until I started living here and realized how much my husband had to be a part of what I was doing – which was difficult for me as I have always been an independent person. I also realized that women here are more fortunate, that there are no barriers to stop women moving forward in the UAE, and it is only their own self-judgment that may slow them down.
As a woman, Karen’s observation about women’s plight is quite realistic, “Women have to achieve self-sufficiency all over the world, and it is easier in some places than others. It wasn’t until I started living here and realized how much my husband had to be a part of what I was doing – which was difficult for me as I have always been an independent person. I also realized that women here are more fortunate, that there are no barriers to stop women moving forward in the UAE, and it is only their own self-judgment that may slow them down. There are a lot of powerful women in great jobs here, and I applaud them for their motivation, confidence, skills and determination. I think women in the UAE have come a long way, and will continue to move forward.”
Not content to have successfully conquered the UAE expat scene, Karen says they have plans of progressing quickly and penetrating other destinations. And her parting words of wisdom: “Learn from and listen to others so you don’t make the same mistakes. If and when you do make mistakes, pick yourself up, stand straight and start over.”
About the writer
Claire Dangalan is a Filipina freelance feature writer (a.k.a. Lovely Claire Cachuela) based in Dubai. She is a consummate lover of the arts, especially literature. She taught Cultural Anthropology, Sociology, Humanities and Literature back in the Philippines. Her interests, aside from writing, include the environment, health and fitness, culinary arts, social issues, studies on world view, and “unprofessional photography.”
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