■ Tamara Lohan, 45, and her husband James founded the high end travel company Mr & Mrs Smith 15 years ago
What was your first job?
Pulling pints and serving food in my mum’s pub. I was earning £5 an hour. I saved the money to buy a car.
What’s been your best investment?
The business — Mr & Mrs Smith. I’ve also invested in a business marketing company called Inkpact. It brings the human element to marketing. Our membership welcome packs include a handwritten note provided by Inkpact. The owner has a huge network of people who write for her. Their handwriting is graded from geeky writing to calligraphy and companies use her to give a human touch to their communication.
What would be your money-no-object purchase?
A four-seater plane so I can pop over to France for lunch. I trained with the Oxford University Air Squadron and I got 140 hours of flying under my belt. I miss not being able to jump in a plane and get above the clouds.
What luxury wouldn’t you give up?
Holidays. Being in the travel industry we go to look at hotels, which is partly work, but we have a nice time as well. In our own time we tend to do things that are different. We took the kids to Colorado last year. I’ve never seen them so engaged in outdoor activities. They didn’t ask for their screens once. My son went fly fishing and stood on the river for four hours. I’ve never seen him concentrate for so long.
When you look at hotels, what do you do?
We curate the hotels so that our customers trust us with our recommendations and then we book the holidays for our members. What sets us apart is we find amazing places, and save people time.
What’s been your biggest financial regret?
Not buying more property in London. I got on the property ladder in 1998.
I bought a studio flat in St John’s Hill. You only needed a 10 per cent deposit then and my mother matched my savings for the deposit pound for pound. It would be worth a fortune now. I should have kept the early flats to rent out but we wanted to get bigger places, or move. At one point we moved to be closer to Heathrow because we were on a plane every three days.
Any struggles when you started the business?
It was harder than I thought, but that naivety is what sets entrepreneurs on their path. We remortgaged our house, we raised money from every line of credit possible, we got money from friends and family. It wasn’t easy.
Has it got easier now?
We’re 15 years into the business, so I’m going into our current round of investment knowing it isn’t going to be easy. We have to get our financials in order and be able to answer questions and create presentations about how the company works. We want to get more investment so we can expand growth in the US. We want to curate more hotels worldwide. We recently bought an experience company and want to expand the highly curated and personalised city tours we offer.
What was your last impulse purchase?
A vintage chest from the Old Cinema in Chiswick, an antiques market. It’s a real treasure trove of things. The chest looks great in the kitchen.
Cash or card?
Card and Android. What did we do before contactless? I use the Revolut app, which gives you visibility of what you’re spending each day and then it rounds up small purchases and puts the extra amount into a savings vault for something you’re saving for. It gives you a breakdown so you can see how much you’re spending on coffee or books, for example, each week. It’s easier to spend money but it gives you better visibility of your finances than the old fashioned monthly bank statement.