Off hours: British Boarding Schools Show Dubai founder finds education enterprising

David Wellesley Wesley is the founding director of the British Boarding Schools Show Dubai, which will host its annual event on March 18 and 19 this month.

The 34-year-old founded the company behind the show, which also takes place in London, Singapore and Istanbul, in 2006. The entrepreneur is also the co-founder of Bonas MacFarlane Education, a Dubai-based educational consultancy. The Briton, who himself attended a private school in the United Kingdom and has two sons, aged four and one, has been splitting his working time between London and Dubai for the past four years.

How do you spend your weekend?

I am based in London, but have been travelling to and from Dubai for our annual British Boarding Schools Show here. When back home, I enjoy walking with my two young boys and our family dog Lola in Battersea Park. We also love visiting the Maldon Oyster trailer at the Kings Road farmers market. When in Dubai, I take full advantage of the weather. I stay on the Palm Jumeirah in a beautiful shoreline apartment, so my family and I tend to spend as much time on the beach under the palm trees as possible.

How did you become a the founding director of your company?​​

I can remember the exact moment the idea for the business came to mind. Initially based at our kitchen table in our flat in Battersea about 12 years ago, I have been humbled by its success. Having gone to boarding school myself, it definitely was a passion project close to my heart. I think this was a significant factor as to why the show has done so well – passion is a huge component in the key to success, along with hard work and determination.

What is your go-to gadget?

Our family home has been in the mid-decoration process for as long as I can remember, so as tragic as it sounds, my go-to gadget of the moment has to be my Laser Spirit Level. This makes hanging paintings and shelves a lot less tedious and impressively level and straight.

What was the lowest point of your career?

The first show in London was really tough. At this point, I was essentially a one-man team. I had done everything myself and press-ganged my whole family to attend all of our seminars and educational talks.

What advice would you offer others starting out in your business?

Starting your own venture, especially in education and events, is a very time-consuming task and takes a great deal out of you. My number one recommendation would be to do it in your 20s when you have a lot less to lose. Starting a business requires courage and considerable risk, which is a lot more difficult to justify when you have a wife, two young children, and a lot more responsibilities.

What is your most indulgent habit?

Watch collecting. Watches are used to mark the milestones in a man’s life, as gifts for everything from graduation to your wedding day, so it’s just an interest that has grown near and dear to my heart. Aside from that, watches have evolved into so much more, as functional, fashionable statement pieces that tend to be the only jewellery a man wears. They also act as investments in certain circumstances, increasing in value over the years, so hopefully one day my hobby will pay off.

What do you have on your desk at work?

Very little, I keep my workspace clear of clutter so I can really focus on what I am doing and not get distracted. My desk does, however, move up and down, so I can sit or stand for tough phone calls or if I am getting restless. Spending more of your day standing can reduce the risk of all kinds of health issues including diabetes and cardiovascular disease, so it definitely doesn’t hurt.

What can’t you live without?

There’s no material item I couldn’t live without. For me, my wife Rosie is the definition of what I couldn’t live without. We have been through some considerable challenges already and I know that, regardless of what is to come, we can get through it together.

How do you achieve a work-life balance?

My office is 10 minutes from home in London so I try my best to keep them physically separated. It is not always possible, but having two small boys who stop me from opening my laptop at home is a pretty sure-fire way to not work when you’re spending quality time with your family.

If you could swap jobs with anyone, who would it be and why?

I’d choose Sir David Attenborough, the world’s best broadcaster and one of the leading naturalists – he even has a number of newly discovered species and fossils being named in his honour. I have collected issues of National Geographic all my life and love flicking through old editions. If there is anyone who has had a unique and full insight into life on our planet, it has got to be him.

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