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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Dubai founder of The Entertainer brand sells majority stake 

Businesswoman Donna Benton is selling the lifestyle discount service to Bahrain's GHF Financial

Donna Benton, launched The Entertainer 17 years ago, shortly after moving to the UAE.
Donna Benton, launched The Entertainer 17 years ago, shortly after moving to the UAE.

How do you sell a product that appears too good to be true?

That was one of the challenges facing Dubai businesswoman Donna Benton, who has just sold an 85 per cent stake in The Entertainer for a reported nine-figure sum.

Offering discounts on spa days, brunches, hotel stays and golf, to name but a few, the discount service makes life in Dubai that little more affordable.

Do not be afraid to follow your dreams is her biggest tip to other single mums who may have ambitions of following in her footsteps towards a life of financial security and multimillionaire status.

The Australian entrepreneur built the product from nothing shortly after arriving in the country 17 years ago.

Ms Benton signed the deal with Bahrain's GFH Financial Group at home with her two young children, and said the opportunity was too good to resist.

“It has been a roller coaster with many different emotions and I had butterflies in my stomach when it came to signing the deal,” she said.

“As a mum, I was doing it for my kids and didn’t want to be greedy. I still own 15 per cent and feel very much a part of The Entertainer. It just felt like time to cash out a little bit considering where I am in life.”

Ms Benton has invested wisely as The Entertainer has continued to grow, expanding to 20 destinations in 15 countries and is now available on a mobile app.

She also owns a ladies’ salon in Umm Suqeim, has a substantial share in Dawson Sports, a clubs and education kit and equipment provider, and a stake in several Dubai restaurants.

The Entertainer will focus on a digital product in future, and will be taken into new countries to expand the brand. It offers deals with more than 10,000 merchants across the Middle East, Europe, Asia and Africa.

“This has been a story made in Dubai and I’ve had a lot of nice comments from people who have seen The Entertainer grow. It’s a nice feeling,” Ms Benton said. “The whole deal took around six months.

“There has always been interest, but it was a difficult decision to make and felt like it was the right time, both professionally and personally.

“Financially this makes a huge difference to me and my family, giving us security and options.

“I know I have to be smart with my investments and have always been that way with property and other businesses, but The Entertainer has been my commercial baby and I’m very attached to it. It was a hard decision but the right decision."

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In its early print format, one lesson learnt was not to shrink wrap books - as people were helping themselves to vouchers by tearing them away.

“When no one knew what The Entertainer was, many thought it was too good to be true,” she said.

“You learn by your mistakes and going digital was a big step, as was opening overseas and the tax implications.

“Being a woman had no effect on my success. There are a lot of opportunities for women here.

“Mums going back to work or starting a business should not feel guilty. They are role models for their children, leading by example and doing it for them.”

The app operates in a variety of languages based on location including English (global), Arabic (GCC), Greek (Athens and Cyprus) and Cantonese (Hong Kong).

Last year’s turnover exceeded Dh130 million.

“We aim to take the platform to the next level and create phenomenal returns for our investors given the recent technology multiples in the region and worldwide,” said Hisham Alrayes, chief executive of GFH.

“We shall achieve this by working with Donna and the senior management team to enter new markets, support for further growth, and diversification of the business and customer base.”