-The Esquire 100 - Donna Benton
Donna Benton’s business idea has revolutionised not just one industry, but several.
She started her two-for-one deal business in Dubai but has since taken it globally with offices in 15 countries around the world. Today, The Entertainer offers far more than just restaurant deals, but spans industries like hospitality, travel, retail and more.
Earlier this year, it was announced that The Entertainer had sold an 85 percent stake in the business, for a reported nine-figure dollar sum. While Benton admits that it was “a proud moment”, she is the first to admit that while she originally started the company, it was overwhelmingly a team effort. We sat down with the 2017 Esquire award-winner for some advice on starting a business from scratch right here in the UAE:
The Entertainer has done rather well for itself. How did the business start?
I came to Dubai when I was 26, in the year 2000. I came out here for the same reasons most people do — to make some money, save it up and then move back home. I never planned to stay here longer than a few years. So the job I was out here for didn’t work out, and I was just driving along Sheikh Zayed Road one day, and I saw that there were hundreds of restaurants and attractions, but no incentives to get people through the doors. I thought there was lots of scope for a concept that offered value to both people and participating businesses, and so The Entertainer was born from that.
Did you ever fear that the company wouldn’t work? That you’d end up with nothing?
Starting a company is a big risk, but I’m quite a risk taker. I always wanted my own business, and I was so passionate about the idea, so convinced that it would work, that I just went out there and made it a success. I had only been in Dubai for three months, but I was out and about constantly; in taxis to pitch meetings, trying to talk my way around secretaries to get an audience with the right people, and stuff like that. I just kept going, kept trying and wouldn’t take no for an answer.
The thought of it falling through did cross my mind, but then I realised that worst-case scenario, I could just get a job again. But if I hadn’t tried in the first place, I never would know if the idea would have worked.
What’s one of the biggest lessons you’ve learned while growing The Entertainer?
When growing a business, it’s all about doing it with integrity and honesty and putting those values at the very core of your company culture. It’s about realising that if a business does well, it’s because of everyone — the entire team — not just a few individuals.