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Unveiling the success story of The Entertainer

In a world where people spend a major portion of their earnings on dining, shopping and other leisure activities, an app like the Entertainer would have made it big. But surprisingly, it wasn’t that easy. Donna Benton, Founder of the Entertainer discusses her journey to success over a conversation with SmartSMB.


When words like shopping, dining and holiday are spoken, Dubai is the first city that comes to the minds of many. For those living here would agree that the city has the best of everything for everyone, however considering a majority of the population are expatriates, savings are by default an essential part of their lives. The Entertainer thus came as a breath of fresh air as it provided for discounts, offers and exciting packages for those who wished to do any of the above. This not only gave customers a variety of affordable options to choose from, it also provided a platform to service providers to attract more customers. But that’s not how Donna initially thought it would work. The founder of the app, Donna Benton, talks about her humble beginnings and what the future holds for the Entertainer.


The start


Donna Benton, an Australian with strong work ethics had worked as a teacher and a policewoman back home before landing in Dubai in 2001 to take up a marketing job. Her sole aim then was to save some money and return to Australia. But fate had willed otherwise. She says, “The job didn’t work out (a blessing in disguise), and instead I came up with the idea of the Entertainer.” It was to be a service that would satisfy the needs of the sellers for more customers and the buyers’ need to get services and products at reduced costs. After all, she had always nurtured a dream of starting her own company.


The gap


Dubai was seeing a plethora of restaurants and other enterprises opening up but most of them were not able to attract customers in any sizable numbers. Donna came to realize that there was a mismatch between the needs of these enterprises and the customers.


She hit upon the idea of acting as a bridge between the businesses and their potential customers that would benefit both parties. Her services started providing exclusive deals and offers for its members. This meant that the various businesses on her list had a chance to increase their customer base by attracting new customers and at the same time the customers had a lot more variety to choose from.


The concept

Human nature was the principle on which Donna built and expanded her business. Everybody loves to maximize their profit whether they be businesses or their customers. Expanding on this principle Donna says, “It’s human nature to look for value for money – don’t you love the idea of getting a good deal?” So she came up with the idea of giving the buyers an option of buy one get one free that would be available at any time, any day and with as few restrictions as possible. This helped the customers to save a lot of money. On the other hand, the business who signed up with the Entertainer benefited not only from increased footfalls but also from more rapid turnover of their goods and or services.


The challenges


Donna had to decide on the type of company she was going to start. And it surely was a major decision that had the capacity to influence her future. She overcame this uncertainty by hitting on the concept of buy one get one free and started the Entertainer as a print publication.


But it came with its own set of problems. To start with this severely limited her ability to expand her business. Any new merchant who wanted to be on her list had to wait for a long time to get its benefits even after signing the deal as she could add new merchants to her list only once a year. This deferred benefit meant that merchants were hesitant to join as members. It also meant that she had to do extensive legwork to not only reach potential customers but also to advertise her product as dissemination of information was not as fast in the pre-digital age as today. A printed publication by its very nature has a restricted reach and this severely hampered her business expansion.



The expansion


All this did change with the explosion of the internet and her decision to go digital and changing into a 100 percent data driven app company in 2013. This gave her  the capacity to on-board businesses within a span of some days only instead of yearly additions in the printed publication.  Donna says, “Now we listen to the wants and needs of our customers in real time, and make continual improvements to the app’s UX and functionality.”

The success of her venture in the UAE gave Donna the belief that the business could succeed in other countries too. So she embarked on an expansion plan that started with entry into Cyprus followed by Qatar, Oman and Bahrain. The next step was to expand across the GCC. At present the company does business in 20 destinations in 15 countries in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe partnering over 10,000 merchants including some of world’s leading brands with 41 products on its app.



The innovations


Technological advancement and the digital revolution came as a boon for the company.  The use of digital solutions to help customers redeem their offers quickly, helped the company successfully launch new products as it minimized the time required to do so. It successfully rode the smartphone app revolution to satisfy customers’ need for a modern, sophisticated and convenient product. The company gives unlimited monthly offers at select outlets to its members and uses regular e-mail updates to communicate the latest offerings to its members.


Transfer of ownership


For a long time, Donna was not interested in handing over the ownership of her company to anybody else despite many parties keen on running the Entertainer. Her reluctance stemmed from a desire to find the right fit in terms of vision, culture and chemistry. Such an opportunity arose in 2018 when Bahrain’s GFH evinced interest in taking a majority stake in her company and subsequently took 85 per cent stake in the company. Talking about the acquisition, Donna  is firm in her view that the Entertainer is her commercial baby. “ I’m still a big part of the family and it will always be close to my heart,” she avers


The verdict


Moving forward the company will have to be at the forefront of technological changes and adapt quickly to the fast changing scenario in order to fulfill the customer requirements. This will help it continue its forward march of geographical and numerical expansion creating greater value for all the stakeholders. The ability of the company to successfully combine cutting–edge technology with the universal human emotions of being happy when one gets something for a discount and happier if it is free, has the capacity to take it on the road to even greater success in the foreseeable future.