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Donna Benton on How to Build and Scale a Global Business

Donna is a serial entrepreneur whose first business – The Entertainer – disrupted the Middle East market by creating a new, two-for-one coupon culture.

Donna Benton started the Entertainer in Dubai in 2001 after identifying a market gap in both providing consumers with dining incentives and enabling restaurants to reach new customers. Starting with just $3,000 Donna built the business alone from the ground up, from set-up legalities to eventually selling half the company to Abraaj, a private equity firm. Today, the Entertainer offers 38 products across 15 countries, and has over 10,000 merchant partners globally.

We talked about the challenges starting up – and it wasn’t just the usual ones: for example, Donna had to educate consumers who thought her product was too good to be true, and there must be a catch! We discussed her international expansion, and how it started with a chance conversation. I asked Donna what traits she thought entrepreneurs must have to succeed and she listed loads of them: thick skin to accept rejection; passion to put in the long hours; drive to beat the loneliness; a zest for learning; and the ability to lead by example. In selling half her company, it was critical to find the right partner who shared her vision for the future, involving international growth and going digital. And finally, we talked about how important it is for women to have financial independence.

You can follow Donna Benton on Instagram @donna_benton, and the Entertainer app can be downloaded from app stores on Android and iOS for various countries around the world.

Read the Transcript

Note: While When Women Win is produced as an audio recording, we are delighted to produce transcripts for those who are unable to hear. Kindly note that these are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Media is encouraged to check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.

[00:00] Ladies and gents, I’m thrilled to have on today’s show, the founder and chairman of the Entertainer. Many in the Middle East will have heard of the Entertainer, the region’s first buy-one-get-one-free voucher booklet and now it’s an app. Well, Donna Benton started the Entertainer in Dubai in 2001 after identifying a market gap in both providing consumers with dining incentives and enabling restaurants to reach new customers. Starting with just $3,000, Donna built the business alone from the ground up. From setup legalities, to eventually selling half the company to Abraaj, a private equity firm. We talked about the challenges starting up and it wasn’t just the usual ones. For example, Donna had to educate consumers who thought her product was too good to be true and there must be a catch. We discuss her international expansion and how it started with a chance conversation. I asked Donna what traits she thought entrepreneurs must have to succeed and she listed loads of them. And finally we talked about how important it is for women to have financial independence. So let’s get into it. Donna, it is wonderful to see you again. Thanks so much for coming on When Women Win.


[01:14] No, thank you for inviting me. It’s great to be here.


[01:17] Cool. Well, let’s start at the beginning of your journey. So, what made you get into entrepreneurship and start your business at a time when it wasn’t really cool or hip yet?


[01:28] I think growing up I’ve always wanted to have my own business. I’ve worked ever since I was literally 13 years old. I knew I wanted to succeed. I have had many part time jobs going through school and obviously some full time jobs before I came to Dubai. Then I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to come to Dubai. I got offered a job here. Fortunately, it didn’t work out for me after around about three months and I was driving along Sheikh Zayed road one day and I thought there’s so many restaurants and attractions, but there’s no incentive to get anybody to them, so I thought wouldn’t it be great if I could create something that was uniformed, that would help the merchants get footfall along with the customers saving money at the same time, along with obviously the business making money as well. Really, that’s how the Entertainer was born.


[02:18] It was the two for one concept. The buy-one-get-one-free. It had to be valid seven days a week, had to be valid for lunch and dinner and the hardest part really starting was there was some fantastic restaurants and hotel groups, but at that time they only wanted to do lunch, not dinner, and I had to be really strong and saying, no, it has to be for both.


[02:39] Why was that so important to you?


[02:41] Because I didn’t want tacky voucher book at that stage, where some were lunch and dinner, some were percentages are, some are only lunch. It really had to be value. So if somebody was paying at that time maybe $80 for the book it, it has to be valid ffor lunch and dinner seven days a week, so it had to have the right clientele and everything going in there that could afford to at the time. So that was really important that the foundation of the company to build it was really important.


[03:04] So how did the restaurants, I mean, had the restaurants ever been approached like this before or was a completely new to them?


[03:11] Completely new. The only thing that was around really was a diner’s club, you know, with 10 percent off. So it was a whole new, a whole new idea for them. I mean, obviously everyone knows what a buy-one-get-one-free is. It’s not about the offer, it’s what you do with the offer. It’s how you market the offer. It’s about the conditions around the offer. You could also do a buy-one-get-one-free, but valid on Mondays and Tuesdays, et cetera but it was really important for me to have that seven days a week, valid for lunch and dinner, and it wasn’t only food and beverage, it was also attractions. There was a few hair salons at that stage. Cafes, nightspots. So it was, it was already we started as a lifestyle product and I knew from the day that I started it, I had the drive, I had the passion, I backed myself and it was always going to work.


[03:56] So you had that vision already, like this is going to fly. No doubt right from the start.


[04:00] Yeah. I don’t take no very well. Being an entrepreneur and having your own business, it’s hard. You know, once you are successful people think it’s just come, but it’s so much that goes into it in the beginning and for me there was never, it’s not going to work for me. I backed myself. The idea was great. People actually thought it was too good to be true. That was my one problem. Like customers thought it was too good to be true that oh, I can go to Wild Wadi and I can get a free entrance. What’s the catch? So I had to educate people that there was no catch and then the merchants, it was great for them because they had a paper trail at that stage, now we’re 100 percent digital, but they had a paper trail and it was a new thing for them and it was increasing footfall for them and revenue. So it was a win-win situation.


[04:49] So you talked about how difficult it was starting up, but let’s talk about the different phases of growth.


[04:55] Okay.


[04:55] So as you said, you know, it’s hard but you were always sure you were going to succeed. It was just a phase after phase after phase. So can you walk us through those phases?


[05:04] Yeah, I mean, I think having a business, you can’t have a really big massive goal at the end. You can have a goal, like an exit strategy or something along those lines, but you have to do baby steps a little bit. That was what I believe. So our launch to the Entertainer was September 11th, so that was another challenge that I had to face, but again, you’d have to keep going, you have to keep going and it’s hard because you’re buying yourself. So motivation is a huge thing for you as a business owner because you don’t have a team around you, there’s only you and you have to save as much money as you can because you’re a startup. You know, I came to the country with $3,000, that was it. I had to get an investor and I paid them back literally four years later. It was a small amount, but that’s what you have to start. You have to save every single cent, dirham, pounds, whatever that you can. So, yeah, the step by step really was, I was fortunate Dubai Media City was just getting built so I could actually get my trade license and work from home for a year. So that saves me money for rent for a year, which was great. But then it started out in Dubai, compiling. There was literally just me and then, you know, and it’s doing everything from going to the merchants to going to the printers to going to get the books stands to going to the distributors to doing the banking, accounting. So you really learn everything. So if there’s one thing I would say to everybody and the legalities, do as much as you can yourself because then you learn everything along the way. Nobody can ever take that off you. So the only thing I couldn’t do was the design, because I’m not a graphic designer, but everything else I did myself and even today I could still do it myself. So even the legalities, it’s really important to go and do those sorts of things as well. So then you understand it. So yeah, so it does go in stages. So then eventually, then we’ve got an office in Media City. I employed a couple of staff, then we went to Abu Dhabi. So we really grew the UAE first. The UAU was critical. We split products from there. I did a separate Abu Dhabi, a separate Dubai, then I separated the sort of family/casual product to the fine dining product, you know, a lot of restaurants. It was the boom time, you know, that was coming. All the restaurants are opening, we were providing and customer service is really big for me as well. You have to be on it, the merchants were the foundation of the company, so you really had to look after them and do what you could for them as well. From there, a lot of banks then started to approach me to do loyalty programs for them. So they wanted to use our offerings because we had exclusivity to the buy-one-get-one-free, so they wanted to use our offerings to give to their credit card customers or internally. So what compels special books for them and then one bank wanted to go to Qatar with it as well but the problem was we didn’t have a Qatar product. So I said, well, if you can guarantee me the business in Qatar, I’ll start one for you. So I literally got on an airplane with one of my staff and I was back and forth, back and forth, compiling Qatar, and that’s really how the GCC started. It was then Qatar then we went to Bahrain. Then Kuwait, Saudi. So that’s over a few years, that’s pretty much how we started in the stages of GCC, that was.


[08:16] Well, let’s talk about some of the challenges. You mentioned one which is when you start you’re alone and so it is a lonely journey for an entrepreneur and you need to be highly motivated.


[08:26] Highly motivated, I cannot emphasize that enough. You have to want to get out of bed every morning and love your job and have the passionate in that.


[08:33] What are the other challenges that you’ve faced personally?


[08:36] Challenges for the Entertainer and for me personally it was, I’m always quite motivated so that wasn’t, and I have drive, so that really wasn’t — it was sometimes, you’re alone is one of them. You don’t really bounce off anybody. It’s a bit scary. It’s a bit fearful, but I would say all the action outside the box, so you have to break through those barriers and it’s everyone. A lot of people are in their comfort zone, so you have to break through that and the worst thing that is that it can fail and if it fails then you can just go and get another job. But I always say, but at least you’ve tried.


[09:12] So that that was a little challenge.


[09:15] The challenge with the Entertainer more was people thinking the product was too good to be true the first year. I didn’t shrink wrap up the books, so when I put them all in the distributors, people were stealing the vouchers out of them. So I actually knew who the popular merchants were. I’ve never really been in distribution before, so I made these beautiful, beautiful, big wooden book stands, put the books on, but they’re way too heavy, way too big for for merchandising in the retail stores. So I learned very quickly about the distribution side of things. But look, there would be, everyone asked me of being a woman in business in Dubai, was it challenging? And I was saying no, it wasn’t at all. It was amazing, actually. Also they had women cues, so you’ve got through faster. They were very obliging to anything you needed. There’s a lot of opportunity for women here. So being a woman in business definitely, definitely was not a challenge. It was more just the startup, the mechanics, educating people, how it was, me learning along the way, making mistakes. You learn from the mistakes you don’t do them again and probably as an entrepreneur it’s learning about yourself along the way and learning about the business along the way as well.


[10:27] Well, I mean, as you said earlier, you need that drive and you need that passion or you need to get out of bed or don’t do it at all. Are there any other non-negotiables because you hear a lot of chatter, especially young people now coming out of university, everybody wants to do their own thing. Everyone wants to be an entrepreneur. I’m guessing it’s not suited to everybody.


[10:46] Not everybody is an entrepreneur. It’s everybody, I think everybody wants to achieve. I think that’s maybe the difference people think, but you can also be a corporate entrepreneur. I always say you can work within a company and be an entrepreneur within a company and then grow within the company as well and succeed and that’s stability and everything for you. Having a startup company, you don’t have stability. You don’t have that. It’s a risk because you invest, you’re investing your time, your money, your everything into it, so you’re taking 100 percent the risk to be able to do everything so you have to back yourself. So it’s long hours. It’s motivation, it’s promoting yourself, it’s creative ways of marketing because you don’t have budgets, so again, it’s the passion, it’s the work ethic. You’ve got to get out of bed and you have to be able to take failure as well. So if someone knocks you down, which generally they do a lot of, you have to be, have enough thick skin to be able to deal with that. Get back up and it was like get back on the horse, start riding it again and off you go. So you really have to be quite, quite strong minded to be able to do it as well because a lot of people get jealous, also.


[12:00] Oh, that’s interesting. Okay.


[12:01] Yeah. A lot of people do get jealous or when you succeed or along the journey or they’ll put you down and think you can’t do it because you know, you do get that as well. So you just have to really stay focused and think of the end result and it’s your baby. It’s your way. Listening is learning. So you also listen to people that have done it along the way. So I did that a lot and ask a lot of questions.


[12:23] Did you have a mentor?


[12:24] No.


[12:26] I know that you are a mentor for others, is that right?


[12:28] Yes, I am now, but I didn’t really have a mentor. I really respect the people that have started with nothing and who have achieved. So it’s more like the Richard Bransons or the Steve Jobs. So, you know, I’ll read a few of their books. No, I didn’t really have a mentor, I asked questions to people on the same level as me or in business or senior management, so I was never scared to ask any questions, but I didn’t really have a mentor at that stage. I was too busy to have a mentor.


[13:00] Now you weren’t an experienced people manager. It’s not like you came from a corporate job, sort of a long term corporate job and then start it. So you didn’t have much experience managing people, leading people, stuff like that. So how did you develop those skills?


[13:14] I, after school, I’ve always been a people’s person. So after school, well after year 12, I never actually went to university. I learned along the way.


[13:22] You did not.


[13:23] No, I didn’t. I actually worked at a sports center and we used to have around 300 people in a night. It was all team sports, netball, cricket, beach volleyball. I actually, the lady who owned it fell pregnant quite quickly when I first started, I was only 18, so she actually taught me along the way. So I was literally thrown in the deep end where I had to handle money, I had to handle people, I had to do speeches, so I’ve always been quite organized. So that actually gave me a great foundation whether it from confidence as well, so I was actually dealing with a lot of people every single night responsible for them.


[14:01] I had to manage staff there as well. They always say, an entrepreneur is not necessarily a good CEO. But I think I was fortunate to be I think both. I was a people’s person. I am about the company culture. I think I’m a fair but firm boss. I’m quite commercial as well and I was always entrepreneurial to try and think of new things. So it was a little bit rare which was, I was fortunate to have that.


[14:31] That’s great. So this sort of amazing happenstance at the age of 18 where you had to go in and kind of take over from someone and manage people, I guess older than you.


[14:40] Yes, yes.


[14:42] Men, probably.


[14:45] Men, women, families.


[14:45] People older, different genders. So any lessons learned there?


[14:49] No. Look, listen, it was just learning along the way really. I asked a lot of questions. I wasn’t scared of making any mistakes because if it didn’t make mistakes, you didn’t grow and I was only young still I was 18, 19.


[15:01] Thick skin.


[15:02] Thick skin, hard working, and yeah. You just, you really have to want to learn. I think that’s important. You have to want to learn and you have to work the hours. When I first started this job, it’s actually quite a funny story, it was a big, I don’t even know how many square footage, but call it 25,000 square feet. It was, it was a big sport center and when I went for the interview the lady said to me, I’m just popping out, can you just mop the floor? And I looked and I’m like, oh, this is quite big here, but I did it and she was actually testing my work ethic. So I wasn’t going for a cleaners job, but you have to also be prepared to multitask and to be a team at the same time. So I had to mop the whole floor and she came back and she actually said to me, I was just testing it work ethic.


[15:50] Oh, wow.


[15:50] Yeah. So I passed.


[15:52] I didn’t find a pass, that one. Well done. So you talk about what a people person you are and then we look at people you respect like Steve jobs or people like that, now they’re not known for being very nice.


[16:09] People person.


[16:09] People, people.


[16:10] Yes. That would be Richard Branson.


[16:13] That would, exactly. I mean what are you, what are your views on that? Is this whole being nice thing, a woman thing or a leadership thing or is just everyone’s different?


[16:23] I wouldn’t call it being nice. I would probably call it being fair. So you know, for me you have to lead by example. So I would never ask anyone to do anything that I wouldn’t do. I literally have an open door policy. Anybody can come into me at anytime, but it’s not all about giving the whole time you have to give back if you expect. There’s no expectation in a way. So, but I’m also, I’m also a little bit about the underdog. I’m also about if I see somebody and they come in for an interview and I believe, say it’s a sales job and they don’t have that much experience, but they are willing to work, have a great personality, they look presentable and I feel I can grow them, well I’ll give them an opportunity because I’ve seen myself in that probably many years ago. So I like to give people opportunity, but they have to prove themselves at the same time.


[17:14] Yep, that’s back to being fair.


[17:17] That’s back to being fair.


[17:17] We’re going to shift gears a little now back to the Entertainer and talk about going digital.


[17:21] Okay.


[17:22] Were you forced that way or were you excited to do it? Is it something that you took leadership in doing?


[17:27] I was very nervous, I have to say because it was very out of my comfort zone. So for many years we did the books and that was great. Then we did the Abraaj acquisition in 2012 where Abraaj acquired 50 percent of the company which was a fantastic milestone for me personally and the company and part of our vision together going forward was to turn the company digital and for a few years before that I had quite a few people coming to want to do smart cards and different digital things and pos systems, but we just weren’t ready. I felt that we just weren’t ready for that. So literally when we went digital, we were ready. I think it was probably my gut told me that. I didn’t do any theory or anything and I just really knew when the time was. We had a great team in place where you have a great digital guy who came at that time and the world is going digital, so you have to keep up with the times as well, but you have to know what you’re doing and digital is the dark art, I always call it. You can do so many different things and spend a lot of money on it and it won’t work so you really have to plan it. So with our app, a year and a half, basically doing wire frames and everything in the planning prior to launching. So look, it was scary because I didn’t know it as well, so I had to learn it along the way and I said to my team, you have to make the app for me because I’m not, I’m digital, but I’m like all the other mums and people out there, you have to make an app savvy, not just for the digital savvy people out there in the market. So answer to your question is super scary. Change is good, but you have to be comfortable with it.


[19:12] And what was the biggest challenge you’ve faced going digital? Like a problem that you hit.


[19:18] Oh, there was lots of problems. It was lots of others. It was, if we’re in a management meeting, people wanted to do it one way and someone had to do the other and then I wanted to do. So I was really emphasis on it had to be a team thing, not an I thing. It had to be a team thing. So there was a lot of talk and a lot of discussion about the wireframes, how it was getting done that we had to implement salesforce, our whole CRM system that nearly I think killed my staff for a year. So that was hard, but probably one of the hardest things in firstly going digital was obviously we had to create the app and do everything, but it was actually that we had to train all the merchants globally in one here for their pins to how to do it, we had to educate them that now there is print and digital. So it was a really big change for the merchants at the same time. So, that was probably my personal challenge if someone was saying that to me. It was probably educating the merchants.


[20:20] And you have a lot of merchants.


[20:21] We have over 10,000 merchants and, you know, we’re in 15 countries and all it took was someone to come and redeem an offer and they’ve forgotten their pen and they couldn’t get the buy-one-get-one-free. So we’re very, very big on training.


[20:33] So did you, did the Entertainer actually train every one of those 10,000 merchants?


[20:39] Yes. So internally we have 15 offices around the world, we’re in 15 countries. We physically went out to every single one of them and trained them.


[20:47] Wow.


[20:47] That’s where I’m big on customer service.


[20:48] Yeah and that’s amazing. So let’s go back to something you mentioned earlier, which was the sale to Abraaj, selling 50 percent. How did you decide when the time was right to sell?


[20:59] Again, I had a few people come to me prior to that wanting to invest.


[21:06] At this point you owned 100 percent of it?


[21:08] 100 percent I owned and what was really important to me was the vision of the partner, that you got along with the partner, and that was actually probably the most important. That you actually got along with them. You had to have the same chemistry, I suppose. So Abraaj came to us and we had meetings and it was great. You know, they had offices in the regions that we were in. They had the same vision as us. The, obviously, a commercial side comes into it as well and we’re both happy with that and we wanted to expand the company on acquisition and they’re one of the biggest private equity companies in the MENA region and they’re global so it was a really good platform for us at the same time and it was great for them as well because we’re a profitable company and they get to reap the rewards there. So that was a win-win and we’ve been with them now for nearly five, just over five years and they’ve been really great business partners.


[22:09] Great and so it’s 50/50.


[22:12] Correct.


[22:12] So you have equal power on the board, I guess.


[22:15] Yes.


[22:15] And how does that work?


[22:17] Look, they’re really respectful, I think and in the beginning you just have to, not lay the law, but you have to set the boundaries. Exactly. So I was literally the only woman CEO in the whole portfolio and yes. So I don’t believe in change if something’s working. So I was very clear from the beginning that obviously we’ll send them financials and we’ll collaborate and we’ll do board meetings and, you know, absolutely do that same budgets, but my own staff, we’ll be keeping, I don’t need your CFOs, I don’t need anything like that and my team will be my team and until there’s a problem, well then you can sort of come in and they were really respectful of that. They wanted me to continue to run the company and, yeah. They were great. As I said, I can’t fault them at all, they’ve been excellent.


[23:12] Well I guess two questions on that. First of all, valuation. How did you, now you don’t have a background in sort of —


[23:23] I learnt a lot about this on the way. At this point I could nearly be in private equity, a lawyer, and a CFO.


[23:30] Sorry Donna if I may ask, how did you get comfortable with the valuation? Because I imagine many entrepreneurs come in, they’re not banks by background, you know, and then big big bankers come along and say, your company’s worth x.


[23:42] Yeah, you’ve got to get comfortable. The Entertainer is obviously very passionate to me cause it’s something I started so it’s not something I was also going to let go very easily of at the same time. So I asked a lot about valuation and EBITDAR, the multiples and how it all worked. So I inquired a lot to some other private equity companies. I had a fantastic lawyer who was also extremely commercial at the same time. So you have to one, you need a good lawyer because they have to do up the spar and the shareholders agreement. They have to do all of that.


[24:16] So you think for sure, advice to entrepreneurs, invest in a good lawyer?


[24:21] Absolutely, you must. Someone you can trust and yeah, very much so a good lawyer and also who’s quite commercial at the same time. A little bit entrepreneurial if they can. So my lawyer was amazing with that. He really led me along the way and, you know, obviously private equity you’re going to try and get what they can from you and get all the terms and conditions. So it’s actually just not the money side of thing. You actually really have to look at all the terms and conditions, all the jag and tag closers, the conditions, the dividend policies. So there’s actually a lot that goes into it. It took us nearly a year to do the deal. Then it has to go back to the private equities investment committee and then they look at the multiple as well and the EBITDAR and what they’re prepared to pay and different industries or different multiples. So it’s all the art of negotiation, I suppose. So that I’ve learned a lot, a lot within the private equity world, which has been a really good learning curve for me. But you must, you must be comfortable because once the deals done, you can’t take it back. It’s not just all about the money, it’s about the future.


[25:30] The culture of the company.


[25:30] The culture, it’s about the conditions that they set for you. There’s a lot more that goes into it. The money’s really the icing on the cake at the end, but you have to be protected along the way.


[25:42] And why is it that you wanted to sell? Did you just want the financial freedom to do other stuff?


[25:48] Yeah. So, I mean look, I had 100 percent. Financially it was fantastic, so don’t get me wrong and I’m really big on security. So the financial side was rewarding, but it’s also been part of a partnership and part of growth. So with the Abraaj acquisition, we really did in three years what we would have normally done in eight. So it’s also the growth that you go through at the same time and you have someone to do it with, that’s part of the team whether it be security or it’s vision. You have to be visionary and you have to have the same vision together.


[26:33] Now you mentioned the financial aspect. I want to ask you about that because 90 percent of women in the world will have to manage their finances on their own at some point, whether it’s due to divorce or a higher life expectancy than their husband and yet only about a third have the confidence to do so. So, yeah, the stats are pretty striking.


[26:57] Yeah.


[26:58] So the question is, you know, you come into money and you did it from selling your business or a lady who’s worked 20 years in the corporate world, whatever it is. How did you become comfortable managing your wealth?


[27:12] I think I’ve always done it from when I was young. My first, as I said, my first job was 13. I’ve always managed money. I don’t come from a wealthy family, so I knew I had to do something for myself to manage it. So I say this to all women and I probably can’t emphasize it enough that you always have to try and have your own money at some point or to put some aside for you, whether it’s your husband’s birthday or something or some of your money that you can spend on him without having to ask. But it’s also financial independence for you as a woman as well. Not having to rely on someone the whole time to ask money for and look, you know, I’ll be honest, I’ve got divorced last year. I’ve got two young kids and I was fortunate enough to have my own financial freedom, which really helped through that and you always have to save for a rainy day. Don’t be too much of a spender. I have the 80/20 rule where if you’ve got $100, save 80, spend 20.


[28:16] Oh.


[28:18] Yeah. Until you can — that’s on luxury things, not like grocery shopping or something, but anything what’s leftover and then spend when you can afford to spend. Because a lot of people live beyond their means. They kick up with the joneses and that can only last a certain amount of time.


[28:34] I just want to get a little more specific on that. So they have $100, they want to invest the $80. What do they do?


[28:41] You don’t need to invest it, I would probably call it to save it.


[28:45] Okay.


[28:45] Depending on how much money you have. So if you have saved enough and you’re able to take a few risks, well then sure, you can take the few risks. But ideally, I personally would save first and have that security and then let’s say, I don’t know, you want $5,000 in your bank account. Then after you’ve saved that, then you can, I don’t know, maybe you do shares or stocks or invest or whatever you want to do with your money. I personally don’t do shares and stores.


[29:20] What do you do, if I may ask?


[29:20] Yeah, no. I invest a lot in property.


[29:23] Okay.


[29:23] Because I also feel with property, it’s generally always appreciating and once the money’s gone, you can’t spend it and if all else fails, you’ve got some way to live.


[29:34] So you just do property and cash. That’s basically my portfolio.


[29:38] Exactly.


[29:38] That’s really my portfolio right now.


[29:42] That is and it’s a rental return that you’re actually getting as well. Listen, to invest in startups and everything’s great and your own business and you’re backing yourself. But if you have extra money, well it’s almost a guaranteed return for you. You buy a property, you get the rental return, pays the mortgage, and you do the math.


[29:58] Well, now I’m going to shift gears again and go for some rapid fire questions. So these are more about you, nothing to do really with the Entertainer.


[30:07] Okay.


[30:08] Most influential book?


[30:11] Oh, I like reading books. Probably motivational books like Steve Jobs, Richard Branson. I’m not gonna say I’m a massive reader, but if I’m reading a book on holiday or something, it’s probably more an easy read like a Jones Colin book or something, where I can literally turn off.


[30:26] Okay, yeah. Great, why not? Now, do you have a morning or evening routine that helps you kind of perform?


[30:32] Yes. I at least four times a week will do exercise in the morning. I’d go for a run. So I generally will be up at five, I go for a run at 5:30, I’m back 6:30, take the kids to school and then coming to work. That’s pretty much my routine, but I really need to do probably exercise at least four times a week. It’s just a, it’s a mentor. I think it starts your day really well and it’s not a physical thing. It’s more, it’s definitely more mental for me. It gets you awake, it gets happy and gets your blood flowing, gives you energy for the day, motivation and puts you in a good mood.


[31:10] It gives you motivation. I’ve been on your instagram and I’m like just opening my eyes in bed and there’s Donna, she just finished 10k. If you could have coffee with one person from history, who would it be and why?


[31:30] Personally, I wouldn’t have coffee because I’ve never had a cup of coffee in my life. I would have a cup of tea. I’d have a cup of tea. I don’t drink coffee, I’m allergic to caffeine and there’s something.


[31:38] So herbal tea.


[31:39] So herbal tea, peppermint tea. Steve Jobs.


[31:43] I guess we can consign him to history.


[31:46] Yes.


[31:47] What advice would you give your 18 year old self?


[31:49] Do you know what, the advice I would give would be not to change anything because you are who you are from the past that you’ve had. So if things change along the way then you change as you go. So to be the person that we are today means that you really can’t change anything in your past. So I probably wouldn’t give any advice. I would just run with it and it’s a life lesson.


[32:15] You are where you need to be when you need to be there.


[32:17] Exactly.


[32:17] Yep, amazing. Okay, what’s your biggest fear? If you have one.


[32:24] No, I do. Heights. Heights I don’t like, and snakes. Two of my biggest fears, heights and snakes.


[32:33] I think I know what you’re going to say to this one, but I’m gonna ask you anyway. How do you switch off when you feel overwhelmed? Do you ever feel overwhelmed?


[32:40] Yes. No, of course I do. I actually work better when my back’s against the wall, though. For me, I sleep well at night because I feel that in the middle of the night nothing can be done. So there’s no point in having lack of sleep when it can wait for the morning. So there’s no point in beating yourself up about something at two in the morning when you can’t get hold of anybody. So I’ve really learned to have a good night’s sleep and then deal with it first thing the next morning. So sleep is one, how I switch off or I go for a massage, you know, I love beauty treatments, so that would be another. I’ll go for a staycation holiday using our Entertainer travel. So yeah, they’re really the reason, that’s really how I hang out with my kids, you know, just sort of just turn off everything and maybe go down to Kite Beach with the kids or something. But if it’s just me time I would probably go and have a massage or something just for some me time.


[33:40] Right, okay. Last question — I tell myself I can’t run because I have bow legs.


[33:49] Oh, you can run. Power walk or you can cycle. You can do something or swim.


[33:55] Alright, okay. Enough already. Let’s go. If you had a billboard that you could write a message onto the world, what would it be? Or you could target a specific demographic if you like, like a message to young entrepreneurs or women or a messsage to your to your kids.


[34:12] Probably, I know it’s a bit of it a cliche, but if it was easy everyone would be doing it.


[34:17] Love it.


[34:17] That’s what I would probably write.


[34:20] Great. Donna, thank you so much. This has been amazing.


[34:23] No, thank you. Thank you for having me. It’s been great, we could talk all morning.


[34:27] And how can listeners find you?


[34:29] You can download the app, so the Entertainer with a smiley face or you can go onto our website, or you can follow us on instagram @EntertainerGCC or @EntertainerUK or @EntertainerSG Singapore, depending on what the country is.


[34:46] Wow, great. I think we’ll find you.


[34:49] Find us.


[34:50] Thanks, Donna.


[34:50] Thank you, Rana.


[34:53] I hope you enjoyed today’s episode. You can check out show notes and more episodes at or search When Women Win on Itunes, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. I’d also love to hear your feedback and ideas for who I should bring on the show. You can find me on instagram @rananawas. Thanks and have a great day.



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