Margaret Whittaker is a brave sassy entrepreneur. Armed with a great idea and limited funds, in 1969 she opened the doors to what was to become the world’s most successful and life-changing slimming organisation - Slimming World. Working tirelessly through good times and bad, a health scare in the 90´s made her address her work/life balance and, together with her late husband Tony, they were taking a long overdue break, sailing down to the Mediterranean aboard their yacht. The skilful and experienced Tony was always the skipper, although Margaret navigated and helmed the entire journey.
Weather-wise, the voyage had not been easy. In the Finisterre sea region of northern Spain, a force 7 brought them unwelcome rough seas almost the entire journey along the Portuguese Atlantic coast. Even in the Mediterranean, seas remained choppy, but as they set sail from Moraira, north of Alicante, towards the Balearic Islands, the wind had finally dropped, the sea was calm and the suns sparkled on the rippled surface like a million diamonds. They were accompanied by dolphins and even a whale joined in the fun. “This is what it has all been for!” Margaret exclaimed. A good omen for sure.
At precisely that moment, a trim tab broke and the boat lurched violently on its side. They managed to straighten her up and limped past Formentera, Ibiza, and finally into a small port on Mallorca’s SW coast in need of some assistance. Whilst initially not very impressed with Mallorca, a chance meeting with another English couple led to a glorious sunset trip on their boat, to the beautiful port of Puerto Portals.
It was late October and yet lights twinkled from the many shops and restaurants, the evening was balmy, the locals were friendly and Margaret knew instantly that she had come home. In a very short time, Margaret began to discover the real Mallorca and her emotional attachment to the island grew deeper. The beautiful coastline with the dramatic mountains appealed to this water baby, as did the cosmopolitan capital city of Palma with its amazing restaurants and shops. Mallorca has it all. The local fiestas with their charming, quirky customs enchanted her and she wasted no time immersing herself in the culture and the language.
Over the next few years Margaret became a huge fan and regular visitor to the island night spot, Son Amar. When an opportunity presented itself to become involved, Margaret seized the chance, thrilled to expand her business portfolio with such a fun project.
A successful business woman, but lacking a show-business background, Margaret joined the venture as a fan but immersed herself in the project and learned fast. Within a few years the consortium disbanded and in 2012, Margaret found herself at the helm once again, but at this time, as the sole owner of what today, has become the hottest ticket on the island. Under her careful tenure, Son Amar has gone from strength to strength, opening new and exciting world-class shows each year.
Life changed dramatically in 2020 when the pandemic hit and, along with other theatres and restaurants around the world, overnight everything ground to a halt. Difficult as it was, Margaret focussed on the positive and made the best of a bad situation and the year in which they were closed to the public gave the company an opportunity and indeed the freedom to restructure the business and create even greater possibilities.
Martyn Smith, joint owner of Palma’s highly successful Social club with Margaret’s eldest son Dominic Miles, Martyn joined the group as General Manager and Creative Director. A World Champion acrobat himself, Martyn brought with him a wealth of experience and his connection to artists and trainers around the world. This has proved invaluable to Son Amar who have always looked to recruit the very best artists.
Since reopening in 2021, Son Amar has become, more strongly than ever, the entertainment capital of Mallorca. With more investment, Son Amar, now celebrating its 60th anniversary, has developed new luxurious areas and given visitors more options and more reasons to return to this magical place. You can now party in their secret garden Eden until midnight, feast at the Disney-style Kingdom of Alcazár while the children play on the beautifully crafted wooden galleon, be fascinated by the spectacular fountain shows, spend your cocktail hour in the original courtyard of the finca, and enjoy two entirely different world-class productions in the theatre. And this time, Margaret isn’t at the helm, it’s Martyn.
Another post pandemic positive is Son Amar’s increased popularity with the locals. Whilst it may once have been considered something a little too touristy, locals now come along in droves to see what all the fuss is about. Those 5* TripAdvisor reviews really do work!
The shows at Son Amar are individual and exciting and Margaret passionately supports each and every one. It took 18 months to develop the first Ohalá family show and much has been done around the auditorium to make it a complete experience from start to finish. The show starts early at 1800 and the dining facilities have been reconsidered so that it is now possible to eat before, during or after the show. In the plaza and there are play areas to keep the children safely entertained whilst their parents relax and everyone enjoys the surprise characters from the show who are on hand as a prelude to each family show.
Margaret loves the personal relationship with her staff and their team of amazing performers. She understands the value of people and whenever possible makes a point of getting to know them individually and helping them to fulfil their career ambitions. Margaret together with Martyn securely at the helm will, if possible, make it happen. The artists know they are appreciated and when she is in the audience, they say that they draw energy from her.
All of these things demand investment, not just financial, but also time, and commitment. Margaret counts her blessings every day, never having imagined in her wildest dreams that one day she would be living by the Mediterranean Sea and being the owner of the theatre that she fell in love with all those years ago. Along with award-winning companies including Pearl Yachts, Slimming World and the House of Son Amar, I wondered how on earth she managed to cope with three such different businesses. In her words, “I never try to micromanage competent people. I prefer to allow them to develop and use their own incredible talents. When it comes to Son Amar, we could not have anyone better to lead the team than the incomparable Martyn Smith. And to simply describe Martyn as competent is the understatement of the year! In my (not so humble) opinion, he is a genius. The post-pandemic and hugely successful Son Amar is testament to that.”
However, not one to sit on her laurels, Margaret, along with her CEOs of each business, is always looking ahead to new and exciting ideas. One thing you can be sure of … there are big plans for the future of Son Amar – just watch this space!
Margaret is an author and her autobiography, “WILD WOMEN DO (and they don’t regret it!)” is available from Amazon and Amazon Audible, narrated by the author herself.
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