From having a mother that was a clown, to running Australia’s largest online party supplies store. This is the story of two brothers and entrepreneurial spirit.

Hello! What’s your background, and what is your business?

30 years ago Mala Salakas was “Patches The Clown” catering for kids parties. Her passion for parties led her to start a small party store with her father Peter Nikolas. In 2007 her sons Dean (me) and Peter Salakas took over the family business so they could retire. At that time The Party People Shop had 2 employees in the shop.

Today the business has over 40 employees, are the market leader for party supplies online in Australia and now have two bricks and mortar stores of which one of them is the largest bricks and mortar party store in Australia. We use to get teased at school because our mum was a clown and today we wear it with a badge of honor.

After finishing University with a Bachelor of Business and Commerce majoring in Marketing and Operations Management, I got a business analyst role at Woolworths. I quickly progressed in Woolworths to be a senior business analyst and won its innovation award for a multi million dollar idea that was implemented by me in 3 months.

The business launched online early in 1999 as Australia’s first online party store and continued to achieve online firsts by offering click and collect from the beginning, being Googles first Australian Adwords customer, being Microsoft Bin gs first Australian advertiser among other first including piloting Facebooks accelerator program. I helped my mum with the online business while at high school and university and did my final year thesis on the business which led to major changes and an acceleration in growth.

When Peter and I took over in 2007, we drove the businesses digital strategy which has made it the success it is today. We have also focused on building a great store experience which is why the Australian Retail Association recently named us as the Independent Retailer of The Year.

The business appeared on Shark Tank Australia where we received a $400,000 offer from Janine Allis which we turned down and today are preparing to create a chain of party stores in Australia so that every Australian can create their dream party.

What motivated you to get started with The Party People?

In 2007 when we took over, I was managing the companies online business and I could see huge potential being held back by my parents who were still someone apprehensive about the whole “online business” thing.

At that time my parents and grandparents wanted to retire and we saw an opportunity to become the market leaders.

Who is the ideal customer for The Party People? Why would they benefit?

If you looking to have a basic get together, then your likely to shop at a department store or supermarket for party supplies.

If you want to impress your guess and have something special, then you come to a specialist like us. We are not just any specialist however, we have the largest range available and the most competitive prices so we really provide our customers with the place to create their dream party.

Don’t do it! If you ignore me, you might actually have what it takes to succeed.

Looking back, how has your business evolved from initial idea to now?

We originally wanted to focus on growing the online business however more recently we realised that our stores were an important strategic piece of the competitive landscape for us and also that they were very profitable also. So we have decided to give a store rollout strategy more focus more recently.

If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?

Don’t do it! If you ignore me, you might actually have what it takes to succeed.

How do you market The Party People to attract new customers?

That’s a very complicated question. In 1999 when we launched online, marketing was simple, just have a website because everyone else doesn’t and not everyone can has access to a local party or works too hard to make it during normal hours.

Today is much more complicated, there are many channels to reach your customers from social media, a website, physical stores, marketplaces and more. Our strategy has just been to be everywhere that is achievable in a profitable way (i.e. some channels are just not profitable and we deliberately let others have those channels).

Have you had any mentors or role models that have influenced you? How have they helped?

After our first few years in business we were on a real high with triple digit growth. Instead of telling everyone about it, we kept our head down and kept working to grow the business. We wanted to fly under the radar for our competitors, keeping the guessing on how we were achieving what we were achieving.

I had an uncle that was very good with promoting himself personally and he had been in the media a lot with radio segments, TV segments and more. He advised me on building my personal brand and so from then on, we focused on talking about our successes. This resulted in our business doing even better.

What is unique about your business?

We have the largest range of party supplies available in Australia.

The most important thing for our customers is knowing that when they go to a store, they will be able to have the party of their dreams and we have everything they need. If they cant find it with us, they probably wont find it anywhere else.

Do you have a favourite business book, blog or podcast to recommend? Why?

The one minute manager. The general concept is that different people need to be managed differently.

Its easier said than done and while I don’t think anyone will ever master it, this book provides great models to use and helps you understand how to better manage people and why you need to do certain things as a manager for different people.

LocationsDrummoyne and Sans Souci NSW