Dean Salakas knows a thing or two about throwing a party. In addition to being the co-owner of a large party supply shop in Australia, Dean also grew up around parties as the son of "Patches" the clown! And while being an entrepreneur is not always fun and games, Dean and his brother (co-owners) have found that it is more of a hobby than a daily grind. Read his inspiring story on how he came to run the family business, and what he gave up to pursue his party passion.
Hello! Tell us what you do!
Hi! I'm Dean. I help people party for a living. The Party People Shop stocks the largest range of party supplies in Australia with over 20,000 products including Themed Decorations, Balloons, Catering Supplies, Confectionary, Seasonal Merchandise, Sports Supporter Products and Costumes. With our unique products and specialised service, we help people create the parties of their dreams!
It all began in 1985 when my mother, Mala Salakas was "Patches" the clown catering for kids parties all over Sydney. Her passion for kids party led her to open a small little party shop in Sans Souci NSW. Today we employ over 40 people and operate the largest retail party supplies outlet in Australia (located in Drummoyne) as well as Australia's most visited online party supply store (according to Experian Hitwise independant site statistics).
How did you get started as an entrepreneur?
I was working at Woolworths as a business analyst and my parents decided they wanted to retire so they listed the business for sale. I had no interest in running a small business at the time as I was focused on my corporate career. A year later they found a buyer and my brother coincidentally was also offered a franchise opportunity by a personal training & exercise physiology company. It was actually his idea one Saturday afternoon while helping out in the business that together we could take the business national and become the market leader. In that moment we made the decision to buy the business so my parents could retire and we haven’t looked back.
What do you love most about the lifestyle?
While there is no boss above me to tell me that I have done a good job, I get personal satisfaction of trying to challenge myself to make the business the best it can be. I work longer hours than I did in my corporate role but its much more of a hobby than a job. I love putting time into making it grow.
We are currently in the process of preparing our business to raise capital from investors.
Luck is where preparation meets opportunity.
We use to get teased in school that our mum was a clown and today we wear it as a badge of honour and strive to make this business started by a clown a nationally recognized destination for party supplies.
Most inspiring person you have ever met so far and why?
My mum, worked hard with 2 kids to grow the family business. From being a clown, to hiring multiple clowns to opening a small party shop she continued to carve out a niche in the party industry. She developed Australia’s first online ecommerce party store in 1998 whenever everyone told her she was wasting money. She was always ahead of the industry and she continues to inspire us with her advice and ideas.
One piece of advice you would give your younger self
Plan and review your financials monthly. It’s a lesson I learnt the hard way when we were loosing money at one point and didn’t know why. Upon studying our financials we realized the problem was obvious and that it could have been prevented if we at least looked at our financials monthly.
What's the bravest thing you ever had to do?
Before The Party People, I was already in a relatively senior role at Woolworths getting remunerated well and I was offered succession planning into an executive role. It was a very tough decision to give up a known path where I had confidence that I would succeed with the unknown path of taking over the family business.
Connect with Dean:
Dean has a Bachelor of Business and Commerce Degree with Majors in Marketing and Operations Manager. Before becoming an owner at The Party People, Dean was a business analyst at Woolworths and was also studying a masters in business. Keep up with Dean and his business on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn!