Founder Stories: Dean Salakas On Building The Party People

In today’s Founder Story, we feature Dean Salakas, the creator of The Party People.

Read on for lessons he has learned from launching and marketing his party store.

1. Please introduce your business and share your role. 

I am the Chief Party Dude at The Party People. The Party People is an online and brick-and-mortar party store that helps people have their dream parties. We sell balloons, decorations, costumes, novelties, confectionary, party services, hire, and more. The Party People helps people have memorable events.

2. What’s your backstory, what kind of challenges did you face, and how did you come up with your business idea?

30 years ago my mum was “Patches The Clown”. She went to people’s houses as a clown and catered for the party including cleaning up. Her passion for parties led her to open a small party shop with her grandfather. 

Source Mala Salakas as Patches The Clown in Sydney Weekend Magazine 1992

As a family business, I took the business online in 1999 as Australia’s first online party store and the first retailer to offer “click and collect”. We went on with our pioneering to become Google Australia’s first advertiser when they launched in Australia in 2003. Since then we have continued to pioneer winning many awards in the process.

3. How did you prepare for, and go about your launch? 

In 1998 when we started, it was very different. There were no “web” developers, only IT guys. We got some uni students studying IT to build our first website. I was in high school and we met with them, scoped it out together, and just built it. It was so long ago and I was young so I hardly remember but I recall many days working on it after school.

4. Since launching, what types of marketing campaigns and designs have worked best to attract and retain customers?

That’s hard to say, It has changed over time. Certainly, I have found being an early adopter when it comes to marketing a key advantage. When you adopt something new in marketing, the cost is low and when competition enters, it marginalizes the results.

5. What have been the most influential brands for your business? Whose branding and marketing do you aspire to and why?

Online pioneers like Winning group, Catch, Showpo, etc. These guys have cut new ground in various different ways.

6. What are your favorite marketing platforms/tools?

Google & Facebook are great. They are much more complex now than they were originally and that’s where the opportunity is to win. If you’re just throwing money on these platforms it won’t work, you must have a well-defined strategy that’s scalable.

7. Who or what inspires and motivates you?

I just love what I do, it’s really that simple. Online retail is fun and it’s constantly evolving. For a person who loves change and is excited by the opportunities that it presents, retail really is the best! I’m also in the party business, so it’s hard not to have fun.

8. What are some lessons you’ve learned along the way that you would share with entrepreneurs hoping to launch or who have just launched? 

Start with a niche and expand from there. Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Find a niche and smash it. Then grow from there.

9. What do you believe are the qualities of a good entrepreneur? And what makes a team successful?

I think grit is the key. As an entrepreneur, you get hit with setbacks, big ones. They are depressing and all your hard work seems futile. It’s far easier and pays more to work for someone else. If you’re not of the mindset that you’re going to give it a go or die trying, then don’t even get started, you will never make it.

10. And what makes a team successful?

I think there are many factors, but I suppose I believe it starts with diversity. You really need different personalities, different skill sets, and different work ethics. Then the challenge is bringing what are a very different and diverse group together in a way they all work together and have each other’s back. I would rather 5 people that are different than 5 people that all meet one set of criteria.

11. Let us know where we can go to learn more!

LinkedIn: Dean Salakas