Everyone likes to think they know how to party. But, you know, some people are better at it than others.
In the case of entrepreneurial brothers Peter and Dean Salakas, they’ve swiftly scaled the dizzy heights of Small Business success to become the number one name in Australian party suppliers, with some very big news just around the corner.
But the real Party People story stretches back further than you may think, and involves a certain character from the 1980’s called Patches the Clown.
Martin Print Case Studies catches up with Dean Salakas for a custard pie and a bowl of jelly, to reveal the roots of this incredible non-stop party – and you’ve all got an invitation….
Crossed wires again. Probably my fault.
I thought I’d been given an invitation to a Small Business party in Sydney.
I was hoping that this was going to be a rare chance to show off my best frilly party shirt, and exchange fascinating anecdotes with like-minded entrepreneurs about the benefits of colour-coded invoice books.
As I burst through the doors with my bottle of cheap dodgy wine, my crumpled party hat, and my novelty police whistle, I realised that the wrong end of the stick was stuck very firmly in my grasp, yet again.
I was actually here to meet Dean Salakas, one half of the dynamic brotherly duo behind the recent sizzling small business success of The Party People.
The entrepreneurial brothers are on a mission to deliver the highest quality and largest range of entertaining supplies for the ultimate Australian party – everything from Balloons to Themed Decorations to Costume Accessories to Snow Machines. It turns out they even sell novelty police whistles.
The Salakas Brothers could actually be forgiven for raising a toast to themselves right now, as they’ve recently been rated as the Number One Ranked Australian Online Party Supplies Retailer (verified by Hitwise Independent Statistics) and there are huge plans waiting to be unveiled to the public in the very, very near future. Mega plans, you might say. Probably a good excuse for another party, at the very least.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, here. When exactly did this party get started?
In fact, The Party People has very humble and perhaps slightly surprising roots that stretch all the way back to 1982.
Peter and Dean’s mum, Mala Salakas, was the one who first got the ball rolling, when she had the idea of dressing up as Patches the Clown, providing both the entertainment and the catering for cracking kid’s parties.
The business grew to include a variety of clowns and party organisers, and The Party People brand was officially born in 1985, with the launch of a very small store in Sans Souci.
Over time, The Party People became very much a family business – Peter and Dean’s Mother and Grandfather were now the owners of the ever-growing business, and even the young brothers themselves became involved at the jaw-droppingly early age of just 2 years old! They used to help out by putting sand into bags which were sold as tableweights for 5 cents a bag.
Even at this young age, it would seem that the entrepreneurial tots were destined for success!
Fast-forward several years, and Dean eventually became fully immersed in giving The Party People an early online presence in 1999.
In fact, Dean went on to become one very first people in Australia to recognise the early potential of Google Adwords and how it could be used effectively to achieve real market leadership.
Dean takes up the story;
“In late 2006, our Mum and Grandfather listed the business for sale – and in 2007, a buyer made them a generous offer that they were going to accept.
At the time, my brother Peter was considering an offer from his employer to own a personal training franchise.
“One Friday afternoon, whilst we were discussing the future of the family business, Peter just turned round to me and said “Why don’t we buy it?”
“Within an hour, we had decided to go ahead and do it! We took out a loan and purchased the business at the price offered by the other party.”
The results since then have been swift and quite astounding.
The Party People have quickly grown to become a dominating new force in the online retail sector, and their quality party equipment has even made it as far as the latest series of MasterChef Australia, in which they provided all the trimmings for a special “children’s party” episode.
“Peter and I both come from very competitive sporting backgrounds,” explains Dean. “We both have our flaws but together we are an unbeatable team.
I sometimes think that we are always winning because we always think that we’re losing!
“It perfectly sums up how we operate. In truth, we are the market leader for online party supplies – so customers would say that we are winning – but for us, the way that we see it, we could be doing a lot better in all aspects of business, from operations to marketing. So, internally, we always imagine that we’re losing!
“The two biggest things I would say about starting a business is that you need to be passionate about whatever it is and you have to be prepared to do all aspects of the business.
Many people say to me “I want to start a business,“ and when I ask what they have in mind, they reply “I don’t know!”
“In business you always go through some tough times and you ask a lot of questions about yourself and your life. If you are not passionate about the industry you’re entering, then you simply will not persevere.
“Another factor to bear in mind is that whilst many people are good at their trade (you could be a great electrician, florist, or whatever your skill) you also need to be able to run your business.
That means doing the accounting, using technology, marketing your business, taking out the rubbish, everything!”
Thanks to the hard work and dedication of both Peter and Dean, this is one party that looks as if it’s going to go way past midnight.
But what of the future? It looks like it’s going to get even bigger….
Dean is fantastically excited to tell me about the opening of the brand new Party People Megastore in Drummoyne later this month.
With over 10,000 party products over three huge floors, it’s going to be the biggest Party and Costume shop that Australia has ever seen, and looks destined to really get the party going for the people of Sydney!
But they don’t plan to stop there. Dean also tells me that future plans include opening up stores in all Australian states, as well as eventually branching out into the international market, spreading those Australian party vibes throughout every corner of the globe!
It’s certainly a long, long way from the days of Patches the Clown and that tiny little shop in Sans Souci!
But it’s been one hell of a party, and there’s no sign of a hangover on the horizon for this dedicated duo.
Wish I could say the same thing for myself, but that bottle of cheap dodgy wine had me flat on my back with a banging headache throughout the next day, and it wasn’t pretty.
Still, at least I had my novelty police whistle to cheer me up and lift my spirits…….
Actually no, don’t try that at home, folks.