Pop Quiz, Monday with Dean Salakas, Chief Party Dude at The Party People


The Pop Quiz, Monday is a fun little exam that we love to give to savvy business people. The examination is not a surprise after all since the interviewee already knew about the questions in advance. However, we can always pretend and have fun with the scenario of a young entrepreneur sitting in class nervously biting on their pencil. They are ready to take a pop quiz on a chapter that they were supposed to read the night before. Instead, they played Metroid all night on their SNES (Oops, this was me in high school). The real purpose of the pop quiz is that this is a fun way to introduce business tips from real-world experiences that you cannot learn in a classroom. We want to thank our interviewee for being a good sport and volunteering their time to answer a few questions to help our community grow from their knowledge.

I want to introduce you to our guest today who will be taking our Pop Quiz, Monday.

Can you please tell everyone your name?

Dean Salakas

What is your job role?

Chief Party Dude

Tell us about your company?

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 two 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.

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 significant 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 and the Online Retailer of the year. I was also personally named Retail Leader of the Year.

The business also 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.

Currently, I am working with a startup that provides scan and go technology to customers. They can walk into my store, scan what they want on their phone and then walk out without visiting the checkout.

What do you love most about your job?

I get to help people create the parties of their dreams!

What motivates you to get up every day and go to work?

Before I finish my day, I have every email or to do prioritized. The next day I always look forward to smashing through my to-do list.

How do your co-workers inspire you?

They work super hard, often extra hours and overtime. They all believe in what we do, and that motivates me.

How do you have fun at work (team building, pranks, etc..)?

We have all sorts of different activities. We celebrate things like Australia Day, Chrismas, Halloween, etc with BBQ’s, dress ups at work, etc. We merely encourage fun, and it happens.

What are some of the challenges of your job?

Being CEO is consistently challenging. To be successful, you need to understand every part of your business and to do that is challenging. For example, you need to know how the staff operates a checkout or what the procedure is for taking our rubbish while also having excellent technical knowledge of things like the website or social media.

What are some lessons learned from a past project that you can share with us?

When we first took over the company we started growing at an accelerated rate of up to 300%. This was great, but we were not well planned for it. Subsequently, we ended up having to stop taking sales for a few months at one point due to us not having sufficient capacity. After that point, we learned to forecast regularly (generally monthly at non-peak and daily at peak) and plan for what we had forecast.

What advice would you give to someone who is starting in your industry?

Start small and focus on a niche. Be the best in a particular area which gives people a reason to come to you. You can build more broadly from that.

Thank you for taking our pop quiz today. You get an A+ for effort. You can learn more about our interviewee and their business by visiting them on the web:



Author: Ricky Singh, MBA

Editor of The Startup Growth.

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