30 years ago Mala Salakas was “Patches The Clown” catering for kids parties. Her passion for parties led her to start a small kids party venue and party store with her father Peter Nikolas called The Party People. The venue side of the business was traveling ok until McDonalds started doing party rooms so the business removed the party room to focused purely on retail. The business grew into a successful small party store that supported the family for years.
In 2007 Mala’s sons Dean (me) and Peter Salakas took over the family business so Mala and her father 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.
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 Bing’s first Australian advertiser among other first including piloting Facebook’s accelerator program.
Peter and I helped my mum since we were 4 years old. Our fondest memory from that age was that we would shovel sand into small bags that would be wrapped in coloured wrapping to weigh down balloons on tables and we did this for 5c per sand bag. As we grew up our responsibilities evolved to serving in-store and doing deliveries. In 1999 while at high school, I helping my mum design and launch the online business. From there I continued to manage it as a side gig while at high school and university.
We use to get teased at school because our mum was a clown and today we wear it with a badge of honor. However after finishing university both my brother and I pursued separate careers. Peter became an exercise physiologist and I became a business analyst at Woolworths. Our careers both flourished but in 2007 Mala and her father wanted to retire so they found a buyer for the business however my brother and I saw a great opportunity and so we took over the business.
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 2018 Independent Retailer of The Year and the 2018 Online Retailer of the year. I was also personally named 2018 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.
By Dean Salakas
Chief Party Dude
The Party People