Dean Salakas was one of the first entrepreneurs to appear on Shark Tank Australia.

It was back in 2015, and Mr Salakas was there representing his family's party supplies company, The Party People, valued at A$8 million (NZ$8.4m).

But in a surprise move, he ended up rejecting Aussie Shark and Boost Juice founder Janine Allis' lucrative offer of a A$400,000 (NZ$421,000) investment in exchange for a 40 per cent stake in the company.

Today, the Sydney company is supplying the likes of MasterChef, The X Factor and Sunrise with balloons and other items and it has seen its revenue skyrocket, with more than 4.6 million party products sold to date.


Mr Salakas said the company's success was largely due to the decision to take it online in the very early days of online shopping, with the business focusing heavily on its online presence ever since.

The company was launched in 1985 by Mr Salakas' mother Mala and her father, Peter Nikolas.

In 1999, Mrs Salakas made the revolutionary decision to take the business online, forking out A$10,000 (NZ$11,000) to get a website up and running at a time when the internet was still thought of as a potentially passing fad.

"My grandfather thought spending A$10,000 on a website was crazy — he thought it was just insane and that it was wasting money on something stupid, but he's changed his mind now," said Mr Salakas, who was a teenager at the time and heavily involved in building the new website.

But that "crazy" decision paid off, because as Australia's first online party shop, sales went through the roof.

In 2007 when Mr Salakas' parents wanted to retire, he and his brother Peter decided to take over, ramping up its online presence even further and working around the clock as the business expanded.

Dean Salakas (right), pictured with mum Mala and brother Peter, says going online was the key to success.
Dean Salakas (right), pictured with mum Mala and brother Peter, says going online was the key to success.

In that year alone, the company increased revenue by over $1 million and it has grown by 800 per cent since.

He said the decision to walk away from the Shark Tank offer was the right one.


"I was put on the spot, but I felt like she wanted too much of the company for not enough money — I didn't want to give away almost half of the family business so cheaply, that was the main thing," he said.

"I definitely made the right decision at the time and we have got investment offers that beat that (A$400,000) after the show — it opened a lot of doors and the business has definitely benefited."

He said investing heavily into The Party People's website was also critical — an opinion backed up by new research from web hosting company GoDaddy, which found that while a company website can boost growth by 25 per cent, 59 per cent of small businesses are still without a professional page.

Mr Salakas said when he and his brother took over, they got rid of the company's entire budgets, instead spending whatever they could on online advertising.

As a result, by 2011 the company was "buckling" under a backlog of orders, with the brothers forced to pull the site offline in the peak season of November and December that year.

"In the first few years it grew so fast and it was ridiculous how much we were working — until 1am or 2am at night, and we'd be up at 6am or 7am the next morning all through peak season," he said.

"It affected our health and we had a backlog of items we had to get out the door, so we turned the site off because we couldn't take the volume.

"We buckled; it was a low point but we never got to the point where we wanted to throw in the towel — my brother and I are so close and we have the same vision, so we wanted to make it work no matter what."