When Good Business Ideas Fail, You Still Have Options

Image: CGU Insurance.

According to Australian Government data, 424,144 ABNs died last year, so there’s no shortage of lost ambition out there. People are not prepared for the reality of running their own business, but even if the odds are stacked against you, it doesn't mean you can't try again.

Lifehacker has partnered with CGU Insurance to help rescue Australia's lost ambition.

In 2016, Thea Mendes started her own business called DOMUTS, which sells donut treats for dogs, but the side-hustle business was unable to keep up with demand and eventually folded. The thing is: Mendes believed the idea was a good one.

The original idea for DOMUTS actually came from Mendes' son, Marcus. While working at Mendes' regular donut market stall one weekend he wanted to give one of the customer's dogs a taste of the product but was told it would make them sick. That's when he got to work researching ingredients that dogs are actually able to eat.

After a little while, the family business was unable to keep up with large orders and the recipe simply couldn't handle being prepared long in advance and frozen to meet demand. Mendes ultimately shelved the whole thing but later decided to give it another go with a little bit of help from CGU Insurance, which decided to back small business after seeing how many ABNs get cancelled every year. The insurer made a callout to Australian businesses who needed expert advice to rescue their ABN - and it was just the chance DOMUTS needed.

"It was a light bulb moment," Mendes said. "I indeed did need help and I finally felt relieved that maybe someone could help me scale DOMUTS."

The biggest hurdle DOMUTS faced was scaling, and when you're working a full-time job and running a family home, it's not an easy concept to tackle.

"The biggest thing we failed to do was work out when to scale up the business, I had no idea where to start," Mendes told Lifehacker Australia. "I was just a working mum baking DOMUTS throughout the night. My oven could only bake 30 at a time so I would go to bed with trays and trays of DOMUTS and when the oven timer would 'ding' at 2am, I would wake up and put the next batch into the oven and would do so every few hours throughout the night."

Without a helping hand, taking a business from the family kitchen to a commercial kitchen is a daunting prospect, particularly when it's more of a part-time venture on top of a regular 9-to-5 job. As Mendes puts it, "it felt like I had a newborn baby at home and was getting up every few hours, so fatigue quickly set in."

She said she was honest in her application and it worked in her favour.

"My pitch to CGU was written from my heart. I didn’t consult a professional writer. I told them how a simple idea that grew too fast for me to cope with, really is still a good idea, but I needed help and direction."

Mendes detailed her struggles, which included juggling the business and other commitments, as well as blowing up two ovens in her own kitchen. "I told CGU that I did have dreams of finding a commercial kitchen to make the DOMUTS and selling them at pop-up stores and pet stores throughout Australia," she said.

Out of hundreds of applications, Mendes was chosen by CGU Insurance and was set up with a business mentor, David Stefanoff, whose help has been “invaluable” to the scaling of DOMUTS, which has now relaunched. “He reviewed the figures and assured me DOMUTS is scalable,” Mendes said. Together, they’ve formulated a “clear business plan with key milestones and advice on when to scale the business further”.

CGU Insurance has also helped Mendes refine her product, perfecting her recipe for baking on a commercial scale, and introducing some quirky new varieties, including “Tasty Homework” and “Chewy Tennis-ball”.

“We’ve now invested in a commercial kitchen space which means instead of only making 30 DOMUTS at a time, I can now make 1000,” Mendes said.

DOMUTS has also been given a rebrand, refreshing her logo, packaging and website, ready to be re-launched along with her big ambitions.

With the money, mentor and business plan to succeed, Mendes business has come a long way from the 2am nights. Expect to see more of DOMUTS in the future.

Ignite your ambition today and apply for a CGU Insurance Ambition Grant HERE.

CGU Insuring Ambition.


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