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Aussie mum Thea Mendes says she has always been an ambitious person… within reason. “I have a give-it-a-go attitude, which I think is ambitious,” she says. “But I wouldn’t jump out of a plane!” 

Thea says it was ambition that helped her not settle in life. She had a stable career and a family to look after, “But I always had a yearning for more...”

That’s where “Domuts” came in, a deceptively-simple business idea of Thea’s to make donuts with ingredients that were safe, and tasty, for dogs. 

Her ambition took a hit when her business outstripped her capacity to fulfil orders, but she didn’t give up. She saw an invitation from CGU Insurance for businesses with lapsed ABNs to apply for tailored support and advice, and leaped at the opportunity. 

That was the kick-start Thea’s ambition needed to really soar. Her entry was selected, and CGU gave her a business advisor, marketing and branding support, a food technologist, access to the right small-business insurance, and a TV ad during the AFL Grand Final! 

Now she has relaunched Domuts to Australia with dazzling success. 

What does Success feel like?

“There is no better reward than seeing first-hand results from your own ambition and hard work,” Thea says. “I’ve definitely become more confident in myself through building this business, and Marcus and I have grown closer by having a business to work on together.”  

Marcus is Thea’s son, and the inspiration behind her business. 

“He was helping me on my donut stall at our local markets and wanted to give a customer’s dog a nibble on a chocolate donut, but I told him he couldn’t because chocolate was bad for dogs. That evening Marcus started to research ingredients that dogs could eat, so they could enjoy a treat too. The next weekend we whipped up a batch of dog-friendly donuts to gauge interest and it’s safe to say they were a hit: they were gone in less than 10 minutes!”

“Now we have plans to expand the product range into other dog treats, and also partner with retailers to get Domuts out via other distribution channels.”

Finding a niche

Thea says putting in the work to do her market research early on was important for Domuts’ ultimate success. 

“Take the time to do your market research, to make sure your business has a niche and a competitive advantage,” she now tells other business owners. “Conducting our market research at the market stalls – particularly when it came to choosing flavours and price-points – worked really well. We gave away a lot of samples initially, just to make sure we got the product right.” 

Overcoming self-doubt

Ask a lot of people why they don’t take the first step to launching their own business and the number one reason is ‘fear of failure’. It’s a big barrier: a recent CGU study found that more than half of all Australians dream of starting a business or pursuing a side-hustle, but only 6 per cent of us have actually done anything about it. 

And Thea isn’t immune to this fear. 

“The process of getting Domuts up and running again has been scary and exciting in equal measure,” she says. “I feel nervous, scared, panicking that it won’t work again. Fear of failure. Self-doubt. I don’t think I can do it…”

“But there is also excitement at seeing the business up and running again. We can’t wait to hear the consumer and canine feedback!

“The support and advice I’ve received from CGU to rescue Domuts has been invaluable in helping me navigate this whole process. In particular, in providing me with my business mentor David, who gave me advice and helped me formulate a clear business plan.”

Collaboration makes hard work easier

Thea has gone from feeling alone and overwhelmed in her business to being empowered, with support and expertise to take her business to the next level. She says having access to that expert help is the key to her success:

“Don’t be afraid to look for help and reach out to experts in your field for advice or feedback on your business. Collaboration is key. But most of all, don’t be afraid to ask for help!”

At a glance: Domuts then and now

Here’s how some savvy business thinking and professional support from CGU helped change the face of Domuts and the future for Thea and Marcus. 


Then: working from the family kitchen. 30 Domuts per batch. Product has limited shelf-life.

Now: working from a commercial kitchen. 1000 Domuts per batch. Product has supermarket-friendly shelf-life 

Marketing and sales

Then:Basic website and social media (Facebook, Instagram)

Now:Strategic redevelopment and relaunch of website and social media, based around careful and cohesive branding. TV ad during the AFL Grand Final. 

Business planning

Then:un-planned and reactive. Domuts ran from week-to-week without a business plan and was poorly covered for risks.

Now:strategically-planned and forward thinking. Domuts is well-insured and protected for growth.