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When Aussie mum Thea Mendes decided to sell donuts for dogs, called “Domuts,” the road to success was neither smooth nor wide. In fact, despite the popularity of her brilliant idea, Thea faced so many hurdles in her new business she had all but given up before ABN Rescue came into the picture. 

“I wish I had taken more time to develop the business strategy and growth plan back then instead of just getting straight into it,” she remembers. 

“Several years ago, we actually had a meeting with a big supermarket chain to gauge their interest in stocking frozen Domuts. They loved the idea, but the stock requirements were well beyond our capabilities at the time unfortunately.”

It takes a lot of hard work and smart thinking to turn a good idea into a great business, and at the beginning of that process, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. But when Thea got the help she needed, she managed to turn that business around from an almost-abandoned ABN to a nationwide success-story.

How did she do it? Let’s go behind-the-scenes to explore the decisions she made that helped her realise her ambition....


Step 1: A plan of attack: will my idea fly?

Thea explains that it’s one thing to have a great idea but you need to work out how to make it a reality.

“Don’t be afraid to look for and reach out to experts in your field for advice or feedback on your business,” she says. “The support and advice I received from CGU to rescue Domuts has been invaluable. In particular, providing me with a business mentor, David, who has helped me formulate a clear business plan with key milestones, and advice on when to scale the business further.”

What to think about: Before you launch your business take the time to create a detailed business plan that covers your business structure, operations, and thorough analyses of your market, competition, and finances.

Tip: Visit for help and resources

Step 2: Perfect the product

At first, Thea developed her own recipes and sold Domuts to dog-owners at the local markets. To get her product into more dogs’ paws, CGU helped her find a food technologist to give Domuts a longer shelf-life, and to ensure she was adhering with government guidelines for both product and labelling.

What to think about:

  • Does your product or service meet government and industry guidelines and regulations?
  • What do you need to do to perfect what you sell?

Tip: Visit to learn more about the various requirements.

Step 3: Build a brand

Thea’s son Marcus came up with the name “Domuts” originally. Now she’s focused on building a brand around that name. This means working with marketing experts to develop everything from colours, photography and a logo to packaging, advertising material and a website that will tell her story to world.

What to think about: Don’t just stop at a name and a logo when creating your brand.

Tip: Think about developing a consistent colour palette, photography style and writing style that you can then apply to everything you do in public.

Step 4: Protect your ambition

Once Thea decided to go all-in and relaunch Domuts, she also needed to protect her ambition and give some security to all that hard work. She met with CGU who helped her navigate the small-business insurance packages and get cover that was tailored to her specific needs.

What to think about: How will you protect your ambition? Small business insurance can protect your income stream, your product, and your employees.

Tip: Learn more about small business insurance at

Step 5: Test the market

Thea’s first batch of ‘donuts for dogs’ sold out immediately at the local markets, but that was only the first test. Making a Domut that is healthy and loved by pets is harder than it sounds, so Thea’s business coach David connected her with experts in product development and testing – including the toughest critics around: the pampered pooches of Sydney. (The outcome: “chewy tennis ball” and “dirty sock” flavours were a big hit, but “’postman’s ankle’ and “dog’s bum” didn’t make the cut).

What to think about: Brainstorm where and how can you test your product or service, before you invest in the big launch.

Tip: Choose places where your target customers hang out, but that don’t cost you a lot to participate. Local markets and online platforms are a great starting point.

Step 6: Launch that business

When Thea decided to launch Domuts the second time around – this time with help – she wanted to do it right and she didn’t hold back. After all, you don’t get a second shot at your first customers. CGU helped her invest in a TV ad to play during the AFL Grand Final which is about as big as it gets.

What to think about: You might not have the budget for a TV commercial but you can still think big.

Tip: Do some research to find out where your customers are (what are they watching, reading, doing?) then brainstorm the biggest thing you can do to get the most attention.

Step 7: Don’t do it alone

A great business idea will get you started, ambition and drive will propel you forward, but to last the distance, it’s important not to do it alone.

None of us knows everything about running a business, and experts can help fill those knowledge-gaps. Thea worked with David Stefanoff, a CGU-appointed business coach to help her navigate the day-to-day running of a successful business, including banking set-up, developing accounting systems, pricing decisions and account margins.

What to think about: Nobody expects you to be the expert. Depending on your personal expertise, you’ll need to call on experts for:

  • General business administration
  • Finance & banking
  • Marketing & advertising
  • Product development & compliance
  • Sales & distribution