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When your business is like a fairy-tale, how do you fight the ogre?

Once upon a time, an 11-year old boy named Marcus had a unique idea for a business: donuts for dogs. He researched ingredients, came up with a cute name (“Domuts”), and co-opted his mum Thea to do the cooking. 

Within a matter of weeks, they were selling more than 250 Domuts a week at the local markets. Then cafes and dog groomers started selling their product; they launched a website; and had dreams of stocking their products in major supermarkets. Marcus quickly made enough money to get that dog he’d so desperately wanted. 

Tails were wagging and their four-legged customers were panting for more, but just as their business looked set to soar, Marcus’ and Thea’s dreams came crashing down. The orders outstripped their kitchen capacity; Thea was burnt out from juggling Domuts, her family and a full-time job; and then the family oven literally imploded, blowing up while she was trying to fulfil an order for 1,500 Domuts, in batches of 30 at a time.

But Thea isn’t the kind of hero to give up easily. Although her ambition lay dormant for a little while, she’s now taking Domuts to the next level with support from CGU. With support like mentoring for the business, marketing assistance and linking her up with the best food technologist, her ambition is back on track and Domuts is on its feet – or paws – again. 

A four-step plan to turn ambition into success


“I wish I had taken more time to develop the business strategy and growth plan back then, instead of just getting straight into it,” Thea remembers, adding she’s now discovered she could have done quite a few things differently… had she known.

Enter: The Mentor.

Step 1: Create a business plan with key milestones

CGU provided Thea with business mentor David Stefanoff, who helps her navigate the business requirements of running Domuts so it works with her ambition and situation. 

“A business plan can be simple, but it should clearly define the WHAT, WHY and WHO of your business,” explains David: 

  • “WHAT are you doing (your product or service)
  • WHY are you doing it (your personal goals), and 
  • WHO are you doing it for (your customers)?

“Timelines are essential, as is being accountable to yourself for meeting such timetables.” 

Step 2: Make a good product, the best way  

Thea says one of the big challenges in her business was finding out the best and most efficient way to make the product. With help from a food technologist, she found the right commercial kitchen where she could redevelop the Domuts recipe – and make a lot more product.

“Investing in the commercial kitchen was a game-changer for my business,” she says. “It means I’m no longer baking in my home kitchen and can now make 1,000 Domuts at a time, instead of 30.”

The food technologist also helped Thea improve the Domuts recipes.

One big step was to adjust the ingredients to give the Domuts a longer shelf-life (which is hugely important when you want to sell nationally), while making sure the product was still tasty and met all government pet food guidelines and labelling standards. 

Step 3: Find a niche to make the business stand out 

Next Thea and her advisors had to think about how they wanted to present Domuts to the world, and how they wanted to tell their story. What would the final product look like, and how would they package it? They came up with a logo and a brand identity, relaunched the website, and invested in advertising. 

“The product is a premium offering, and it needs to look great upon delivery, so designing the right packaging for presentation and freshness has been challenging,” says David.

“Investment in branding has given us a niche to make the business stand out,” Thea adds. “Together we brainstormed names for the different Domut flavours, based on things we know dogs love to eat, then Marcus chose the final names: ‘stick,’ ‘chewy tennis ball,’ and ‘dog ate my homework.’ And of course advertising and raising awareness – including a TV spot during the AFL Grand Final – is really helping put Domuts on the map!”

Step 4: Protect the future  

With Domuts back on track, Thea is excited about the future. 

“I’d love to expand the menu into other dog treats, and also partner with retailers to get the product out via other distribution channels,” she says. “Maybe even mobile dog-vans, like the Mr Whippy van but filled with treats for dogs!

“I had a great meeting with CGU, who talked me through all the necessary insurance I needed to protect my business now and as it grows. I hadn’t realised how important it was to have things like cyber insurance – particularly since we were selling our products online – and personal liability insurance, as well as the more obvious cover that protect us from damage to our property, and theft.

“What I love about Domuts now is that it’s a very simple idea that has the support to reach the masses. All dogs in Australia will now be able to get their paws on a delicious Domuts treat!”

Watch our video about how Thea reignited her ambition and made Domuts bigger and better, or learn more about our $40K CGU Ambition Grants now at