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Young Entrepreneur Spotlight: Melanie Perkins, CEO, Canva

This past month I learnt about an online design platform called Canva, which offers over 60,000 free design templates and a library of over 3 million images helping individuals and businesses create compelling and exciting marketing materials.

I must have been living under a rock as Canva has been trading since 2013 and is one of the most valuable startups in the world. It got me researching and I have been amazed at Canva’s journey and the work that CEO and Co-Founder Melanie Perkins has put into the business. So, I thought I’d start a series of short blog posts looking at Young Entrepreneurs, starting with Canva’s very own Melanie Perkins.

Where did it all start?

Melanie Perkins started working on the idea of Canva from her mums living room in Perth in 2007. Perkins attended The University of Western Australia, studying a BA in Communications, Psychology Marketing and Management. Whilst studying she decided to teach fellow students on how to use traditional design software, becoming a Multimedia Centre Technical Assistant and Tutor. It was here the idea was born and Perkins saw the need for something like Canva.

Before anyone else could take the idea and build a solution, Perkins and her boyfriend – now fiancé – Cliff Obrecht hired freelancers to build a flash website to target a niche feature – school yearbooks – and thus her first startup Fusion Books was created, which in time would lead to her second startup, Canva.

Time and dedication

Canva Founders

Over the course of 5 years, Perkins had to battle through constant rejections. Through time and dedication, Perkins and Obrecht met Cameron Adams, an ex-Google employee who had founded Fluent, a startup based in Sydney. Adams became cofounder and the group were able to raise $3 million in seed funding between 2012 and 2013, including funding from the Australian government.

The company launched in August 2013, which was perfectly (yet unintentionally) timed with the rise of Instagram and Twitter. Fast forward to 2020, and Canva is now valued at $3.2 billion! Making the company, cofounded by 32-year old Melanie Perkins, one of the most valuable female-led technology startups in the world.

At the age of 19, Perkins had the vision to take on the tech giants and reinvent the design industry within two years. Unfortunately it wasn’t that easy. False starts, rejections and funding hurdles created that uphill journey. Patience and hard work paid off and Perkins is now in her 13th year as an entrepreneur.

This is just a short snippet of Melanie Perkin’s story. Read more on the Canva journey on the website.

Your Journey to Becoming a Young Entrepreneur

If you have a business idea, but don’t know where to start, why not have a chat with your university business services team. Many universities offer funded schemes that will help your business grow and innovate in new ways. Also, the UK government offer a selection of schemes that offer business advice and funding for your business. Not to forget the government also offer a start up loan of £500 – £25,000, with which you will get free support and guidance to write your business plan, and up to 12 months of free mentoring.

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