Almost all successful people and businesses have faced rejection at some point in their lives or careers. Furthermore, rejection has always resulted in the emergence of a more resilient and improved version of oneself, as history attests.
How many rejections do you believe you can handle? If your proposal was turned down ten times, would you still stand by it? If twenty times? Well, we don’t know about you but, the story of Canva, an Australian design platform, being repeatedly rejected is fascinating.
And the founder of Canva, Melanie Perkins, stood by her idea even after 100 rejections. And now Canva is the most widely used online design tool for creating resumes, presentations, posters, invitations, and certificates.
Melanie Perkins has not only established herself as a great entrepreneur in today’s fiercely competitive market, but she has also demonstrated her ability to compete and survive against industry heavyweights like Microsoft and Adobe.
Melanie possessed an entrepreneurial spirit from the beginning, but she was not immediately successful. In actuality, she struggled with money in her formative years. She began working at a young age. She was tutoring other students in addition to her studies in order to manage her finances.
But she has never let her circumstances stop her. The Australian businessman has created a design platform that is a strong competitor to the tech behemoths. So, let us take a look at the success story of Melanie Perkins, an Australian billionaire.
Melanie Perkins’s birthplace is in Perth, Western Australia. Melanie was raised in a multicultural family by a Malaysian father and an Australian mother. Her parents are engineers and teachers, respectively.
She went to Sacred Heart College, a secondary school in the Sorrento neighborhood of northern Perth. Melanie aspired to be a professional figure skater in high school and would wake up at 4:30 a.m. regularly to practice.
She launched her first company at the age of fourteen, selling handmade scarves at shops and markets all over Perth. She ascribes this experience as helping her develop her desire to start her own business because she never forgot the joy and freedom of doing so.
Melanie attended the University of Western Australia after high school, majoring in communications, psychology, and commerce. Melanie also served as a private tutor at the time for students studying graphic design.
Melanie was only 19 years old when she was shot by the idea for the first time. She was a university student in Perth in 2006.
It was back when she used to teach graphic design. As she observed her students struggling mightily with Microsoft and Adobe platforms, she realized that the majority of the programs were prohibitively expensive, difficult to use, and inaccessible.
She dreamed of a simple, collaborative, and virtual future for design. She believed there must be a better solution. She pitched her idea to Cliff Obrecht, a friend who is now both her co-founder and husband. She and Obrecht immediately got to work on making that vision a reality.
Melanie and Obrecht established Fusion Books in 2007. Fusion Books provided a simple drag-and-drop tool with a library of design templates that could be filled with images, illustrations, and fonts so that students could create their own school yearbooks.
Melanie initially intended to create software that simplified the entire design process, but after considering the competition from big businesses and her limited resources, she came to the conclusion that it did not make sense.
Melanie’s mother was a teacher who oversaw the yearbook for the school. Yearbooks seemed like a good niche to test the concept for Canva after Melanie noticed how much time it took to design a yearbook.
Obrecht began cold calling schools in the Duncraig living room of Melanie’s mother in an attempt to gain new clients for Fusion Books. The yearbook printing would frequently be assisted by their parents.
Fusion Books expanded into France and New Zealand during the course of five years, becoming Australia’s largest yearbook publisher.
Fusion Books was doing very well at the time, but Cliff and Melanie were out of money for growth and expansion. They desired assistance and assistance from venture capitalists, but no one agreed or believed in the concept.
During this time, Fusion Books was renamed Canva Inc. Melanie and Obrecht initially had a very difficult time finding investors to fund their venture. In 2011, they had the chance to meet Bill Tai, a well-known investor, in Perth.
Although they weren’t given any money by Tai, they were invited to kite-surfing events that a lot of other tech investors also attended. A few of these events took place in Silicon Valley, where Melanie and Obrecht explored every possible avenue but were still unable to receive assistance.
Melanie and Obrecht finally met their savior Lars Rasmussen, the co-founder of Google Maps, at a Silicon Valley event. Although he expressed interest in the idea, he suggested that the founders postpone everything until they had the right tech team in place.
After some time Rasmussen himself decided to take the role of the company’s tech adviser and introduced Cameron Adams, a former Google employee with the necessary technical know-how, to Melanie and Obrecht.
Adams initially had no interest in working for the company because he was launching his own company, fluent.io, which developed email-disrupting software. Melanie sent Adams a detailed email asking if he wanted to join the company.
Adams was in Silicon Valley raising funds for his start-up at that time. However, after receiving that email, he was so impressed that decided to join Canva and take the position of chief product officer and third founder.
After two rounds of seed funding, the company was officially launched in 2013 with Melanie Perkins as CEO, Obrecht as COO, and Cameron Adams as CPO.
Canva began to rapidly expand and diversify its business operations. They had over 600,000 users during the first year. Additionally, the business extended its reach to cities like Beijing and Manila. The business continued to enhance its platform as the years went by adding more distinctive features.
Melanie became well-known in Silicon Valley and among American tech companies even with a modest amount of diversification outside of Australia. She was named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30 in Asia list in 2016.
Melanie became the third richest woman in Australia with a net worth of $1.3 billion in 2020 after Canva raised $60 million and saw an increase in valuation to $6 billion.
Canva has now assisted in the creation of nearly 2 billion designs across 190 nations, and it has received endorsements from famous people like Woody Harrelson and Owen Wilson.
The company was valued at $3.2 billion in October 2019 after a funding round of $85 million led by Silicon Valley investor Mary Meeker’s Bond Capital.
The 700-person team already spread across Sydney, Beijing, and Manila will grow, according to Melanie, who also plans to expand the company’s for-profit offerings, Canva Pro and Canva for Enterprise.
That strategy will put Melanie one step closer to competing directly with professional design tools developed by tech behemoths like Microsoft and Adobe. But, with her platform already used by 85% of Fortune 500 companies, the young founder says she’s up for the challenge.
Melanie Perkins, who is in her early thirties, has struggled and accomplished a lot at such a young age. While she married Cliff Obrecht in January 2021, both of them hope to have a happy and successful future building and growing Canva Inc and helping people with all of their available resources.
Melanie’s belief in making design available to everyone kept her motivated and moving forward. Every rejection brought her one step closer to the next client who might finally say “yes.”
Melanie’s commitment is something we can all learn from. Rarely do people come along who can endure so much rejection and still persevere. Melanie’s other fear, besides rejection, was rivalry with her giant competitors.
As a result of her dedication, Canva is one of the few profitable unicorn startups. Nowadays, very few businesses uphold strong moral principles, but Melanie’s vision has made Canva one of them.
But her brilliant idea and excellent service demonstrated that there is always room for the best product. Her story demonstrates that if you have the best product and believe it will serve people, you should stand by it.
No matter how many times you are turned down or how formidable your rivals are, you can always win in the end. As always, having a fantastic product, working hard, and being committed are crucial.
Melanie has also decided to donate a 30% stake in the company to a nonprofit organization that fights against poverty because she believes in the virtue of giving. She did not forget to pay her part in society.
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