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Melanie Perkins (CEO Canva)

A little over a year ago Australian entrepreneur Melanie Perkins founded her second business venture, Canva, an online graphic design tool valued at over $13 million. As Founder and CEO she has had to raise the capital and lead the company. Not only am I fan of the platform (it’s very easy to use, especially for someone like me who isn’t very design savvy), but I think she’s one very inspiring lady! Here’s my interview with her…

What has the highlight of your career been so far?
Every day I get to work with the smartest, motivated people I have ever met. Every day is a challenge and adventure. I came up with the idea for Canva more than seven years ago, so now seeing it out in the world and getting so much traction is incredibly rewarding. We celebrated Canva’s first anniversary a couple of weeks ago and we’re now at 750,000 users, an incredible milestone to be celebrating!

What made you start your own businesses – from Fusion Books to Canva?
Having a problem that I believe should be solved has been strong motivation to continue even when it seemed like I was going against the grain. We are so fortunate to have an incredible team. Creating, inventing, building and solving problems with a group of motivated and passionate people is ridiculously fun.

The support we have had from Canva users around the world is also a great motivation to continue building out our vision.

Was it challenging raising the funding – particularly as a woman (as I’ve heard angel investors are mainly men)?
It was very challenging raising funds. It took many years to build the relationships, gain the trust from people I previously didn’t know, demonstrate that I had the capacity to run a company, build a team, build a product, and many other aspects that are required to build a company.

Was it more or less difficult because I am a woman? I have no idea. In fact on the contrary, I think the fact it was such a rigorous process helped to refine every single aspect of our business. I had to ensure every aspect of our strategy was honed, including our vision, our monetisation strategy, our marketing strategies, our target market.

Pitching people, getting rejected, revising our pitch deck, articulating our story and vision over and over again for a couple of years is challenging, but certainly helped to ensure we knew what we were talking about! I had to work incredibly hard to get people to invest, to convince my team to join me, to build our product and to grow it into something amazing. But the challenges along the path have shaped our company and helped us to fine tune the strategy.

What do you look for when hiring new staff?
The most important thing is to hire great people. When I first sat down with one of our earliest investors, Facebook Director of Engineering Lars Rasmussen, I showed him this hilarious pitch deck and explained the concept for Canva. He understood the vision before many others. In fact, Lars introduced us to many of our other investors. He also introduced us to our co-founder Cameron Adams and development lead, David Hearnden.

The more people that believe in your vision, the easier the journey becomes. Over the past few years, we’ve had team members, investors and users join us. They understand our vision. In fact, we now have 750,000 users who love Canva and use it as part of their day. They share our vision. Our entire team is passionate enough to come into work every day to build Canva. They could work anywhere, yet they choose to be at Canva.

Now, as we continue to grow, we’re needing to adapt the way we do things to maintain the environment we envisaged for Canva. It’s been a big adventure already, but we’re really only just getting started.

How do you manage it all – the team, the travel, the stress etc?
This is the best job in the world that I could ask for. I love coming to work each day and figuring out how we can achieve the big vision we have for Canva.

Being an entrepreneur is an incredible path. It’s challenging, it’s a roller coaster, it’s exhilarating, it’s my dream job. I get to work with the smartest people I have ever met, get to invent, get to realise my vision.

If you could go back in time, what would you tell your 18 year old self?
My philosophy has always been to put my heart and soul into everything that I do. If you are going to do something, anything do it with passion and purpose.

It’s hard to know what the future holds, but the best way to prepare for it is to do everything that you do as well as you possibly can.

Enjoy the journey, the challenges. The experiences that you will value most in life are often the most challenging. They’ll push you out of your comfort zone and help you to grow.

What’s your top advice for all the young women out there with their own entrepreneurial ideas?
Solve a problem that you feel passionately about and really believe should be solved. It’s taken over seven years from the initial idea to get Canva to where it is today. It’s a long journey, so to make sure that you are solving a problem worth solving.

Don’t be afraid to jump in and get started. You can’t possibly know everything you need to know about starting and running a company before you start. If you are determined to solve a problem and passionate to learn everything as you go, that is enough. Take the first steps and the rest will, eventually, follow.

Follow Melanie on Twitter: @MelanieCanva

Want to feature as an Inspiring Woman or have someone else to put forward? Please email the work her [@] gmail dot com or fill out the submission form.

Laura is the Founder & Editor of The Workher. She is an award winning Public Relations professional, who loves blogging about surviving and thriving in the workplace as a young woman.

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