When starting a business, you’re likely to hit a few roadblocks. Melanie Perkins of Canva hit plenty of them, but she didn’t stop. And for this reason, today she is the owner of a billion-dollar company.
We can all agree that starting a business is a challenging task. Coming up with an idea that nobody else has used so far can take a lot of time and energy. And even if you do have one, raising the money to turn that idea into a business is often very difficult.
You need to find investors that share your goal for your business idea. Due to the competitiveness in today’s market, that seems like a daunting task. You pitch your idea to an investor, full of enthusiasm, but they say ‘no’. Your confidence drops, but you pick yourself up to try again. You get the same ‘no’ over and over again, and you might start thinking that your idea isn’t worth investing in. Finding business investors seems impossible.
This is exactly what happened to Melanie Perkins. Not once, not twice, but a hundred times. Despite this, she didn’t give up. After every rejection, she would go back home and fix her pitch over and over again. For all that time, she kept her eyes on the prize. And guess what? She won it. Today, she’s the CEO of Canva, a design platform that has hundreds of thousands of users.
There are very few stories as inspiring as hers. This is why we want to share it with you, along with some of the best lessons that she has learned about raising money for a business. If you’re struggling with starting your business, this story can give you the motivation to keep going.
Ever since she was a teenager, Melanie Perkins has had the entrepreneurial spirit that you can’t find in many people. At the age of 14, she started selling hand-made scarves. In her own words, she “never forgot the freedom and excitement of being able to build a business.” It was clear that Melanie would become a successful entrepreneur at some point.
In 2007, she founded her first company, Fusion Books, along with co-founder Cliff Obrecht. At that time, she was just a university student who had no idea how to start a business. “Every single aspect has been a steep learning curve,” she says. From finding business investors to creating and launching a product, there were a lot of setbacks along the way.
Over time, she has learned how to find business investors and develop her product as well as her pitch. After a number of setbacks, she managed to launch Fusion Books, which would become the largest yearbook publisher in Australia. She then expanded the business to France and New Zealand.
But her drive for business didn’t let her stop there. She felt like there was a place in the market for something bigger. That’s when the idea for Canva was born. She wanted to create a platform that would make it easy for everyone to create stunning designs, no matter their skill level.
Although she already had an idea on how to finance a startup, finding an investor for her business was challenging, to say the least. Finding business investors took three whole years. The turning point for her was meeting Bill Tai, a well-known venture capitalist. Even though he didn’t invest in Canva after the first pitch, he connected her to a team that would help her bring her business to life.
To say that Perkins’ road to success was rough would be an understatement. Despite this, she has managed to become a billionaire after creating a company that’s still growing. Like many successful entrepreneurs, she likes to inspire other aspiring entrepreneurs. This is why she shares her tips for starting a business. To give you some motivation, let’s take a look at some of the lessons that Perkins learned.
Lesson #1 – Find Things You’re Passionate About
This sentence seems to be very popular among entrepreneurs. There’s a good reason for that. Many people would agree that no matter how profitable your business is, it can leave you feeling empty if you’re not enjoying the process.
After you find your passion, Melanie advises you to give it 110%. This way, you’ll become more confident, which is crucial when finding business investors. They’ll respond positively to your confidence and you’re more likely to land that investment.
This advice extends far beyond starting a business. The passion needs to be there throughout the entire process of running and building up a business. Whether you’re looking for ways to double sales or implement a new strategy, you’ll make important decisions easier.
Lesson #2 – Try to Keep a Startup Track Record
When raising money for a business, it’s a great idea to keep a record of your previous ventures. This will make your new idea more viable to your potential investors. If you show them that you have what it takes to make their investment work out, there’s a bigger chance of them agreeing to fund your business.
Founding Fusion Books was very helpful to Melanie and Cliff when they were pitching the idea for Canva. The success of their previous company gained the investors’ trust. Bill Tai showed interest in their idea even before they had a product. This is because they showed that they’re capable of running a successful business.
But as you can see from their example, this doesn’t guarantee you the funds you need. It took a lot of effort for them to land that investment, despite having a successful company behind them. This is only one piece of the puzzle, but it’s often an important one.
Lesson #3 – Determination is Key
Try to put yourself in Melanie’s shoes back then. Try to imagine yourself in a situation where finding business investors seems impossible. Would you keep going after they’ve rejected you 20, 60 or 100 times?
If the answer is ‘no’, that answer needs to change. Melanie faced many rejections and failed pitches, but that didn’t stop her. It’s this kind of perseverance that led to her enormous success. This is among the most important tips for starting a business.
She could’ve easily given up. After all, when your idea fails to grab investors’ attention over and over again, it’s easy to start thinking about quitting. But it’s at this point that you need to keep going forward. It’s certainly going to take a lot of trial and error, but being persistent is the thing that will get you what you need.
If you believe in your idea, don’t let rejections make you doubt it. Raising money for a business is by no means an easy task, and you should expect quite a few rejections before you land the prized investment.
What’s important is to not let this destroy your confidence, as this will only lead to more failed attempts. Instead, pick yourself up, revise your pitch, and try as many times as you need until you earn your investors’ trust.
It’s also a good idea to refer to the Law of Averages in these situations. Many successful entrepreneurs and salesmen consider it to be the secret to selling anything. The law states that every failure brings you closer to success. When you’re pitching your idea, you’re a salesman. So the more investors reject you, the greater the chance of the next one accepting your offer.
Lesson #4 – Make Your Pitch All About the Problem
“Anyone can have a solution but if no one cares about it, unfortunately, you are not going to have a very big company”. This is a quote from Melanie that helped her find a perfect pitch for Canva. But what exactly does it mean?
It means that the main focus of your pitch should be on the problem that your product is aiming to solve. If your idea is innovative (which it should be), people might have a hard time understanding the concept.
This is why you start your pitch with a problem, rather than a solution. Once you’ve convinced your investors that the problem exists, you can explain how you can solve it. Melanie didn’t present Canva as just a platform for creating beautiful designs. Investors probably wouldn’t have considered it to be a profitable business. Instead, she presented it as a method of creating designs that would help people and companies express themselves. Everyone would be able to do it without the need for any previous design knowledge.
So remember, you’re not selling a product, you’re solving problems. If your idea can solve a problem that people care about, focus on that problem, then the solution. This way, you’ll be one step closer to funding a startup.
Lesson #5 – Create the Butterfly Effect
The butterfly effect says that a small force will produce a cumulatively large effect over time. This is exactly what happened to Melanie when she met Bill Tai. Even though he didn’t invest immediately, he introduced her to a network of people that turned her idea into a business.
Melanie’s advice is to influence what she calls a ‘lighthouse person’. This can be an influential person that can help you start your business. So whether you need help with product development, funding a startup, or any other issue, try to find an influential person that can help.
But how do you find these people? Well, the truth is, it’s never been easier to do so. There are a lot of entrepreneurs out there willing to help those who need advice on how to start a business. You can contact them through e-mail, social media, or even over the phone in some cases.
Of course, as with anything else, persistence is crucial. Don’t give up until you manage to grab the attention of a person that might help you turn your idea into a profitable business.
The Final Word
We hope that Melanie’s story inspires you to keep going with your idea, despite any challenges that you might face. Keep in mind that hitting a couple of roadblocks along the way is a necessary part of starting a business. It’s from these situations that you learn how to be a successful entrepreneur, if you can adopt Melanie’s advice.
Perseverance is a necessary part of every business owner’s mindset, so make sure to not let adversity stop you from becoming successful. Instead, face the challenges with excitement, as every one of them is an opportunity to learn and grow your business.
At CUB our ambition is to unite those who are changing the world through their businesses. We support these people by building a private community of Australia’s next titans of industry. And we bring these titans together to accelerate the achievement of each other’s ambitions.
If you wish to be considered for membership, please feel free to request a club introduction on our membership page: www.cub.club/membership.