A dreamer turned designer, Melanie Perkins proved age and gender did not matter for success


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A true trailblazer in the tech world, a visionary entrepreneur, and the force behind one of the most successful design platforms globally is the CEO and co-founder of Canva, Melanie Perkins! Her transformation from a dreamer to a trailblazing entrepreneur turned challenges into opportunities. Her story exemplifies resilience, innovation, and an unwavering commitment to democratizing design. Few stories in the dynamic landscape of entrepreneurship shine as brightly as Melanie Perkins’.

From the conception of her visionary ideas to the realization of global success, Perkins has carved a niche for herself in the tech industry. Perkins is the youngest female CEO of a tech start-up worth more than A$1 billion. Perkins was one of Australia’s wealthiest women as of May 2021. Melanie embarked on an incredible journey, growing a small Australian college startup into a $3.2 billion global unicorn. She believes that design should be accessible to everyone and, through Canva, has led the charge in disrupting the design industry. Melanie’s story is about making a difference, not just starting a business. As part of her philanthropic commitment, she intends to donate the majority of her wealth to charity. 

Early Life and Educational Background:

Melanie Perkins’ childhood fascination with technology and design grew into a lifelong love of innovation. Melanie Perkins, from the picturesque city of Perth, Australia, demonstrated an entrepreneurial spark that sparked in her childhood. Throughout her educational journey, she meticulously honed her skills, realizing the potential of combining creativity with cutting-edge technology. She developed a profound fascination for the intersection of technology and design while growing up in a supportive environment. She had started her first business at the age of fourteen, selling handmade scarves at shops and markets throughout Perth. She attributes her entrepreneurial drive to this experience, stating that “she never forgot the freedom and excitement of building a business.”

Perkins attended the University of Western Australia after high school, majoring in communications, psychology, and commerce. Perkins was also a private tutor for graphic design students at the time. She observed students’ difficulties in learning design programs such as Adobe Photoshop, where it would frequently take a semester at university to introduce students to the basic features of these complex design programs. Perkins saw a business opportunity in making the design process easier. Her concept was to create a design platform that did not require any technical knowledge. She dropped out of university at the age of 19 to pursue her first business, Fusion Books, with Cliff Obrecht.

Melanie’s journey into the world of technology began during her adolescence when she not only embraced the digital landscape but also saw the transformative power it held. This innate drive drove her to pursue a path of knowledge, laying the groundwork for a groundbreaking career that would eventually redefine the graphic design industry. Perkins’ academic pursuits served as stepping stones, honing her skills and molding her into the visionary leader she would become. 

The Birth of Canva:

Canva’s launch was a watershed moment in Perkins’ career. Having become frustrated with the complexities of graphic design software, she envisions a platform that will democratize design. Thus, Canva was born, with the mission of providing individuals with the ability to effortlessly create captivating visuals. Her visionary leadership has guided Canva on a remarkable journey of perseverance and innovation. 

Recognizing the need for a user-friendly design tool, Perkins and co-founder Cliff Obrecht took on the difficult task of making her vision a reality. They overcame initial rejections and skepticism to turn Canva into a multibillion-dollar success story. Melanie’s dedication to democratizing design not only made the platform accessible but also helped to foster a global community of creators. Canva’s user-centric approach and continuous evolution demonstrate Perkins’ commitment to empowering individuals, businesses, and organizations worldwide. Melanie Perkins’ tenacity and foresight not only addressed a market gap but fundamentally transformed the way people interact with graphic design, leaving an indelible mark on the tech landscape.

Navigating Challenges:

Building Canva from the ground up was a challenging feat. Her remarkable ability to overcome adversity marked Melanie Perkins’ journey to build Canva into a leading design platform. One of the most difficult challenges she faced was securing funding. Perkins demonstrated unrivaled perseverance in the face of over 100 rejections over three years, turning setbacks into opportunities for growth. Her perseverance extended beyond financial challenges as she navigated the difficult task of persuading skeptics and industry insiders of Canva’s transformative vision. 

Perkins’ unwavering belief in the power of democratizing design drove her determination, and her strategic approach allowed Canva to grow and thrive. Perkins transformed Canva into a global powerhouse through strategic partnerships, innovative solutions, and a commitment to inclusivity, leaving an indelible mark on the tech landscape. However, her perseverance and unwavering faith in the project propelled Canva forward, establishing it as the world’s leading design platform.

Disrupting the industry:

Canva’s impact on the graphic design industry has gone beyond democratization and setting new standards; it has fundamentally changed how people approach and perceive design. Through an extensive library of templates, a user-friendly interface, and collaborative features, Canva redefined the accessibility of design tools. The platform’s user-friendly design bridged the gap between professionals and beginners, allowing a broader audience to express their creativity with ease. 

Canva’s emphasis on simplicity, combined with powerful design capabilities, challenged traditional notions of graphic design software complexity. As a result, it not only changed the industry landscape but also inspired a cultural shift, fostering the belief that in the digital era, anyone, regardless of expertise, can be a creator. Canvas’s disruptive journey continues to shape the future of graphic design, making creativity more accessible to people all over the world.

Strategic Partnerships:

Perkins’ strategic partnerships are one of the keys to Canva’s success. Collaborations with industry heavyweights and influencers aided in expanding Canva’s reach and credibility. These collaborations not only increased the number of users but also established Canva as a must-have tool for a variety of industries. Furthermore, these strategic alliances facilitated Canva’s integration into various professional ecosystems, increasing its utility and relevance. Partnering with influential figures and established entities allowed Canva to leverage its expertise and user base. This strategy not only accelerated Canvas’s growth but also cemented its position as a versatile and indispensable platform capable of meeting the diverse creative needs of individuals and businesses alike.

User-Centric Design:

Canva’s success is built on its commitment to user-centric design.  Furthermore, Canva’s user-centric approach extends beyond its digital canvas. Melanie Perkins, co-founder and CEO, has fostered an open communication culture with the Canva community, valuing their feedback and insights. The feedback loop between the company and its users shapes regular updates and features, ensuring a symbiotic relationship. Canva’s commitment to user satisfaction not only strengthens its commitment to excellence but also cements its position as the go-to platform for design needs. As the platform continues to evolve, Canva continues to set the standard for intuitive and user-friendly design tools. This emphasis on meeting user needs played a significant role in Canva’s widespread adoption.

Scaling Globally:

Canva quickly expanded its global operations from its humble beginnings. Furthermore, Melanie Perkins’ strategic vision propelled Canva to cross borders. She expertly tailored Canva’s features to resonate with various cultural preferences, leveraging her insights into diverse international markets. This nuanced approach facilitated Canva’s seamless integration into the fabric of global creativity. Canva quickly grew from a startup to a household name thanks to Perkins’ adept navigation of the complexities of scaling a tech platform. Her leadership not only expanded Canva’s reach but also cemented its position as a must-have tool for individuals, businesses, and creatives all over the world.

Embracing Innovation:

Melanie Perkins, a proponent of continuous innovation, made certain that Canva stayed ahead of industry trends. The platform introduced new features and functionalities regularly, keeping users engaged and cementing Canva’s position as an industry leader. Perkins’ dedication to innovation went beyond features, encompassing a visionary approach that changed Canva’s trajectory. With a relentless pursuit of cutting-edge technologies and design paradigms, Canva, under Perkins’ leadership, consistently pushed the boundaries of creativity. Perkins cultivated an experimentation and agility culture within her team. This all-encompassing embrace of innovation not only kept Canva competitive in the volatile tech landscape but also positioned it as a trendsetter, influencing the evolution of the design industry.

Legacy and Future Endeavors:

Perkins’ visionary leadership extends beyond Canva’s success, leaving a lasting legacy in the global tech landscape. Her dedication to innovation extends beyond Canva, serving as a beacon for aspiring entrepreneurs all over the world. Perkins’ commitment to pushing boundaries not only propels Canva to new heights but also demonstrates her ongoing impact on the industry. Her endeavors continue to foster creativity and influence the next generation of tech leaders as she remains forward-thinking.


Melanie Perkins’ journey exemplifies the power of vision, resilience, and innovation. Her ability to turn obstacles into opportunities and to democratize design has left an indelible imprint on the entrepreneurial landscape. Reflecting on her accomplishments, it is clear that Melanie Perkins is more than just a successful businesswoman; she is a visionary leader shaping the future of technology and design.

Quotes from Melanie Perkins:

“Innovation is not just about technology; it’s about finding better ways to solve problems and improve lives.”

“Success is a journey, not a destination. Embrace the challenges, learn from failures, and celebrate every small victory.”


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