Melanie Perkins Treads On Dangerous Waters

Imagine yourself adrift on a kiteboard with a deflated sail in the middle of the Caribbean, waiting to be rescued. CEO of Canva, Melanie Perkins, definitely can. For the Australian founder, the early days of Canva consisted of rejection, turbulent waters (literally), and dangerous new hobbies. It was worth it, just as long as it would help fundraise money for her startup. And while many people would throw in the towel, Perkins learned to seize the smallest opportunities.

Resourcefulness is synonymous with imagination, inventiveness, and even persistence. Being resourceful is about optimizing the tools in front of you. That means “devoting energy to solutions” and focusing on outcomes regardless of external factors. Before Perkins became the driving force behind an $8.6 billion business, she learned to get creative, resilient, and tenacious with minimal resources.

What Makes Melanie Perkins A Special Founder

  • Resourcefulness: With some supplies and a little business experience, Perkins started out small and created an online yearbook design app called Fusion Books. This idea was the precursor to the beloved Canva we know today. Perkins revealed how her mother’s living room became her office at the start of her business. As we mentioned before, resourcefulness is the realization that you can do more with less. Why is that important? It’s this very idea that redefines what is possible. When you leverage your strengths to the resources at hand, you spark innovation. So, don’t be afraid to get scrappy. This is your opportunity to innovate.
  • Resilience: Back in 2016, Perkins revealed the ugly truth about chasing your dreams. “I’ve never heard of a company that’s an overnight success, not when you hear the real story.” When venture capitalist and kitesurfer Bill Tai visited Perth in 2011, Perkins spotted her opportunity. After sneaking into a dinner that Tai was attending, she pitched Canva to the attendees in hopes of piquing someone’s interest. Alas, Perkins left without any promise but learned how kitesurfing could lead her to the right investors. The moral of the story: Your life is driven by hidden choreography. It’s your job to search, uncover, and spark opportunities even in the most unconventional places.  
  • Vision: According to Perkins, pursuing your vision means being “determined” and “tenacious.” When Perkins discovered how extreme water sports were her golden ticket into the VC world, she was set on attending an entrepreneurship and kiteboarding conference to pitch her idea to potential investors. So, she did want any other founder would have done in her place. Perkins took the time and learned how to kitesurf just so she could get into the event. It was because of this “audacious vision” and persistence that eventually led actors Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson to invest in Perkins' idea. Long story short, having a vision is a practical guide to success. It’s that bit of magic and energy that makes change happen. As Steve Jobs once said, “If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don't have to be pushed. The vision pulls you.”

Resourcefulness means adopting a “yes we can” attitude. Resourcefulness means rolling up your sleeves and doing the hard work. Resourcefulness means recognizing opportunities even in the deepest of challenges. As Perkins said, success doesn't happen overnight. While you’re facing various constraints and challenges in your career, be open and receptive to the learnings of your journey.

Quote of the Week:

"When you don’t have resources, you become resourceful." –K.R. Sridhar, CEO of Bloom Energy

Conversation Starters

  • Empathy: Here are five things you need to know about empathy. (Source: Washington Post)
  • Inclusiveness: Julie Zhuo, author of The Making of a Manager, shares a thread (and story) about managing teams in different cultural contexts. (Source: Twitter)
  • Leadership: The traditional (and quite old-school) criteria ingrained into the workplace have left out many qualified leaders. (Source: Harvard Business Review)
  • Listening: Lessons from a hostage negotiator. Hear, hear. (Source: The Economist)
  • Public Speaking: How inaugural poet, Amanda Gorman, used her writing to overcome a speech impediment. (Source: CNBC)

Editor’s Corner

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