With a valuation of more than AUD $6 billion and counting, the online design business Canva is one of Australia's breakout success stories for technology. And the journey started in Joondalup.
Co-founder Melanie Perkins attended Sacred Heart College on the City’s coastal fringe and built her first business venture selling hand-made scarves.
Not content to stop there, she and business partner (now fiancé) Cliff Obrecht founded a company designing bespoke yearbooks for students, working in her mother’s living room in suburban Duncraig.
That led to the creation of Canva, which was ignited with the help of legendary Silicon Valley investor Bill Tai, whom Perkins had the luck to meet at a conference in Perth.
After moving to Sydney, Perkins and Obrecht accelerated Canva into a “unicorn” - any privately held startup company valued at over $1 billion.
Making Joondalup a magnet for business
There are so many factors that go into making a successful business. Nothing is guaranteed.
But what if Canva’s founders had reached out locally and found the expert help and opportunities they needed to stay in Joondalup and still thrive internationally?
To succeed in business you need help, and while Joondalup has always been a great place to grow a company, the level of support now on offer is higher than ever before.
In 2017, the State Government announced Joondalup would be WA’s first ever Innovation Hub. Its mission: to foster a generation of technological advancements, research and collaboration to protect national security and provide opportunities to help the rise of businesses specialising in cyber security.
And as Joondalup becomes a global centre for technology innovation, the City is strengthening its commitment to helping local companies thrive both locally and internationally.
This is part of a push to transform the local economy from one based on population growth, to one centered on investment, innovation and entrepreneurship.
To bring this about, the City is focused on helping local businesses transform their operations so they can compete internationally, attract investment and develop to their full potential while enjoying the world class lifestyle and amenities Joondalup has to offer.
Business Ready now in Joondalup
To encourage this momentum - and perhaps even help the next Canva succeed - the City has begun a new initiative called the Business Ready Program.
This initiative aims to take the guesswork out of how businesses can grow themselves beyond Joondalup’s boundaries, acting locally while thinking globally.
The program is also a way of showing that Joondalup is open for business and supportive of growth, so that the City becomes a magnet for investment and entrepreneurship.
It’s a sign of the City’s maturing, and matches the rising ambitions we see all around, from apartment buildings in the City centre, to the new world-class Ocean Reef Marina.
Through the program, Joondalup businesses get access to expert help, advice and materials that show them how to enhance their processes and make the connections needed to win more business locally and compete internationally. It essentially helps them to work “on the business” rather than “in the business”.
Digital, Destination and Global ambitions
Joondalup is a City focused on growing digitally capable and innovative businesses, tourism and lifestyle opportunities that attract visitors, and worldwide connections that bring investment.
Reflecting this focus, the Business Ready Program is focused on helping Joondalup thrive in three key areas of growth for the City: Digital, Destination and Global.
For the pilot program, 30 places were offered to businesses across these three accelerator streams with a diverse range of participants from sole traders to start-ups, and established small to medium businesses.
While Canva’s founders had to have the good fortune to meet a Silicon Valley investor to make their overseas connections, participants in the global stream of the Business Ready Program got to pick the brains of experts from the International Trade and Investment Centre at the Chamber of Commerce WA.
They were told everything from how to choose the right overseas market for their products, how Free Trade Agreements work, to compliance and risk minimisation, and how to pitch to the next investor.
As the cyber capital of Australia, businesses participating on the Digital stream of the program not only went through a digital transformation of their business, they were given the tools to build their cyber resilience.
Across the three programs, experts were deployed as mentors to the participating businesses with a series of one-to-one and group sessions coaching them in industry-leading practices for optimising operations.
And just to prove that Joondalup is always open for business, the pilot program was run during some of the strictest restrictions of the COVID-19 lockdown, utilising video conferencing to ensure the safety of participants.
In the world of business when something needs to be done, you have to find a way to do it. The program was also delivered by local experts, which supports the City’s strong support-local focus.
Joondalup is making sure its businesses have the skills they need to push through.
A network of support for Joondalup
While it’s important to make overseas connections, businesses that thrive also connect with their local community and create a hub of knowledge.
So in mid-June, the City hosted a networking event at the new Quest Apartments in Joondalup for participants from the pilot programs so they could share their experiences and celebrate what they had learned.
The participating businesses represented a diverse range of industries from martial arts to industrial automation consultants, digital and technical experts, hospitality, retail and arts.
One participant of the Business Ready Program was IT consultant James Paterson from Element 8 IT, who said the advice he received was invaluable. James participated on the Destination stream of the program which supported businesses to identify “the personality of your business” to increase their customer base through sales and marketing strategies.
“It has allowed me to make some significant improvements in terms of what I was doing with my business, how I could pitch it, what the opportunities were, the development of my website and digital marketing campaigns.”
A full evaluation of the program has now been conducted through interviews with participants and another round is being planned to keep driving momentum.
Joondalup is always business ready
They say from little things big things grow.
If the pilot edition of Joondalup’s Business Ready Program is anything to go by, the City’s ambition to become a hub for innovation and investment is accelerating fast.
The key to making the City a business hub is to encourage thinking globally while acting locally, so that Joondalup continues its growth as a great place to live, work and succeed.
The Business Ready Program now underway has just trained a diverse range of local businesses in how they can enhance their operations to win more work, make international connections and even export their products.
While this kind of knowledge is often hard won over many years, the Business Ready Program joins the dots quickly.
It gives Joondalup businesses the edge they need to go out into the world and compete and deepen their connection to a great place to live and work.
To find out more: https://www.joondalup.wa.gov.au/kb/resident/business-ready-programs