Australia’s top entrepreneurs and how they got started
Learn about some of the top Australian entrepreneurs and the skills they used to achieve career success.
Becoming your own boss is something that has been romanticised for ages. But what if you considered it actually to be possible? You have the ability to turn your passions or hobbies into a career.
Entrepreneurship is by no means easy. But if you have the dedication, drive and heart, you can succeed in creating your own thriving business.
Let’s explore the top entrepreneurs in Australia to see how they started and how their businesses have evolved and grown.
Nick Molnar – AfterPay
AfterPay is a company that allows consumers to pay for the products they buy in the form of a payment plan instead of paying upfront. No interest is charged on the products, making it a preferred option over a credit card.
Nick Molnar, the creator of AfterPay, is a self-made billionaire. He grew up in a household that encouraged entrepreneurship, as both of his parents were entrepreneurs themselves. At a young age, he was able to see the positives and the negatives of creating your own business.
As a tech-savvy and observant millennial, Molnar noticed that many people his age were straying away from using credit cards. That’s where his idea for AfterPay was born.
Getting retailers to use AfterPay on their sites was not easy, but Molnar persisted. Eventually, it caught on, and huge retailers like Target, Macy’s and Apple now offer the payment option.
When asked for advice that he’d give to young entrepreneurs, he said, “many of these side hustles can be really great businesses that can create an income well beyond getting a job, and sometimes it’s about taking that risk. When you build a side hustle, you can always turn that into a business.”
Find out more about turning your hobby into a side hustle in our blog post, or learn about starting your own business with our course from the University of Leeds.
Melanie Perkins – Canva
Canva is a free online graphic design tool. Amateurs and professionals use the tool to create social media posts, presentations, posters, invitations and much more. With over 60 million monthly users, including big corporations like Zoom, Canva is worth 40 billion dollars.
Perkin’s initial idea came from the desire for a design platform that was accessible and easy to use. When she was a student in school, she noticed that design programs like Microsoft and Adobe were incredibly hard to use. Her peers were spending more time learning how to use these programs than actually creating designs.
Perkins, along with her now-husband Cliff Obrecht, started small by creating a yearbook design platform called Fusion Books. The business became a success, operating out of Perkin’s family home, and is still active today.
After the success of Fusion Books, Perkins knew it would be possible to make her dream of an accessible graphic design platform come true. She began searching for investors by attending many networking events and was finally invited to San Francisco by Bill Tai to pitch her idea.
Tai was impressed with Perkins and invited her to a unique networking retreat for investors. Before long, Perkins was winning over major investors who’d eventually build out Canva’s platform.
Clearly, the need for digital skills played a role in Perkins’ entrepreneurship, as did the ability to network effectively.
Cliff Obrecht – Canva
Obrecht is the co-founder of Canva and the husband of Melanie Perkins. Obrecht has been coined as the engine of Canva, while Melanie is the visionary. He is great at networking and making connections with others, which has definitely helped Canva become what it is today.
While on the journey of creating Canva, Obrecht came upon many obstacles. Investors were unsure of backing a small private business out of Sydney, and after over 100 rejections, they finally were able to snag investors.
You can learn more about how corporate financing works with our online course from Sentinel 9.
Mike Cannon-Brookes – Atlassian
Atlassian is a software company that develops products for software developers. Large companies like Domino’s, Audi and Visa use programs created by Atlassian. Worth 100 billion dollars, Atlassian is a highly successful company.
Even though Cannon-Brookes is known as the “accidental billionaire”, he has worked incredibly hard to get where he is today. He started the company with his classmate Scott Farquhar. Beginning their venture right after graduating from the University of New South Wales, they funded the company with credit cards.
Cannon-Brookes had one goal in mind when creating this company, which was to create a life for himself where he didn’t have to conform to the ways of capitalism. One of the core values of Atlassian is “build everything with heart and balance”, and Cannon-Brookes has done just that.
Scott Farquhar – Atlassian
Farquhar shared the same goal as Cannon-Brookes: to make a living wage without having to work for anyone else. The duo were incredibly motivated, resourceful and intelligent. With their degrees and innovative ideas, they were able to make Atlassian come to fruition incredibly quickly.
Farquhar and Cannon-Brookes are the perfect example of a great partnership. Not only did they share the same vision for the business idea itself, but they also shared the same ethical values. They were able to work together seamlessly to create the business of their dreams.
Evidently, ethical management and decision-making played a significant role in the dream of Farquhar and Cannon-Brookes, and you can learn more about these skills on our online course.
Kayla Itsines – SweatApp
Sweat is a fitness app for women that can be used at home or in the gym. It offers a wide range of workouts to help you reach your wellness goals. A social platform, Sweat connects women across the globe who can help motivate and inspire each other on their fitness journeys.
Itsines was always an incredibly active person and graduated from the Australian Institute of Fitness at 18. She started as a trainer at a small gym in Adelaide and quickly noticed that her clients were experiencing noticeable changes in their fitness levels.
One day, Itsines’s 12-year-old cousin suggested that she start posting the client’s fitness transformations and workouts on Instagram. Quickly, Itsines began to grow a following. She then began to sell workout guides as e-books, and from there, her work as a fitness trainer began to boom.
Considering Itsines had grown herself a huge following, her next step would be to create a platform to reach all of her fans in a more personal way. This is where SweatApp came into the picture.
Unlike many other entrepreneurs on this list, Itsines didn’t have to pitch her idea or try to find investors to back the app. She was able to put her own money from her brand deals, ads on Instagram, Youtube revenue and e-book sales into developing the software.
Today, SweatApp has an average of 1 million active users per month. Itsines actually sold the company in 2021 for 400 million dollars. Itsines still manages her own personal brand, publishing books as well as staying active on social media.
Any successful app needs a great user experience, and you can discover the essentials of UX and bring products to life by designing your own mobile app with the University of Leeds.
Jeanine Allis – Boost Juice
Boost Juice is a juice and smoothie brand with 580 stores across 13 different countries. Made with fresh fruits and vegetables, delicious, inventive flavours and great marketing, this brand is a favourite across the globe.
Allis, another amazing woman we are proud to add to our list, began her journey in 1999. She noticed an influx of unhealthy fast-food restaurants throughout Australia, and there weren’t many quick and nutritious food options. She decided to create her own brand, offering a product to promote happy and healthy living.
Working with nutritionists and naturopaths, Allis curated a healthy and delicious menu. Despite the confidence behind her products, Allis had difficulty getting banks to back her company. She spent three years working on the business without making a dime.
Allis and her husband made the leap and opened their first storefront, and luckily they found great success. The people of Adelaide fell in love with the nutritious and delicious menu. Four years later, there were 175 stores in Australia and New Zealand.
Allis was always confident that her idea for this business would thrive. On her website, she is quoted, “Boost has a can-do attitude. We don’t believe in the word ‘try’ because that means I’ll give myself permission to not succeed. You don’t try. You just do it.”
If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, our ExpertTrack from Allbright can help you to supercharge your career today.
How to be an entrepreneur in Australia
Find an idea
The first step to becoming an entrepreneur is to have an original idea. This can be an invention, an idea for a type of service or a product. Whatever it may be, flesh that idea out as best as you can.
Get into the right mindset
Once the idea is hatched, it’s time to set yourself up for success. This kind of work requires a brand new perspective. You can approach this in various ways:
Get inspired, and then get to work.
Make a business plan
Once you have your idea solidified and your mindset ready to go, it’s time to dive into the actual business plan. In this stage, you’ll figure out your business model, resource requirements and begin to raise finances.
As this stage can be overwhelming, it may be best to try to find a mentor who can support you through the process.
Keep learning with FutureLearn
There are endless opportunities on FutureLearn to help you prepare for starting your own business. We are passionate about helping our learners uncover their ultimate potential.
Through our series of courses related to entrepreneurship, you’ll feel confident and ready to start this new phase of your life. Who knows, maybe one day you’ll be on a list of Australian entrepreneurs.