On a September morning in Sydney, Melanie Perkins peers through the double doors of Sterling hair salon in the city’s Surry Hills neighborhood.
It’s now bustling with customers in highlight foils and black capes, but 10 years ago the space was where Perkins and then-boyfriend, now husband Cliff Obrecht spent nearly every waking moment.
It housed the Sydney office of Fusion Books, the yearbook publishing business the couple founded prior to launching Canva, a visual communications company. Today their second business is valued by one estimate at $26 billion, the most of any female-founded and woman-led startup in the world and a sum that has grown the couple’s combined net worth to an estimated $7.8 billion.
Perkins, 35, points to the back of the salon. See where the half mannequin in a feather boa now sits on top of a cabinet? That’s where they put a bank of computers, she says. When Fusion moved in, “the whole place was just a rummage pile of everything,” Perkins recalls. “We had to do a big cleanout to get the office into shape.”