Pains of Scaling Up — Scale-up successes: 3 insights you need to know

Published on
November 3, 2022
Aly Karindjias
Operations Director
Subscribe to our
By subscribing you agree to with our Privacy Policy.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

What success looks like to you may not be the same for others. When it comes to modern businesses, success looks like — at least in part — delivering on and going beyond the brand promise, generating profits, and fostering brand loyalty.

However, these are simply metrics that measure objective success. The question remains: what do entrepreneurs need to do and have in order to go above and beyond the triple bottom line and enrich the world around them?

Here are some tips from three of Australia’s most successful CEOs.

1) Kristy Chong, Modibodi

Kristy Chong — founder and CEO of pioneer period- and incontinence-proof underwear brand Modibodi — treats even the smallest wins as massive leaps forward. “It’s really important to not get carried away by what you have to be. Just break it down and take it one little step at a time.”

Now in its eighth year, Modibodi breaks into the UK and US markets with future plans of expanding even further. They break down the barriers to acceptance and build more awareness around the very human phenomenon that at least 50% of women who have had children and 10% of men experience.

For Chong, the idea of starting a business has always been hovering over her head even as she focussed on her thriving career as a PR expert. The idea came to her back in 2011, after her life-long struggle with period stains was worsened by unfortunate experiences with light bladder leaks following the birth of her second child.

When Modibodi was founded in 2013, it pioneered a technology that helped women with these sensitive and, at times, embarrassing issues — realising the many different ways that Chong’s company can help women with feminine health problems.

By eliminating the need for disposable sanitary pads, Chong was taking strides toward environmental sustainability, too. “I think it was a case of putting one foot in front of the other and having the big picture there, knowing ‘I want to be bigger,’ but not being focussed on that. I wanted to focus on delivering a great product that there would truly be a market for. That was just my focus at the start.”

While Chong outsourced the research and development of her globally lauded products, she took on the marketing aspects of her business by herself. Using her marketing and PR savvy, she was able to take what she learned from decades-long experience and apply it to where Modibodi needed it: reaching the people who need her products most.

There were certainly a lot of ups and downs, especially since she had to build her company from the ground up with limited resources, but she continued to persevere and took it slowly, day by day.

For Chong, taking it one step at a time allowed her to learn from her mistakes and get through each challenge, launching her brand even further every single day.

2) Melanie Perkins, Canva

Canva CEO Melanie Perkins believes her success is due to her risk-taking attitude, resilience, and openness to learning and being taught.

While originally not a graphic design student, Perkins fell in love with it. She got so good that she was invited to run workshops for her fellow students. As she navigated well-known design apps, such as Adobe Photoshop, InDesign, or Illustrator, she quickly realised how clunky and complicated they were to use.

This sparked her interest in developing a platform that will democratise design — thus, her first company, Fusion Books, was born. This company paved the path toward her $3.2billion-dollar Canva empire.

Having no experience certainly has its drawbacks, but Perkins used this to her advantage. With her resourcefulness, Perkins was able to get creative, resilient, and tenacious with minimal resources and learned — regardless of setbacks and rejections. Her dedication and openness to learning drove her to search, uncover, and spark opportunities even in the most unconventional places.

When she met venture capitalist and kitesurfer Bill Tai in 2011, she knew she needed to take on a new — albeit dangerous — hobby in order to get his network’s attention. “I learnt to kitesurf to go to a kitesurfing and entrepreneurship conference,” Perkins says.

Looking back, Perkins realises how dangerous the risk she took was, but would do it again in a heartbeat. “When you are from Perth and have no connections in Silicon Valley, the door opens a tiny crack, you do what you can to wedge it open and walk through that door.”

Do not be afraid to take risks and never stop learning. With perseverance, eagerness to network, and resourcefulness in the face of limited opportunities, unicorn CEOs like Perkins made their wildest dreams come true.

3) Nick Molnar, Afterpay

If you ask Nick Molnar — Afterpay’s co-founder and CEO — about how he turned Afterpay into the billion-dollar company that it is today, his answer is simple: “We are unashamedly customer-centric and we only settle for extraordinary.”

As a successful serial entrepreneur, Molnar was frustrated with the sales for his online jewellery business. Out of 100 website visitors, only one made a purchase. Determined to stand out and thrive in a cut-throat, Amazon-dominated e-commerce world, Molnar started asking the important questions: How can I convert more visitors to sales? How can I drive the average order up? How can I increase repeat purchases?

The answer, he found, was apparent in his generation. As a millennial, one key psychological insight he gleaned from studying the data was that his generation is painfully credit-averse.

They showed impressive restraint in purchasing things they cannot afford, and — in theory — would be keener to click the check-out button if they were given the option to pay for things in instalments.

If he could find a way to tap into his generation’s pain point and allow them instant gratification while also appealing to their sense of restraint, that would definitely set him up for major economic success.

And so, Afterpay was born. “It’s a customer-centric service for Millennials that can help them spend responsibly and also help retailers sell more stuff… It was founded on a belief that if you could break down the price and give people more flexibility, it would be perceived as a discount,” Molnar says.

Molnar was right. Before long, Afterpay’s interest-free “buy now, pay later” instalment scheme attracted 1.5 million consumers and 12,000 retailers in less than three years. Annual sales ballooned to $2 billion and shows no signs of slowing down. Afterpay has effectively joined the ranks of companies like Google, where their brand name is now used as a verb.

While there are a lot of things going on behind the scenes, one thing is clear: success does not happen overnight.

With a patient “one day at a time” attitude balanced out with some risk-taking, an openness to learning and being taught, an aggressive networking, an unabashedly customer-centric business model, and spoonfuls of resilience, any entrepreneur can make their dream a reality and even elevate their businesses further.

As scale-up specialists, we at BeingIconic have a carefully selected network of seasoned experts who can complement any entrepreneur’s tenacity and resilience with powerful industry insights and connections that help their business scale in order of magnitudes in the shortest time frame possible. Partner with us today if you want us to do the same for you.