At just 21 years old, Cyan established a graphic and web design company in what she calls her first ‘business attempt’. Ultimately, that business would help spur the ideas behind her next venture, an online marketplace for creative designers, Envato.
As a co-founder of Envato, Cyan helped grow the online marketplace for creative designers from its beginnings in her parents’ garage to a highly profitable enterprise. Today, Envato has a team of more than 600 people and has delivered over US$900 million in value for its community members.
After stepping back from her operational role at Envato, Cyan’s entrepreneurial drive hasn’t wavered and in 2018 she launched ethical chocolate company and social enterprise, Hey Tiger, and more recently, the website app for Instagram users, Milkshake.
“At Hey Tiger, we developed an innovative product and used design to differentiate our branding, but it is a social impact company under the hood. A donation from each item goes to The Hunger Project – a platform to help cocoa farming communities in West Africa lift themselves out of poverty on their terms,” Cyan says.
According to Cyan, the foundations for Hey Tiger were built like any other business with product innovation, strong branding and a talented team crucial for success. Moreover, Cyan’s philosophy that innovation relies on a flexible approach to testing and iterating based on market feedback informs Hey Tiger’s approach.
“When we were building Hey Tiger, I ran some blind testing of the products to see what consumers thought. If there was negative feedback, I had to be willing to start over or make changes quickly. I firmly believe that you need to make a product and test it before you bet the farm.”
According to Cyan, to innovate and change course quickly, business owners need to stop and question their most basic assumptions and plan for future change.
“The question that businesses need to ask themselves is, how might their business be disrupted and then work through those scenarios. More importantly, they need to ask ‘how do we disrupt ourselves’. That’s a powerful position to be in.”
The sales impact of the “influencer effect” was a shock to Cyan. At times, the quick and intense way that followers responded to these videos would result in a ten times multiplier in sales. In watching these influencers closely, Cyan realised how impressive many of these businesswomen were.
Importantly, many of these women had no website presence. These were businesses primarily run on phones, only through channels like Instagram, without a website builder that had the simplicity to support their needs, “I could not believe that nothing like that existed, so the idea for Milkshake was born”.
The free to use iOS and Android app allows you to create a professional looking website in less than 10 minutes, “It’s a great way to get Instagram followers to take that next step: to read more, to buy, or to engage with you in a way Instagram can’t alone.”
“There is a tendency to romanticise that ‘big idea’ that you will build a thriving enterprise upon. The successful entrepreneurs and business leaders I know are constantly rolling out new ideas, but with very rigorous success metrics to hold themselves accountable.”
For Cyan, success is found in creating a genuinely easy to use product, and positively impacting both users new to social media and those heavily relying on it for business.
“We find Milkshake is really resonating with entrepreneurial women’s businesses and brands in a whole range of industries and business sizes,” Cyan says.
“A compelling web presence is so essential for any business and I’m genuinely proud we’ve been able to create something that equips women with that tool. And it’s fun to make a Milkshake website - I don’t think there’s any other website tool that can say that!”