In every one of her businesses – she boasts an impressive portfolio of budding start-ups – Ta’eed encourages her staff to “work with purpose” and make decisions that are “right” as opposed to merely profitable. Diversity has also been a major driver in how Ta’eed operates her companies. Working to flexible operating hours, Ta’eed aims to engage a diverse staff to ensure they create products that benefit diverse communities.
“I hate that there is an assumption that part-time, flexible or job-share roles are only beneficial to women,” she says. “I know many men who would love to pick their kids up from kinder, or have a day at home with their children, but it’s often not culturally acceptable for them.”
Launched from her parents’ garage in 2006, Envato has connected thousands of clients worldwide with creative freelance talent and services. With five and a half million members and a Melbourne-based team of 180, Envato – which Ta’eed describes as an “ecosystem of websites to help people get creative” – has become a leading global marketplace for digital creative assets and people.
“I was one of those people who didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, back when I was in high school,” Ta’eed shares in our e-book, Winning Secrets From Women in Business. “My dad wanted to become a photographer from the age of six years old. It was his lifetime obsession. He would always say, ‘Darling, you always have to find a passion in life.’"
After spending her childhood and teenage years training to be an opera singer, Ta’eed had always imagined her career path to involve music. However, when she turned 18, Ta’eed discovered she no longer felt passionate about her craft and decided to leave it all behind. It was when Ta’eed began helping her father out on his photography shoots that her zeal for creative projects began. After spending some time as a graphic designer, she quit to start her own “ill-fated jewellery brand you could barely call a business,” while freelancing on the side. Soon after, Ta’eed teamed up with her web-developer husband Collis and “one very poorly managed employee” to found a design business. While the two companies never came to fruition, Ta’eed attributes both to being core elements in Envato’s success.
“Envato was my third business and I had done countless other little projects along the way,” she says, stressing the importance of growth through public failure. “You’ve got to get used to building stuff and putting it out into the world.” Ta’eed believes that building a successful start-up requires consistency. She says it’s all about starting small and seeing how people react.
“Generally speaking, people who do that become successful on their fifth, sixth or seventh business attempt. If they’d quit their job and started straight off the bat, they probably would have become discouraged, given up and gone back to their job saying, ‘It’s not for me.’"
Since 2006, Ta’eed and her husband have worked relentlessly to build up their brand, with reports speculating Envato’s worth today to be in the billions. Investing in other start-ups along the way (the couple has a 33 per cent stake in Pressed Platform and has also backed online grocery delivery start-up YourGrocer), Ta’eed’s purpose-over-profit business mentality has continued to find her success. After recovering from an operation in 2016, Ta’eed came up with the idea for Hey Tiger, an artisanal chocolate company that donates 100 per cent of its profits towards community development projects for cocoa farming communities in Ghana and the Ivory Coast.
“I felt terrible that something that gave me so much pleasure was responsible for a huge amount of suffering in West Africa,” Ta’eed recalls. “I thought, ‘What if there was a chocolate company where you buy it because you love it but it’s a social enterprise under the hood?’”
Ta’eed says entering the Telstra Business Women’s Awards in 2015 – when she took home the awards for both Victorian Entrepreneur and Victorian Business Woman of the Year –helped strengthen her brand.
“Envato’s reach as an employer of choice, particularly as an employer of choice for women, skyrocketed after I won the awards,” she explains. “Nothing compares to the reach and recognition of the Telstra Business Women’s Awards.”
Ta’eed credits the Telstra Business Women’s Awards with helping her get Hey Tiger off the ground, the brand quickly developing a significant reach.
“The Telstra Alumni is an incredible group of businesses,” she says. “I have a peer mentoring group that I met through the alumni who are an incredible source of wisdom and advice. It’s amazing to be part of a group that genuinely wants to help one another and do good in the world.”
Her advice to up-and-comers contemplating whether to enter the awards is simple.
“Just do it. At worst, you spend a few hour reflecting on your contribution and purpose, which will keep you focused on your goals. At best, you will be part of a life-changing process that will open new doors and opportunities. So go for it!"