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Paper Trails: An interview with Kristina Karlsson
When Swedish born Kristina "Kikki" Karlsson decided to set up a home office almost ten years ago, she couldn't have known where that decision would take her.
Today she is the creative director and founder of international fashion stationery label kikki.K, Swedish Home/ Office Style, with 25 retail boutiques in Australia and New Zealand, and over 120 stockists around the world.
As she set about establishing her home office, Kristina struggled to find beautiful and stylish products, which she had grown used to in her native Scandinavia. So she designed her own. By combining her appreciation of design with her love of stationery, the business was born. And today, thousands of stationery devotees around the world incorporate kikki.K's designer products into their lives. From first identifying a gap in the home office market, Kristina's journey included a buying trip around the world, and extensive market research.
Findings overwhelmingly revealed that Kristina wasn't the only one having trouble combining form with function in her home office. While decorating one's home in stylish products and furniture was a priority, the home office was so often forgotten. This was about to change. In 2001, Kristina opened her first boutique in Melbourne Central. kikki.K, (that's lower-case 'k'-i-k-k-i-dot-upper-case-'K') named after her childhood nickname and last initial, was an immediate success, striking a chord with Melbourne's design conscious consumer. Not long after, the Lord Mayor named the boutique Melbourne's Most Innovative Store.
Over the next five years the unique concept expanded in Sydney, Brisbane and Auckland. The speed at which this young business has grown, and continues to grow, is testament to Kristina's determination and self-belief, and has not been lost on the Australian business community.
Kristina and her business have been recognised numerous times, most recently with Kristina being named Telstra Victorian Young Business Woman of the Year. Almost ten years after her original idea, it's safe to say Kristina has her home office sorted. Now she's focused on yours.
Australian Businesswomen and Network Board Member Leanne Griffiths interviewed Kristina to find out what inspires her: If we were to read your autobiography how would it start?
Meet Swedish born Kristina "Kikki" Karlsson: stationery addict, lover of fine wine, and founder of kikki.K Swedish Home/Office Style, one of Australia's fastest growing small businesses. Born on 7th February 1973, Kristina grew up in Falkenberg, Sweden, and is one of four children. In 1995 she followed her heart to Australia and has since become a permanent resident. Just ten years later and Kristina has turned a desire for stylish home office products into a booming design and retail business, with 25 boutiques across Australia and New Zealand, and over 120 quality stockists around the globe.
Kristina started kikki.K with little business knowledge, but her drive and determination for what she felt passionate about was evident from an early age. At the tender age of ten, little Kikki would ride her bicycle around the snowcovered streets of her neighbourhood, selling and delivering Christmas books door-to-door. It's no surprise she was named best saleswoman for her region. A sign of things to come. A love of stationery developed early. Bursting with creative energy, Kristina looked forward to the start of a new school year surrounded by new notebooks, pencils and folders - and the promise of the organisation they bring. That passion is still present today. Kristina still gets excited by the delivery of new delicious kikki.K products, wasting no time to rip open boxes arriving at the warehouse to revel in stationery goodness.
Where do you find the inspiration for your business?
Everywhere. Like any creative, I never switch off and am nearly always open to be inspired. Travel back to Sweden is something particularly inspiring for me. Just hanging out with family and friends, going to cafes, restaurants, forests, lakes, beaches, galleries has me bubbling with ideas. I'm also constantly reading magazines from around the world, blogs and beautiful books. I'm an absolute 'cook book junkie'! One thing I'm never short of is inspiration and ideas! I also travel regularly to places like London, Copenhagen, and Tokyo - all places that I just love and which fuel my creativity.
Who has been the most inspirational person in your life to date and why?
My partner Paul believed in me from the very beginning. He helped me discover what it was I wanted to do with my life and he's been along for the ride ever since. From the initial business idea - and now he's the company CEO. There was a group of others who were really crucial to my success in the beginning. Just recently I held a special dinner to thank many of them for their support. That was a special moment for me.
Gillian Franklin who founded The Heat Group and was recently named by "The Age" as one of Australia's most powerful businesswomen, has been a wonderful mentor and inspiration to me. She has taught me so many things. Perhaps the most important has been the value of having a mentor. My partner Paul has also been a total inspiration and a very supportive mentor - guiding me to one of my most important learnings - to find something I was passionate about and make it a career.