Career

What the founder of stationary giant kikki.K wants you to know about starting your own business

kikki.K founder Kristina Karlsson tells Now To Love what to expect when starting your own business.

Hi Kristina, tell us a little bit about yourself – how might we know you?

Hello! You'd probably know me best for being the founder of Swedish design brand, kikki.K. But before that, a little bit about myself and upbringing – I grew up on a farm in the Swedish country near beautiful Falkenberg, with my parents and three siblings. My parents were both farmers with a strong work ethic, which I like to think rubbed off on me from a very young age.

In my twenties I met my partner, Paul, in the Austrian ski village of Lech and not long after followed my heart to Australia where I soon became a permanent resident. Not knowing what to do with my new life in Australia, I soon came up with the idea for kikki.K after I couldn't find any beautifully designed stationery to decorate my office with. Then the rest is history! Paul and I have since had two beautiful children, Axel and Tiffany, where we divide our time between Melbourne and Sweden.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to start their own business?

Find something you're really passionate about and make it your career. If you want to start a business of your own, you're going to need to invest considerable energy and time into it, so make it something you really enjoy. Always remember, believing in yourself and your dream is the first step.

It's important to create a crystal clear vision of what you want to achieve and let that guide your decision-making. Writing it down really helps to bring it all together and create a road map for how you're going to get there. Remember, life is about progress, not perfection.

You’re the founder of kikki.K, how did you start your business?

It all started shortly after moving to Australia – I was struggling to find the right career path and was restless, not knowing what I wanted to do in my life. One night at around 3am after tossing and turning – not being able to sleep – my partner Paul encouraged me to grab a pen and paper and make a list of what was important to me to help guide my thinking. What ended up on paper that night was what I now call my 3am List, and the beginning of my journey to starting kikki.K.

With the help of my partner Paul, I was able to fund my first collection or series of product, which I sold to friends, friends of friends and out of the back of my car to passers-by. As demand for kikki.K grew, we decided to sell our house so we could open our first boutique in Melbourne Central in 2001. Over the following five years we expanded to Sydney and Brisbane, then overseas to New Zealand and now we're in 250 locations across the globe. It's been a truly crazy experience!

Tell us about the emotional process you went through when you started your business

I can tell you now, starting your own business is an emotional rollercoaster with so many ups and downs, and looking back I had no idea how big a challenge it was going to be. But that's also what excited me! There was definitely a fear factor involved but it was also such an exciting moment because I had finally found my purpose and passion in life – I was doing what I loved. And I still feel that way – everyday I'm so grateful to see our beautifully designed products and collections, and as creative director I'm still very much involved in the design process at kikki.K.

Particularly at the beginning when trying to get the business off the ground, there were definitely points where things were tough and giving up would've been an easy way out, however it was never really an option. When you sell your house to fund the business development, walking away from it all isn't even in the equation. The risk soon paid off with our first boutique in Melbourne being named the city's Most Innovative Store by the Lord Mayor, and only six months after its opening! It was a great encouragement and a boost of confidence to know we were onto something special.

What do you think is the most surprising thing about owning your own business? And the best part?

This may or may not surprise people but no matter how attached you become to your business, at some point you must realise that you can't do it all on your own. Despite being in the stationery business or whatever business you are in, when the company is your own, you're never just designing the products, you're managing accounts and payroll, packaging boxes, working in the store and the list goes on. It's a lot of hard work but if you love what you're doing, that's the best part! We're at a point now with kikki.K that we can employ experts to do what they do the best, which gives me the time to focus on what I do best.

You’re also working on an exciting new venture, tell us about your latest project

I am! I've written my very first book Your Dream Life Starts Here and it's all part of my big crazy dream to inspire millions of people, the world over, to write down three carefully considered dreams and go chase them. I know that time and time again, taking time to imagine and to dream about how I've wanted my future to be, has been the essential first step to making it happen. It's truly a life-changing practice!

On my book tour, I was lucky enough to be joined by the incredible, Dr Tererai Trent, who also happens to be Oprah Winfrey's all-time favourite guest. When writing my book I came across Tererai's story, and I was immediately inspired. After growing up in rural Zimbabwe, in her lifetime Tererai has achieved feats unbeknownst to most in the face of great hardship – all because she gave herself the permission to dream big.

Her story showcased nearly every important thing that I had learned and wanted to share with the world via my book. And it became so clear to me that anyone and everyone can benefit from the power of dreaming, no matter who you are or the circumstances. If you give yourself the permission to dream without constraint, you'd be surprised what can happen!

Check out the first chapter of Kristina's book here.