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Swedish Success Kristina Karlsson, kikki.K

When it came to setting up her own home office after moving from Sweden to Australia, Kristina Karlsson, from kikki.K, was quick to realise the lack of stylish home and office products that Australian retail had to offer. From there, Karlsson designed her first retail range, and the beginnings of kikki.K.

With no business experience, let alone any idea of how to go about manufacturing, Karlsson literally looked up ‘stationery’ in the Yellow Pages and started making calls. “Some people thought I was crazy. But I had a vision and nothing could stop me.” Today, she is the creative director and founder of international fashion stationery label kikki.K Swedish Home/Office Style, known for its unique Scandinavian design, with 25 retail boutiques in Australia and New Zealand, and an online store that services the world.
DB: How do you differentiate yourself from competitors?
KK: kikki.K products are very much aligned with fashion. From colour, design, materials and textures – we move with the seasons and constantly have new products arriving in store. I gain inspiration from everywhere, and travel to Sweden at least once a year to keep the Scandinavian element consistent. Sometimes it’s as simple as thinking of practical solutions to everyday problems. Other times, it’s from nature. Inspiration is truly all around.

DB: What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneur and doing what you do?
KK: I get so excited and inspired when developing new products. It’s such a rewarding process to start with a blank page and create beautiful objects that people use every day and come to love. On a personal level, I get great enjoyment from working in one of my stores and seeing people’s reactions to the products. I also love to see the people that work with me growing and evolving through their work with kikki.K. It’s become so much more than my business now as I share it with all the people that work in the team. I love seeing people achieve their own personal goals through their experience of working in a stimulating and fun young business.

DB: What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
KK: From my own experience, the answer is very simple – you just can’t do it all yourself. At some point, if you want to grow your business and have a life – no matter what your level of emotional attachment is – you need to hire other people, let go and clearly delegate responsibility to them. It is also important that you then ensure you provide them with all the support they need in order to get their jobs done.
Do something you are passionate about. There are days when you don’t think you can do it any longer but if you do things you are totally passionate about then the hard days are easier to get through.
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.

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