When you think of Sweden you're probably thinking Ikea, girls with dragon tattoos, meatballs and ABBA. You need to add stylish stationary brand kikki.K to the list. Kristina "Kikki" Karlsson, the founder of this company that now boasts 80 boutiques with over 800 employees world wide, started this passion project with a strong entrepreneurial spirit, but with little business knowledge. But now, she is the true definition of a lady boss. Today I'm talking office staples and retail revelations over some roasted coffee with Kikki.
People invest so much time and money into interior design, yet before you, it seems people saw home office stationery as functional not fashionable...
kikki.K products are very much aligned with fashion. We move with the seasons and constantly have new products arriving in store that provide a balance between form and function — two key Swedish design principles. They are always beautiful in design, colour and texture — however they're also functional. They not only look good, but they inspire and empower you to live your best life, every day — with style.
Is an organised life essential to you?
Living an organised life is so important to me. Most mornings if I've had a good night sleep, I love to rise extra early! I've started waking up at 5am and it's made a huge impact on my days. Getting up early gives me time to think, read, write, be inspired and exercise — and I can do it all before the rest of the family wakes and the normal day-to-day starts. I also like to break up my day into blocks, to ensure I have time away from emails for my most important projects and creative ideas.
How did you transition from a person with a big idea to running a global brand servicing over 140 countries?
I really wanted to do something meaningful, and something that would always keep me connected to my passions — and then share it with the world. From the very beginning of the kikki.K journey I have always had a crystal clear vision to open kikki.K boutiques in all my favourite cities of the world. It is with this vision that we have been able to grow our business on a global scale. It's so exciting to see kikki.K love spreading right across the globe - and 15 years on it feels like we're just getting started. There is so much beautiful Swedish design still to come!
So basically a "to do list" kick started an empire?
That's right. Before starting kikki.K I had done a lot of things, but I was yet to find my real passion. When I became quite restless (literally!) at 3am one morning, my partner Paul encouraged me to write down everything that was important to me — I wanted to follow a passion and do something I truly loved driving to work for every day, stay connected with my friends and family in Sweden and have the independence of a venture of my own. I also wanted to do something meaningful and earn enough to pay the bills! It was really from my initial 3am list that kikki.K was born!
Your Swedish heritage must be a huge influence on you — Scandinavian design in general is characterised by minimalism and you can see that in kikki.K products...
My Swedish heritage has definitely had a huge influence on the kikki.K brand and our products. Embracing the Swedish design principles of form and function, our kikki.K product offering inspires and empowers people the world over to live their best life every day with beautiful things that are thoughtfully designed, functional and meaningful.
Why did you want to move to Australia? It's literally almost the furthest country away from Sweden!
I guess you could say I followed my heart to Australia! I came to Australia to be with my partner, Paul. However, I quickly became dissatisfied with work and spent many late nights trying to figure out what it was I wanted to do with my life. After a little struggle I realised my passion for Swedish design and my love of stationery could come together to form a meaningful business, wherever I was in the world!
Do you use a diary?
My diary is my best friend. I use my Personal Planner every day to manage my personal and professional appointments, birthdays and reminders. Putting pen to paper eases my mind. We've absolutely loved seeing how popular our Planners in particular are right across the world. It's an amazing phenomenon!
You started kikki.K in 2001, but how has the digital age of emails instead of letters and laptops instead of notebooks affected your business?
There's nothing like putting pen to paper — the tactile nature of it and the connection to the childhood joy of stationery. There is something special about the joy of doing it that simply can't be replicated. I'm not really sure why, but while I believe people will continue to use smart phones, computers and iPads, nothing can ever replace the feeling of a paper diary and pen.
Did you ever fear failure in this journey? If yes, how did you overcome that feeling and how did you know that this idea had legs?
Failure was never an option on our kikki.K journey! Certainly in the beginning having limited financial resources was probably the hardest challenge we faced, however we overcame that by being creative, working hard and with 'do it yourself' as my mantra in the early days. Over time, you face many challenges — but challenges are learning experiences which are so important.
What's on the "to do list" now?
The sky is the limit! More beautiful kikki.K designs and more beautiful kikki.K boutiques around the world... Our vision is to have something kikki.K in every stylish life. We're so excited to have just opened our gorgeous store in Raffles City. It's such an inspiring space, complete with some of our newest fixtures, including a gorgeous table where we can host our Workshops for customers. I would love to open more boutiques across Asia — in my favourite cities all over the world! I feel like there are so many exciting times still ahead and we're just getting started.
Check out kikki.k's new boutique at B1-22 Raffles City Shopping Centre, 252 North Bridge Road.