Kristina Karlsson - Founder and Creative Director, kikki.K

Kristina Karlsson
'Do something you're really passionate about. You're going to need to invest considerable energy and time into it, so make it something you really enjoy.'







What was the first job you had?

The first job I had was riding my bike around snow-covered streets in my neighbourhood in Sweden selling Christmas books door-to-door. I won a TV for my efforts as the region’s best saleswoman.

What was the worst job you ever had?

I’ve really liked every job I’ve had as I have learned something from all of them and made the most of it. So I couldn’t think of one that has been really bad.

Where were you working when you had the idea for kikki.K?

By the time I started kikki.K I’d spent a year working in the travel industry. Previously I’d worked in a broad variety of jobs including being a tour bus guide in Europe, working in an Austrian ski resort, hosting tourists at a winery in Germany, and being a nanny in Beverly Hills.

Did you have any experience in designing stationery before kikki.K was born?

No, my only experience was as a lover of delicious stationery!

How did you carry out your market research?

One day I stood on Chapel Street in Melbourne and stopped people to show them sketches of what a kikki.K store might look like. The ones who didn’t think I was mad gave me very positive feedback. Soon after that I borrowed a few thousand dollars to create a sample range, and ran about 40 focus groups of 10 or more people. The response was overwhelmingly positive and I got loads of orders.

What was your vision for the business?

I had a vision of having my own group of beautiful retail stores around the world selling fashionable collections of products for the home and office. Today our vision is to be a world class business in every sense.

What was the most challenging aspect of getting your business off the ground?

Having limited financial resources was probably the hardest challenge I faced in getting kikki.K off the ground. However I overcame that by being creative, working hard and with ‘do it yourself’ as my mantra in the early days.

Do you still maintain creative control over the kikki.K products?

Today my main role is creative director so I work with my team of designers bringing our seasonal collections to life. I still get so excited and inspired by beautiful stationery!

What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

Every day is different. A typical day for the first five years was at least 15 hours long – usually seven days a week – but it was a labour of love so that came easily. These days things are a little more controlled. As we’ve grown, so has our team, so now there’s more time for me to focus on product design which is what I love the most … and I just jump up and down with excitement when new samples arrive.

How long does it take for a kikki.K product to go from the conceptual stage to a finished item in stores?

We work to a seasonal calendar, just like the fashion industry. A lot of planning is involved to stay ahead of trends in colour and design. For this reason most designs are conceptualised six to 12 months before they hit the stores. We’ve got loads of exciting things to come.

How do you generate publicity?

We’ve been very fortunate to gain much publicity over the years. We’ve always believed that it’s more powerful to have other people talking about you. And in the beginning, with little to no budget, this was the only option.

What’s the most important quality for a kikki.K employee to have?

I’ve found that the best way to find good staff is just by being passionate and having fun at what we do. As a result, our best staff are the ones that have been attracted by what we do and the way we do it, and they have come to us. But I must say that it’s a big plus to be a stationery addict, and an enthusiastic and energetic contributor, if you want a job at kikki.K.

What do you like most about your job?

Designing and developing new products for sure. I get so excited and inspired doing that. 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. Then to work in one of my stores and see people’s reactions to them is just so much fun. On a personal level that gives me masses of enjoyment.

What do you like the least?

I love every aspect of running my own business. The only thing I would change would be to have more hours in the day. There is so much to do!

Do you think your business allows you a good work–life balance?

Remaining balanced is difficult but I try to do it by sticking to a generic week, to get the important things done first and make sure social and family time is as important as work. I also do some kind of exercise every morning. Clears my head and helps me keep focused, but balance remains a real challenge for me. I just love what I do, so I find myself working very long hours, which is often very fun and very satisfying, but leaves me needing a little more time for other important things.

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