Career Talk With Kristina Karlsson, Founder Of Stationary Empire, kikki.K

Finding the courage to chase your dreams, from someone who's done it.

kikki k founder
Image: @kikki.k

Call me old school, but I still buy a physical diary every year. I work full-time, study part-time and amongst it all, need to fit in time to exercise, go to appointments, spend time with family, have some sort of a social life, plan a wedding, plan a honeymoon, save money… and in order to do so, I need to see exactly what my days, weeks and months look like—on paper. For me, it’s the only way to do it. I love it and it’s what works for me. I feel good when I’m organised—and as it turns out, I’m not the only one…
No doubt you’re familiar with global stationary empire, kikki.K—better known as the one-stop shop where all your stationary dreams come true. Inside, you’ll find an array of diaries (I forgot to mention I personalise mine!), notepads, planners, pens, office essentials, homewares (and most recently, a sleep range) that’ll make you walk out feeling like you’ve got your sh*t together.
The woman behind it all? Kristina Karlsson. Here, we chat to the founder of kikki.K and author of Your Dream Life Starts Here, about the inspiration behind her successful brand, how she sets herself up for a productive day (hint: it involves journaling) and how she keeps those creative juices flowing.

kikki.k founder
Image supplied by kikki.K

Can you take us through your career background and what led you to where you are today?

Before starting kikki.K, I was at a time in my life where I had worked in many different industries but was yet to discover my true passion. I had done many things and worked all over the world—I learnt so much along the way. I hadn’t had any formal business training but I learnt by throwing myself in the deep end. Travel, working in ski resorts in Austria, working in wineries in Germany, studying languages, working as a nanny, working as a tour guide, working in hospitality… many different things.
Shortly after moving to Australia I was struggling to find the right career path. I was really restless, not knowing what I wanted to do in my life. I had lots of ideas but was just bouncing from one to the other without any direction. 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 beginning of my journey to starting kikki.K!

Have you always had a love for stationery and pretty things? Where has this stemmed from?

Always! I’ve been a stationery freak for as long as I can remember—I just love it. I remember always looking forward to the start of a new school semester with a fresh, clean notebook and new pens and pencils—so I guess you could say it stemmed from there.
I’d definitely have to credit my growing up in Sweden as well. I have always had an appreciation of Scandinavian design and through kikki.K, Sweden is a constant source of inspiration for me so I try to travel back there at least once a year—it’s a big part of my creative process.

kikki k founder
Image: @kikki.k

What inspired you to launch a sleep line? Do you see it as a natural progression for the brand?

We spend approximately one-third of our lives sleeping, and so it should come as no surprise how vital it is to keeping our mind and bodies healthy. Worryingly there are so many people who struggle to get their recommended eight hours of shut-eye each night, which can have a flow-on effect to people’s work and personal life. For me, I’ve always found a beautiful scented candle and cup of herbal tea before bed works among other routines and practices, such as staying hydrated and wearing my sleep mask to block out light. More Sleep Please is just an extension of this, a curated collection of essential items to help people feel relaxed and ready for a good night’s sleep.

To what do you credit kikki.K’s success to in the Australian market?

I started kikki.K having noticed a huge gap in the market—I wanted beautifully designed products to set up my home office and quickly realised that to achieve that, I’d need to create my own. Now, there are a number of stationery brands entering the Australian market, however, we stay true to our philosophy and the Swedish design principles which really set us apart. We also really listen to our guests and focus on delivering them the most inspiring products and experiences, which help them live their best life.

What was the inspiration behind your book?

It all really stemmed from my big crazy dream to inspire millions of people around the world to dream without constraint and go chase their own big crazy dreams.
I strongly believe that every human achievement begins as someone’s dream. Something magical happens when you dream, it’s truly a life-changing experience and from deep personal experience, 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.
For some reason, as we grow up we seem to lose the child-like ability—that we were all born with—to dream without constraint. This is what really inspired me to write Your Dream Life Starts Here—I want people around the world to recapture that. By shedding light on the simple process and practice of dreaming, which I know has the power to help so many people live the life they’re searching for.

You’ve also released your own podcast series, what can we look forward to with this?

I have! It’s called Your Dream Life and if you haven’t tuned in already, you can look forward to a routine dose of inspiration with a series of interviews with some of my favourite dreamers! So far we’ve had Oprah Winfrey’s all-time favourite guest, Dr Tererai Trent, Deliciously Ella, author of The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin, Dr Libby Weaver, Olympic gold medalist, Alisa Camplin-Warner and Jody Shield. We’ve got some amazing guests coming up too!

kikki k founder
Image: @kikki.k

What’s your number 1 productivity hack?

I’m a big believer in ‘eating that frog’—doing the most unpleasant thing on your to-do list first.

Best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

The best advice I have ever been given is to 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. In other words, have fun!

Advice you have for other budding entrepreneurs out there?

Believing in yourself and your dream is the first step. It’s integral to do something you’re really passionate about, and 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.

Favourite motto that you live by?

One of my absolute favourite mottos to work by is ‘don’t say no, say how’ and this has become somewhat of a really good habit. Since day one, I’ve always challenged myself and the business to get things done that we’re passionate about, and to overcome roadblocks by working together as a team.

What does your morning routine look like? Do you have a specific routine you follow to set you up for the day?

The amazing thing about my job is that everyday presents itself differently. However trying to maintain an organised and regular routine keeps me balanced. In the morning I try to wake up at 5am, which allows me to plan out my day. I take this as an opportunity to read and write, check my emails and try and do some exercise—all before the rest of my family wake up! Setting goals for the day also allows me to plan out my day in blocks, putting aside time to let my creative juices flow.

kikki k founder
Image: @kikki.k

Is journaling something you do often?

Journaling is something I hold very close to my day to day routine. As soon as I wake up I set aside time to write in my gratitude journal, dreams or set goals and objectives for the week ahead. This is a great way to see what I’ve accomplished along my journey and revisit from time to time.

In what ways do you practice self-care?

Sundays are a weekly ritual for downtime with my family and friends. Ideally it’s spent with a sleep in, a long breakfast catching up on the news, and browsing for inspiration. A walk, yoga, or time spent on the sofa with a lit candle are always popped aside for the afternoon so I can reset for the coming week ahead.

At what point in your career did you become a mother and did it change anything for you career-wise?

I first became a mum at the age of 35. At this stage we had established 25 kikki.K stores in Australia, and now we have over 100 worldwide. It was my dream to continue to open boutiques in my favourite cities in the world such as London. Looking back at this I definitely don’t think becoming a mum has prevented me from chasing my dreams. Being a mother has enabled me to live a more balanced life, and to better plan and structure my days.

What do you love most about your work?

I am so fortunate to be able to wake up on a Monday morning and be excited to begin my week of work. On a business level, starting new designs on a blank canvas is so rewarding. The process of developing something from start to end and then seeing it in front of you in a kikki.K boutique is extremely fulfilling. On a personal level, I love the reaction of people who enter the stores and feel inspired to start achieving their dreams and living their best life every day.

Can you name some women who inspire you and why?

So many women inspire me day to day! Throughout my whole life I have admired women in a variety of different fields. The inspiring Dr Tererai Trent have shaped change for future female generations. She grew up in Zimbabwe with the dream to have an education and has since gone on to earn a PHD in the United States. Her ability to chase her dreams and give back to her own community is something that I feel passionate about having kikki.K involved in. Stella McCartney also inspires me through her amazing designs.

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