When it comes to beautifully designed stationery, kikki.K is a name familiar to many, a global story, and Swedish design/stationery brand with hundreds of boutiques and stockists worldwide. Founder and Creative Director, Kristina Karlsson has led the charge since opening her first store in 2001, now spanning across 250 countries and to add to the list of achievements, has recently authored her debut novel Your Dream Life Starts Here. Zara Overton caught up with Kristina to learn more about the stationery empire and how it began…
N.Can you tell us the story about how you started kikki.K?
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 the beginning of my journey to starting kikki.K!
N.Where did the idea for kikki.K stationery come from?
I just couldn’t find a collection of gorgeous stationery products anywhere to turn my home office into the organised and inspiring space I wanted. I wanted my office to be an extension of my home, my personality and my ideas on fashion and design. I could find all this at home in Sweden, but nowhere here in Australia.
N.Have you always loved stationery?
I’ve always been a stationery freak – 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. It was the promise of something new. And I’ve since learned there are many like-minded people out there.
N.Where did the name kikki.K come from?
Kikki was my childhood nickname, so I combined it with last initial and came up with kikki.K.
N.You have recently authored your book, Your Dream Life Starts Here – what inspired this?
I strongly believe that every human achievement begins as someone’s dream. Something magical happens when you dream, it’s truly a life- changing practice… 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. I’ve spent years collecting inspiration and tips from others and trying things out for myself. That’s why I want to share these lessons with even more people. Writing this book is my first big step to making my big crazy dream of inspiring the world to dream come true. Starting with you all!
N. As Creative Director, how much involvement do you now have in the design process?
As the Creative Director, I’m pleased to say I’m still very much involved in the creative process and lots of decision making with our wonderful team. Truly, no day is ever the same – which is the wonderful thing about my job! I like to break up my day into blocks, to ensure I have time away from emails for my most important projects and creative ideas. Then, my day can include anything from meeting with my talented design and product team to develop new ranges, to working with the wider business team, attending seminars or meeting with other inspiring people.
N. With the rising digitalisation of the shopping experience, have you noticed significant changes in kikki.K customer habits? Does the kikki.K customer value online shopping or the in-store experience more?
It’s very obvious to us that online shopping meets a growing consumer need and we’re constantly building our capability in the digital space to continue engaging our guests with a similar world-class service that they’re used to receiving in our stores. There’s just something about the convenience of shopping from your desk with delivery to your door, so we can’t ignore that. We offer our full product range online, and deliver worldwide. In 2019 we hope to be offering an e-Learning platform based off our successful in-store workshops too!
N. Alongside this, digitalisation has meant that people are turning to technology to carry out tasks, with emails taking place over letters, online to-do lists, calendars etc. How has this affected business?
With the proliferation of technology and digital devices, in many cases we have actually seen a resurgence in stationery and paper products. 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. I’m a big believer in particular of putting dreams down on paper as the first step to creating and living your dream life, so I’m so passionate about inspiring and empowering people to do this.
N. Do New Zealand customers differ from the Australian or overseas customer? Or have any particular differences in trends?
I think a kikki.K lover possesses very similar passions and desires wherever they are in the world, including New Zealand. It’s so exciting to find people in every country who just love our gorgeous designs, but also the benefits our products can have in their lives too. Above all, people connect with our authentic purpose, and that’s what’s most exciting.
N. What made you decide to open your first store in NZ in Newmarket’s Nuffield Street?
Even from the early days of kikki.K, I dreamed of having kikki.K stores in my favourite cities right around the globe. And New Zealand just seemed like a natural progression from Australia. Our store in Newmarket was our very first store in the country opening over 10 years ago – time just flies!
N. kikki.K are well known for their organisation workshops held in-store. How do events like these benefit the brand?
In everything we offer, our core purpose is to inspire and empower our guests to live their best life, every day, and our workshops are just another way we deliver on this. Whether looking to create positive habits, find a greater sense of wellbeing, learn the tools to a more organised life, or even inspiration to help you turn your dreams into a reality – there is a workshop for everyone. Even a Christmas workshop to help you plan for a stress-free and organised festive season!
N.What has been the most challenging part about owning a business?
There have been so many challenges and as a result so many learnings that have come directly from my kikki.K journey. Particularly in the early days of trying to get kikki.K off the ground, having very little training or business knowledge, with English, my second language, and having limited financial resources were just some of the challenges I faced. However, I overcame that by being creative, working hard and with ‘do it yourself’ as my mantra in the early days.
N.What advice would you give to someone looking to decorating their office/home office?
You spend a lot of time in your workspace, so treat it with the same importance and consideration as anywhere else in your home. Our personality and tastes are reflected in our wardrobes, so why not in our stationery? It makes it more fun! The positive energy you’ll feel will make you a more efficient worker too
N. If you had to choose one favourite product from kikki.K, what would it be and why?
This is always so hard, but I’m never without a kikki.K notebook and rollerball pen. I take it with me everywhere I go. I travel so much for kikki.K, visiting stores in all my favourite countries across the globe and use it to capture all my ideas, inspiration, memories and dreams along the way.
N.What has been a career highlight so far?
I’d have to say writing my first ever book, Your Dream Life Starts Here, also launching my podcast series Your Dream Life. It’s been a dream of mine for so long now to inspire millions of people, the world over, to dream and chase their dreams. It’s so exciting to share my story and the stories of other high-profile dreamers to show people that no dream is too big.
N.Have you been to Newmarket before?
Yes, many times!
N.Who is the kikki.K customer?
We refer to kikki.K customers as ‘guests’, because we think that’s exactly how they should be treated. At kikki.K, it’s about so much more than a transaction. Our team members deliver a world-class service to our guests, whether it’s finding the perfect product solution or service, that will truly make an impact on their lives. Our guests also appreciate quality, design and love to be inspired!
N. How do you juggle work life and family life?
Good question! Remaining balanced is always difficult but I try to by sticking to a generic week, to get the important things done first and make social and family time as important as work. I also try to do some kind of exercise every morning. It clears my head and helps me keep focused.
N.With such a large variety of organisational products in the kikki.K range, which do you personally use regularly? How organised is your own life?
My life is very organised and I wouldn’t have it any other way! I use my personal planner every day to manage all of my personal and professional appointments, birthdays and reminders. I also regularly use my diary and notebook – I find putting pen to paper really eases my mind.
N. If you weren’t running kikki.K, what would you be doing?
That’s such a hard question – but I’d like to think that whatever it would be, it would be something that combines my passions and dreams – but I truly believe I’m living my dream life now!
N.How has social media impacted the way you work?
The social media space is constantly evolving, and we’re always looking for new and exciting ways to engage with our guests. We have a very dedicated following across all our social media channels, which allows us to engage with our guests in fresh new ways. Our Facebook and Instagram pages provide us with channels to assist them with product choices and queries, whereas other channels such as YouTube have given us the chance to share creative and inspiring how-to content. For me personally, I love using my own Instagram account as a visual diary, in some ways, to capture inspiration daily and share stories of all the amazing people I meet and places I visit along the way.
N.Where do you look to for inspiration?
Where do I start! First and foremost, I absolutely love Swedish design – furniture, homewares, fashion. It remains such a big influence on what we do at kikki.K. I love to travel, and always, always, always find inspiration whilst exploring different cities all over the world. I’m also a real foodie – I love discovering new delicious, healthy recipes, flicking through beautiful cookbooks and dining out at new restaurants. It’s also sometimes just the simple things in life that bring me the most joy – spending time with my children, enjoying a cup of tea and writing thank-you cards or in my gratitude journal. I find inspiration in all these things – everywhere! That’s why I always carry a notebook and pen with me wherever I go.
N.What’s next for kikki.K?
What’s next? Beyond inspiring people across the world to dream, I’d say more beautiful kikki.K stationery boutiques around the world. Our vision is still to have something kikki.K in every stylish life…. I would love to one day open boutiques in New York, Copenhagen, Paris and Tokyo too!
Your Dream Life Starts Here is available from kikki.K for $39.90