It was a little article about kikki-K published in the ANZ bank’s In Business magazine in 2004 followed by a chance meeting with the woman behind the name in her flagship Chadstone store a couple of years later that stirred a desire in me to start a business.
What Kristina Karlsson had to say back then really resonated with me and I still have that article pinned up on my desk today! And, in case you are wondering, yes, my desk is adorned with many colour-perfect kikki.K items.
kikki.K is undoubtedly the leader in couture stationery, everyone has heard of or seen her products and she inspires many work at home mums (WAHMs) whose home offices are adorned with her super-stylish and perfectly colour-coordinated products.
The Swedish-born stationery queen, who has numerous business accolades to her name, came to Australia in 1995, opened her first store at Melbourne Central in 2001 and today employs more than 400 staff in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.
I asked Kristina, a mother herself, if she could share her tips for business success.
Why did you start your own business?
I started kikki.K when I set about setting up my own home office. I had recently moved to Australia, and was used to gorgeous home/office products at home in Sweden. I quickly discovered that they weren’t available here. I really wanted my office to be an extension of my personality, just as the rest of my home was. So I designed my first range. And it started from there!
Who or what inspires you?
Everywhere. One thing I’m never short of is inspiration and ideas! Like any creative, I never switch off and am always looking for sources of inspiration. Travelling home to Sweden is something particularly inspiring for me. Just spending time with my family and friends, going to cafes, restaurants, the beach, galleries and exploring the beautiful Swedish landscape ... has me bubbling with ideas. I’m also constantly reading magazines from around the world, blogs and beautiful books.
What are the biggest lessons you learnt in your first year of business?
No matter how attached you become to your business, at some point you must realise that you can’t do it all on your own. You need other people who you can delegate responsibility to. Then you have to work together with a clear goal or focus in mind.
What is the toughest thing about running your own business?
I just love what I do for work 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.
Best business advice you’ve ever received?
Do something you’re passionate about. It takes up so much energy, so I don’t think anyone could succeed in doing something they didn’t truly love. Have a strong, clear vision. When times get tough your vision has to be strong enough to pull you and everyone else though. And most importantly, have fun!
How important is social media to your work?
Very important. We have a dedicated following on Facebook and Twitter. It enables us to communicate directly with our customers on a daily basis. It’s a great form of interaction, and to get their thoughts and feedback and share news as it happens.
As there are a lot of experts in your field –and a lot of copycats - how do you ensure you stay ahead of the pack?
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. Looking at stationery as a fashion accessory is quite unique – however it’s something I truly believe in. Another differentiator is our level of customer service. We aim to deliver “world class customer service” every time, and I think this is unique in that there is not a lot of great service out there.
What excites you about the work you do?
Designing and developing new product. 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 be 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 has been your best day in business/highlight of your business so far?
Receiving awards and opening new kikki.K boutiques are always huge highlights as is being nominated for the 2010 World Retail Awards and winning the 2010 Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year for the Southern Region. But it’s also the simple things, like being told by customers how much they love the products. There really are a lot of stationery addicts out there – and we see them in kikki.K stores every day!
Favourite three blogs or websites?
Any final words of advice?
Don’t say no, say how.
I'm so grateful for Kristina taking the time out of her busy schedule to give an insight into her business success. She is inspirational and a truly fabulous businesswoman. Thank-you, Kristina.
Next up, meet Sarah Thompson of Style Me Gorgeous.