Kristina Karlsson does not fit the stereotype of what a strong - willed entrepreneur ought to look like. Aside from her disarming smile and a preference for comfortable and casual altire during meetings, Kristina has no formal training in business or manufacturing. It was in a moment of panic, at three in the morming qo years ago, that she decided to create her own stationery brand.
Fast-forward to the present and Kikki.K has over 102 monobrand stores in 147 countries, raking in annual sales of $81 million globally.
After realising her dream of setting up what is perhaps the world's most desirable stationery store, Kristina is now all set to help millions more women achieve theirs.
We don’t have to be stationery lovers (or hoarders) to find ourselves caving in to the appeal of Kikki.K’s collection. Who can resist its beautiful (and thoughtfully designed) diaries, planners and a host of other stationery items? Embracing the clean lines of Swedish design, the products can be kooky at times, or uplifting, with new collections to look forward to throughout the year.
With Kikki.K now a global brand, it’s easy to forget that for Kristina, its founder and creative director, it all started with a dream – and was followed up by hard work. After all, it sounds effortless enough; The catchy name was adapted from Kristina’s childhood nickname, and the logo was drawn on a serviette after a few glasses of wine with a friend.
In Singapore late last year to launch her debut book, Your Dream Life Starts Here, Kristina will have you know that her success story was realised through sheer hard work. She peppers the book with life lessons and experiences to draw from along the way, and she wants to spur and empower 101 million people all over the world to dream big and to get from “dreaming” to “doing”.
The book includes exercises which encourage people to tune into their own passions and curiosities, and develop clear action plans to take control of their lives. It also comes with a Dream Life Journal to be used as a workbook, with each chapter corresponding to a chapter in the book.
The pager are filled with her personal experiences, as well as those of big names like Arianna Huffington, Oprah Winfrey, Richard Branson and Stella McCartney. Every purchase of the book also serves a good cause: US$1 from each book sold will be donated to Tererai Trent International, a foundation established by scholar/humanitarian Dr Tererai Trent, who is Oprah Winfrey’s “all-time favourite guest”. Funds raised will support Dr Trent’s dream to provide universal access to quality education for children.
What was your childhood like?
I grew up on a farm, amid a beautiful and natural environment. We never really travelled far. But I was a curious child and wondered a lot about the outside world. I was determined to go explore and find out more, even as a kid.
How much of a “lagom” (the Swedish philosophy of having “just the right amount for a balanced life”) person are you?
I am not a “lagom” person at all (laughs). It’s a good philosophy to adopt, but I am just not the type. I’m more of a “go for everything and if you never try you never know” person. I’ve worked very hard to put Kikki.K where it is today and am still very hands-on with the business, overseeing the design aspects, but I never stop dreaming and setting new goals. And writing Your Dream Life Starts Here is just one of them. I write it with young people in mind.
Who or what inspires you?
All the people I have included in my book have inspired me one way or another. Big names like Oprah, Branson and, of course, Dr Tererai Trent. Dr Trent’s story is incredibly inspiring. Born into poverty and married off at a young age, she never stopped dreaming and pursuing her love for knowledge and education, with sheer grit and determination. Ask any successful person how they got there and you'll find out it’s a lot of hard work along the way and no shortcuts. No one’s life is perfect, even if it may seem a perfect life. Spending time journalling also gives you ideas and inspirations.
How do you destress?
I am big on self-care. And I do meditation and take long walks early in the morning, even when I am away. I also pour out my thoughts, feelings and frustrations on paper, at least three pages of it. It’s like a stream of consciousness thing. After reading through, I’ll crush everything and throw it away. I always feel better after that. I also believe gratitude will take you far - even on a bad day, you can find things to be grateful for. Life is short, regardless how long you live.
Which Kikki.K items can’t you live without?
I can’t live without the metal rollerball gold pen. It’s with me wherever I go. And also my journal, in which I record my reflections of the different cities I visit for business or vacation, write about the people I meet, and the things I am grateful for.
Kristina Karlsson’s Your Dream Life Starts Here is out in all Kikki.K stores and available online at www.kikki.k.com.
1. Kristina hopes to motivate people around the world to turn their dreams into reality, by following the steps listed in her book.
2. According to Kristina, listing your dreams down on paper is an essential part of the planning process.
"KIKKI.K HAS OVER 102 MONOBRAND STORES IN 147 COUNTRIES, RAKING IN ANNUAL SALES OF $81 MILLION GLOBALLY."
3. The Kikki.K stationery collections can be found in 147 countries.
Text JACQUELINE TAN