Powerful couple Kristina Karlsson & Paul Lacy created a global stationary shop Kikki. K. What is their story behind this brand? They shared their stories on launching the Kikki.K back in 2001…
– Career –
Paul Lacy: The answer is a no if you asked me whether selling our home to finance the first store in 2001 (The year of financial crisis) was the toughest decision I have ever made? It was a very easy decision! The reason is that, I was really inspired by Kristina’s dream, which she wanted to open beautiful stationary stores around the world in all of her favourite cities. Honestly, I thought it was a really fantastic idea. Then we decided that we would do whatever we needed to do to ensure the dream comes true. This decision might seem difficult for some people to understand, like I had one good friend say to me, “What are you thinking, this is really stupid!” His argument wasn’t strong enough though. It was only based on fear of not knowing the detail of our dream, or how we planned to make it happened. Of course, I did question my decision a little, but then what he said actually caused me be even more determined on that decision.
“…the roller coaster at that time was mainly just excitement.”
Paul: But only few weeks right before we opened the first store, September 11 Attacks happened. I still remember it was a very scary time because all of us around the world wondered what might happen next. And again, I had a lot of confidence in our ability to do something to make money and buy another house.
Kristina Karlsson: The key point is that we actually calculated the risks. At that point, we didn’t have kids and both of us were hard working people, so I think these two factors helped us to make that decision as well.
Paul: I recognize a lot of people are driven by fear and it stops them from acting on their dreams. The truth is that, you need to carefully think about what are the things that could go wrong, and what are the things that you’re scared of? Then think about how you could overcome the fear – Are they as bad as you think they are? In contrast, I was really driven by her dream and I was following along to help. (Laughs) This big dream was crazy and yet thrilling, so the roller coaster at that point was mainly just excitement. Over the years, we did hit though lots of challenges…
Kristina Karlsson: Yes! During the start of this journey, what it really helped was having a team of support, even with a small one. I remember one of those days I would just work, work, work, and then I had a down day that needed a day off, he could come over and help. So, I felt like we were never both down at the same time.
Paul: Like if I was having a really tough day, she would say to me ‘Hey, what’s up? How are you feeling?’, and I would say, ‘I’ve got so much to do and I don’t know where to start.’ Then she would say, ‘Okay, let’s get a piece of paper and pen. Let’s write down all the things that you are working on and maybe I can help you prioritise those.’
Kristina: Or maybe, ‘Lucky us?’ I think that’s something I say every day.
Paul: Lucky us.
Kristina: Lucky us!
Paul: Sometimes if I’m struggling with making a decision, she would also say, ‘Hey Paul, no one’s going to die. We’re selling beautiful stationery and making people’s lives better!’ It definitely helps bring me back to reality.
Kristina Karlsson: I think for us, having a very clear vision where we wanted to go also keeps us going and motivated! Do you know the principle of our brand is based on four words? The first one is dream – I really do believe that everyone should think about what you are potentially able to do more often, but you have to set goals and take actions in order to achieve your dream. At Kikki.K, I do a lot of dream workshops to help people achieve their dreams. I often talk about affirmations that you say in present time as well. And you know, Axel, my son came to me one day and said, ‘I’m so excited about the business trip to Philippines.’ And I said, ‘No you’re not coming this time because you are actually going to school.’ But then he said, ‘Mom, you’re telling the world to dream so I’m just forever dreaming.’ (Laughs) He eventually came with me. He makes me rethink that nothing is impossible and so should you.
“…having a very clear picture of where we were going to helps us manage through all ups and downs and stay tight together as a team.”
Kristina: Back to the principle, the second and third word are purpose and enjoy. I find that adding great purpose into your dream which makes your life more enjoyable. The last one is sharing. We both are a big believer in sharing what stage you are in life, so there is always someone behind you who could be beneficial to, from your experience or your help.
Paul: We’ve often thought that we took it more about how we can have an impact on human beings than how we can make money. We truly believe if we do a good job of adding meaningful value to the lives of people, by helping inspire people to chase goals and maintain a well-balanced lifestyle, and eventually, the money will come. Most importantly, sharing the same dream with Kristina are pushing us forward, even when things are challenging. I also realise that things aren’t challenging forever. It’s like a coin that has two sides – one side is a good one and the other side is bad one. Life is never all good, and it’s never all bad.
– Work-life balance –
Paul: I think we’ve chosen over the years to speak very openly in front of our children about business. When we have family meal in the evening, we’ll sit together and always have a good conversation talking about work. Of course, we make it very clear that it’s strictly confidential and cannot be mentioned anywhere else. We feel that it’s a good way of educating them; to be part of the conversation asking questions and discussing whether things are right. We make sure that mixing work and family in the best way as possible.
Kristina Karlsson: Like both of the kids really enjoy travelling with us on a business trip.
Paul: We’re very conscious of the fact that it’s much more expensive to travel. But there’s nothing more important for us than being really good parents and providing a great starting life for them. I think it really helps keep us balanced and focused on being human.
Kristina: Sometimes if I am the only one going, I will take Axel. He’s like my little personal assistant who is responsible for ordering all the taxis, Ubers and planning out how long it will take in traffic. I remember there was a time when we were in London doing an event where I gave a speech, and he said, ‘Who’s introducing you?’ Then I replied, ‘No, I think I’ll just go up to the stage.’ Suddenly, he said, ‘Can I do it?’ and I answered ‘Yeah! I guess so?’ The next thing happened was he introduced me with the microphone and the introduction was so lovely. Funnily enough, the first question the audience asked me was “How do you raise confident kids?” (Laughs)
Kristina: I also think bringing him along that gives him an idea of being in a very privileged situation and develops skills in empathy. So, he will help the world to be a better place in the future.
Paul: The key is that we’re both tended to treat our kids as humans, not kids. We always explain to them, like ‘We can travel together as a family on a business trip because we’re choosing to, so we need you to go and supply your part in that.’ As they’ve grown older, they’ve understood better. I think paying them the respect of knowing that they’re intelligent beings and sharing that with them is very important as well.
Kristina Karlsson: Yeah! They know that if they behave, that’s going to be the ticket to the next trip. And you know, last time when all of us were in Singapore, people often made funny jokes about Axel is actually the most hard-working person in the room, taking all the photos and signing up everyone on the mailing list.
Paul: Oh! And our daughter, Tiffany, as well. She was in staff’s uniform and helped around behind the counter. Putting things in bags for guests and…
Kristina Karlsson: And serving cookies.
Paul: They just love it! I think trying to create an environment where they can win and we can win, then everybody can just be in the moment.
Kristina: I feel like we are much more work-life balanced in the late few years as you need to be present with the kids. But when we were writing the book and Paul had been very much a part of it, he was up working at 3 a.m. in the morning.
Paul: Especially in the introductory stage of the book writing! I always wanted to be there for breakfast with the kids and to be focused on them, so I would squeeze work in before they wake up.
Kristina: Yeah! We go to bed early. Sleep is very important. Ideally, I need at least seven hours of sleep and it makes you to feel good in the day. You know, it’s funny that I didn’t get up early this morning. (Laughs)
Paul: But back in the earlier days of the business, we were driven by excitement and deadline. I probably lived on five hours of sleep in a long time. The weekdays were like working late and then be up early again. Then I’d crash and sleep a lot on the weekend, so I believe we need a certain amount of sleep to operate effectively as a human being.
Kristina: I think I still have a photo where Paul sit in front of the computer naked while working on the business plan.
Kristina: Another photo where taken in our one-bedroom apartment – Our bed used to be our storage place where we’d put all the products and we had to move our products to sleep at night. Thankfully, not anymore.
– Self-care –
Kristina Karlsson: I love walking for hours most mornings in Sweden’s nature. It’s a beautiful feeling to breathe with smell of the forest and the greens. I feel like I’m getting a bit of an exercise in too because I walk quite fast. Sometimes, I listen to podcasts while I am walking. My fitness schedule actually depends on where I am in the world. If I am in Melbourne, I do lots of yoga and Pilates. But with Paul, his fitness schedule is a bit more structured.
Paul: Yeah! I find it hard to squeeze time to exercise just for myself, because most of my time are already absorbed by work and family. I think booking personal trainer three times a week works well for me. I mean, you have to go because you don’t want to waste money. The funny thing is, I went to training yesterday and I really didn’t want to go then I was late on purpose (Laugh). But the trainer’s really good at working different parts of my body with different exercises. He knows that I need lots of varieties of exercises to train core strength, otherwise I get very bored. I think I am a better person when I’m exercising. Apart from that, one of my dream is to give a really good speech at the kids’ 50th birthday parties when I become 92 years old. In order to do that, I have to be fit and healthy.
Kristina: I don’t believe in diets. One of the things that I am doing is intermittent fasting, but I don’t do it every day. I usually have a cup of coffee in the morning then don’t eat until 11 or 12. Honestly, it depends… Like if I’m hungry, I tend to listen to my body more than follow any rules.
Paul: She’s a very healthy eater. It’s very much about vegetables and lots of raw food. Like we normally drink a smoothie at the start of the day.
Kristina: Yes I eat pretty healthy but I’m not perfect in any means. I still eat sugar and overeat sometimes like we all do. But I do believe that health is the most important thing so putting good things into your system is obviously really important. I use Bio Blends Organic Daily Greens almost every day. I take two teaspoons of this every morning. What I love about it is that it’s packed of real foods such as broccoli.
Paul: I don’t follow any diet but I eat as same as she eats. I’m very lucky because I get to sit at the table and she puts delicious, healthy food on it all the time. She’s in charge of giving nutrition to the family. In Sweden, we ate a lot of salmon. She has got a lot of different ways of cooking salmon. The salmon and salads that she cooks, she always makes them with pumpkin seeds, avocados and grains.
Kristina: I try always to add as much vegetables to the meals as I can. I even make the kids count all the vegetables that they’ve eaten to make sure that they consume all the nutrition.
Morning or evening rituals that make you mentally stronger
Kristina: I do conscious journaling in the morning. It’s like my holy hour. I reckon this is what kept me sane over the years.
Paul: Just dumping whatever you’re thinking on paper.
Kristina: It’s based on a book called ‘The Artist’s Way’, by Julia Cameron. I actually don’t really know if I do it the right way. This book is about finding your creativity. She was encouraging her readers to dump all the thoughts on three pages. I really think that’s what really got me through any issues.
Paul: At night, we do our four Gs exercise over family dinner that really helps me switch out of work, and back into my heart with my family. That’s the key!
Kristina: The Gs stand for ‘gratitude’, everyday all of us share one thing we’re grateful for. This could be anything. And then, we talk about the ‘good’ thing that happened as a highlight of the day. We also share about the ‘goal’ for tomorrow. The last one is ‘the gram’, which is our short form for Instagram. If you take a picture today what would that represents? It’s more like a picture of the day. A really beautiful thing to do.
Their daughter, Tiffany, jumped in.
Paul: What’s a thing you’re grateful for today?
Tiffany: My mom and dad.
Kristina Karlsson: The other thing I love to do at night is to have a little bit of reflection time with one of our products, ‘My Daily Thoughts’, to think what made you happy during the day and what are your plan for tomorrow.
Paul: Well I think for me, putting the kids to bed is also a night ritual for me. Some sort of disconnecting from the day and reconnecting to what’s really important. At the end of the days, I think it’s about family and love. These two things are the most important things in my life.
Kristina: Actually, we often do drawing at nights as well. There’s no technology allowed in our house after dinner with the kids. So, we do drawing and colouring.
Paul: Love drawing with them!
Kristina Karlsson: This really gets you out of your thinking head. After that, we read. I don’t read business books at night though, I only read about health or self-development books on how I can improve my life. At the moment, I’m reading a Swedish book, named ‘Morgonpigg’ by Peter Jumrukovski (Similar version in English). It’s about a guy who talks about morning rituals. I’m so interested in mornings I like to learn more about how I can be more effective and good in the morning. If I have a lot of thoughts come into my mind before bed, I would take Bio Blends Sleep Restore to calm me down and improve my sleep quality. This is just blended by herbs, like lemon balm and chamomile.
Note to YOU … Driven and determined, Paul and Kristina always make time for what is most important which is a lesson that all those who live the busy London lifestyle. Bloggers, businessmen and women and entrepreneurs can all take the example of Kikki.K’s founders and owners.
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