‘There were silver linings in losing my business’: Kristina Karlsson on starting from scratch

Re-produced with permission from Women's Agenda, Olivia Cheal

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced the global stationery brand kikki.K into administration, founder Kristina Karlsson had to start from scratch.

But she says there were silver linings in losing the business.

Always the dreamer, she made a decision to pick herself back up and chase business goals once again. Now, she is the founder of her new business, Dream Life, where she turned a $3000 loan to start her business, into a multi-million dollar brand.

Today is the final day of Global Entrepreneurs Week, a week dedicated to recognising those who are paving the way for a better future with innovative business ideas.

Women’s Agenda shares the story of Kristina Karlsson, founder of Dream Life.


Karlsson’s new business, Dream Life, is built on her deep belief in human potential, and centred around her passion for helping inspire and empower people to discover and then turn their personal, business or work dreams into reality.

What inspired you to start your business?

Losing kikki.K in such difficult circumstances had wonderful silver linings – as all challenges do when you’re ready to look for them. It’s really what led and inspired me to create my new Dream Life business, which has given me a much greater sense of meaning, purpose and fulfilment than I’ve ever had – and it’s making such a difference to thousands and thousands of people’s lives.

Every day I get to use what I’ve learned in my 20 plus years as a creative, leader, entrepreneur, author and avid life-long learner – to inspire and empower others, particularly women.

You could probably say I’m a born entrepreneur – and being curious and a life-long-learner has always fuelled my business progress. I know from first-hand experience that great things start with dreaming first.

What challenges have you faced, and how have you overcome them?

Like many in business, I experience self-doubt, overwhelm and this inherent fear of failure. But thankfully, I’ve learned over the years, every business owner has experienced this and overcome the challenges and each of these challenges can and will be overcome.

I remind myself, that anyone can start a business, not everyone will run and operate a profitable one. I am my own hype woman and my positive self-talk is out of this week.

Do you have a vision for the future of your business?

I came out of kikki.K without much financially. In the difficult times before the administration, we reinvested a lot, as other partners did, so Dream Life started with very little capital.

It’s a situation most entrepreneurs have dealt with, and it’s exactly how it was in the start-up of kikki.K, so that’s been a very normal challenge to work through really. It’s all about being creative, smart, careful and industrious. Finding ways to do things brilliantly for our customers – without having big budgets and loads of people to help.

An unexpected challenge has been being back on the tools in every respect after being in a position for many years where we had a brilliant team (at one stage, over 1,500), and my role was much more strategic and all about leadership rather than ‘the hands-on doing’. It was a real Creative Director’s role.

I love every aspect of Dream Life – it’s such a joy – and I’m learning so much as I go back to the challenge of being way more hands-on with a small (but mighty!!) team.

One of the ways I overcome this challenge is through my mantra, “It’s about progress not perfection’. We can do anything but not everything at once, so it’s important to prioritise what’s most important – and make progress on that first. Knowing we’ll eventually get to everything.

"It can be a little frustrating at times, but for us it’s growing pains – and you have to be growing to have them!"

Another challenge has been starting without a direct connection to the 4 million kikki.K lovers worldwide that we had lovingly built up, one by one.

It’s meant that I’ve lost contact with many, but gradually, they’re learning what up I’m up to now and jumping into the Dream Life movement.

I felt quite sad, and it was all quite raw after losing the business I’d built from nothing more than a dream – which was essentially built on my personal design ethos, life principles, personal values and personal purpose & dreams.

It was so authentic, so genuinely concerned with doing good in the world over profiteering – and it was such a family to me.

For a while, I just needed to withdraw, so we didn’t do anything to let people know what had happened. Although I stuck to coaching and helping people pro bono through those challenging times, I didn’t want any press and so I kept a low profile.

That meant we lost contact with many of the millions who had followed me as I built kikki.K. We’ve taken a very subtle approach to promoting Dream Life – more word of mouth than anything – and I’m now getting so much joy from reconnecting, as people discover what my new thing is – and fall in love all over again! It’s beautiful to welcome people back!”

Do you have any advice for aspiring female entrepreneurs?

Start with dreaming. Take time to consciously dream about what it is you want, what impact you want to make on the world, and why.

Dreaming is where it all started for me – and I know how powerful it is for a million reasons, particularly for entrepreneurs.


Get your free dreaming exercise from Kristina here...


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