Kristina will be joining Mums & Co as a keynote speaker at our upcoming Be MPowered Conference on Thursday, 26th of October. Join this free, online conference for business owning women to hear more from today’s guest!
Produced by - Lucy Kippist
Edited by - Morgan Sebastian-Brown
Interviewers - Carrie Kwan and Lucy Kippist
Guest - Kristina Karlsson
Mumbition™ is the Mums & Co word for the unapologetic blending of motherhood and ambition - and this journal is your invitation to discover yours.
Guiding working Mums through a simple and regular journaling practise, this unique collaboration has been thoughtfully curated to help harmonise ambition (your business and career goals); your livelihood (your family and financial routine); and wellbeing (your individual physical, mental and spiritual health).
Mumbition™ the Journal follows a monthly cadence with a daily check in - complete with insights shared by the Mums & Co community and practical tips for navigating challenges and opportunities.
Loved this episode of Mumbition The Podcast? Find out more from our special guest.
Carrie Kwan (01:10):
Kristina, so we're passionate about telling women's stories. Can you tell us a few chapters of yours?
Kristina Karlsson (01:18):
Oh, that's probably going to take up the whole podcast, but I'll do a short version. So I grew up on a farm in Sweden, and as a farmer or as the daughter of farmers, we didn't get to travel a lot. So my dreams as a kid was to travel the world and see the world outside our farm. And I made that happen by travelling the world after finishing school. And I ended up in a ski resort in Austria working a ski season, and that's where I met my partner Paul, which made me move to Australia. And I loved Australia, and have now been living here for a long time. And then, when I was going to stay here, I thought I have to do something exciting. So I started to think about what that was, but I was really miserable and find it really difficult to find what I was going to do with my life.
And I'm sure some of your listeners here will relate to that because sometimes it takes us a little bit of time to work out what we want to do. And it certainly did that for me. But I started one morning at 3:00 AM to write down my first dreams, and I wrote down that I wanted to have a business on my own. And because I wanted to have that, I thought I'm going to go out and buy some products for my home office. And this is many years ago. So back then, it was a bit of a price-driven category. It was, in my opinion, poorly designed and bad quality, and just nothing I wanted to have in my home office. So I got a bit down, thinking, "This is so boring." And then I got excited, and I thought, "This is maybe my calling." And I rushed home to Paul, and I said, "I know exactly what I'm going to do. I'm going to open beautiful Swedish design stores around the world specialising in stationery and home office."
And he thought I was absolutely crazy. But that has really been a dream that I worked on for a long time and started Kikki K, and we became a globally loved brand. And it's been such an amazing journey. Unfortunately, over COVID, we lost or I lost Kikki K in administration, so that was a very, very sad period of my life. But as entrepreneurs, and I know there are plenty of listeners here who are entrepreneurs, what you do as an entrepreneur, you go down and then you go up again. And that's what I've done. And I have now created an even more exciting business than my first one, and that is called Dream Life. And my dream is to inspire 101 million people to write down three dreams and go and chase them. And I do that by coaching. I have a coaching programme, and I have a Dream Life store. So that's products that are helping people to create their own dream life. And then I also am speaking now to share what I've gone through, because I think most of us as entrepreneurs are scared of failing and losing everything. And I was too.
And now, I feel like I went through that, and I started again with a smile. So now I want to share that with the world. So that's just a little bit about my journey.
Carrie Kwan (04:21):
Thank you so much for condensing such an incredible experience over your entrepreneurial journey so far and truly to be able to process that, but then empower other people to set their own dreams because it really does start with that every sort of big idea or every sort of journey as a small business owner, as a microbusiness owner, as a sole trader or a freelancer, it begins with that dream. So I see you as that catalyst that is the catalyst of so many amazing things to come.
Kristina Karlsson (05:45):
Absolutely. And I'm so big on dreaming because a lot of us are so influenced by our parents and maybe teachers or peers, or you were really good at something at school, and then you realise maybe later on in life that wasn't your dream. And that's why I want to, and often we work that out by something traumatic happens to us, but I am wanting to encourage people to really dream big without having that happen, and just by, instead of looking at goal setting, which I love, but you start with dreaming and you ask yourself some questions in terms of really starting. If you could start again, what would you do if you knew you couldn't fail? If you had all the money, resources, and the knowledge and all the things that we don't have as small business owners, but what if you did? What would you do with your life? And dreaming is a really, really good way of starting to really make sure that you have the ladder against the right wall.
Carrie Kwan (06:30):
And I wanted to just, if we might dive into a little bit of, what did your inner narrative look like when you first brought to life the Dream Life vision? And did that change as it actually came to life?
Kristina Karlsson (06:50):
Yes and no. I think I was pretty clear because what happened, even when I was with Kikki K, I wrote a book, and it started with me just going away with a journal and a pen for a weekend, and I didn't go away to work out if I had a book in me, I went away just to get some creativity back. I was pretty exhausted. And then after 24 hours, I just came up with this idea that I wanted to write a book because when I do speaking, which I do quite a lot of, I always have a handful of people coming up after saying, "How can I make it happen for me?" And you only really have so much time after a talk to inspire them to take the next step. So I wrote all my steps in the book, Your Dream Life Starts Here, and then not everyone reads. And in today's world the short, we don't always take the time to read. Technology takes over.
So then I put my book into a course. So I started selling Your Dream Life Starts Here online course, which I still do. But then I realised that people not only need the knowledge, they need the community, as you guys are very aware of. So having that kind of community to help people make their dreams come true, and that's why I started my coaching programme. And what I love, there's just nothing more rewarding than seeing people create their dream life, whatever that is for them.
It doesn't mean or involve a global business or something extraordinary that might not be your cup of tea. It means that you make sure that your dreams align with your vision and your purpose, and your passion. So it's really just to look at what is important to you. So my journey started with having this big dream, and then as it has evolved, and because I'm so passionate about learning, I started a book club as well because not all of my friends are into personal growth or personal development books. So I started a book club. So I mix with these amazing people around the world each Monday, where we read a book once a month and we discuss it. And I absolutely love that.
Carrie Kwan (08:30):
Supporting our community's Mumbition, which we've termed as the unapologetic blending of motherhood and ambition, is core to our mission at Mums and Co. So I'd love to invite you to share some of the positive choices or options that you've had in blending parenthood and business over the years.
Kristina Karlsson (08:55):
Often, as mums before we have kids, we think we can do it all with having young kids as well. And I believe we can do anything, but not everything at once. So I prioritised what I was good at. So one of the good things that helped me in my business journey was to have kids because I'd never got burnt out. I was really focusing on getting that kind of work-life balance. And I believe you can do anything, but not all at once. So I focused on what I was good at, so I decided to delegate much more. And then I systemized everything. So I've systemized my private life, my family life, and my business to really make sure that I can do as much as possible on what made a difference versus doing small things that just was reoccurring. And systemizing was really vital for us also to become a global business. We had stores in five different countries, so that was a couple of things. But in terms of being a mum and having a business, I think the most important thing is to start with what is important to you when it comes to motherhood and your business and see how you can combine it. So for me, that meant I wanted to drive the kids to kinder or to school every day.
So that was important to me. Some people don't love that, but I really loved it. That was the best conversation that happened, and I just wanted to be there. What I wasn't so much involved in was all the mum things around the school and the kindergarten and the mother's groups, and stuff that wasn't as important to me than spending time with my kids. So I let go of some of that, and then I prioritised the concerts and I was travelling quite a lot, so I made sure I didn't miss the concerts and all the things that were important to the kids, the matches, and things like that. That was really important to me and for them. And then I involved them in all my travel. So since Axel was four, he was my little PA when I travelled. He was a very good child, in terms of, I was able to bring him.
My daughter was much more challenging. But Axel was really happy, and he came on almost all my business trips in the end, and I was worried that he would miss out at school too much. But what an education it is to travel the world and seeing the privilege that we had as a family and as a business to be able to bring my kids, and when we went under, that was very public. I was on every television show, every radio show, every newspaper. That was a really tough time. And I was really worried about the kids because I thought maybe we shared too much because I knew the whole time that it doesn't matter what happens because I'm going to get through this. I know I do so much work on myself, and even though it was really challenging, I knew that I will get through it, but you don't know if the kids have that kind of resilience in them so early.
They have resilience, but maybe not that emotional maturity that perhaps we have as adults, and also maybe not the same belief because they don't understand as much as we do. So I think involving them in the business has been only a good thing. And I can see that now. I was unsure a couple of times throughout the journey because I'm thinking, "Are they getting too privileged or are they now too? Is it too hard for them?" But now I'm just so glad. And my daughter, she has a candle business, and it's just so fun to see that they're implementing it.
Carrie Kwan (12:10):
We are really role modelling for the future generation of entrepreneurs. And I think you've got that extra layer where you actually could put the context around what's happening.
Lucy Kippist (12:20):
Kristina, there's so much to unpack in what you've already shared, so thank you. But I just wanted to draw into the global aspects of the business. And you've mentioned there that you are originally from Sweden. So we know that approximately 30% of all business-owning women in Australia are migrant women. What do you think having been born in another country has done to enhance or challenge the business that you started?
Kristina Karlsson (12:42):
Both definitely enhance and definitely challenge. So we'll start with the challenges. So I came to Australia with English as a second language, so I had no idea about English terminology, but I also had no idea about business. So it was a bit of an extra challenge there. So that was definitely a challenge. Not having a network, not having that support was a challenge, but it was also an opportunity. And I think every challenge actually have an opportunity. But in this instance, the opportunity was for me to really create my own new network. So often, when we grow up and we go to school, we are friends with people that we bond with for perhaps more personal reasons. And then, when you start a business, it's really important to, as you guys know, because that's what your organisation is all about, is about that community. So that was a challenge for me, not having that, but saying that I created it.
So I reached out to a lot of people in retail. I didn't know anything about retail. I reached out to a lot of women in business because I wanted to learn from them. I want to be inspired by them. And often they were just ahead on me, so I could learn so much. So it was definitely pros and cons, but I think the best thing is that you not moulded when you come into new country in terms of, "Oh, this is what she's good at, this is why are you're doing that? Because that's not your strength." A lot of people, well-meaning family members and well-meaning friends, often have an opinion based on their own fears and obstacles. And when you hear that, it's often hard. I hear this all the time in my coaching programme, where people join because they don't actually have that kind of people around them to help them with their big dreams, especially if they're dreams that are a little bit outside of their normal circumstances.
We have a lot of lawyers coming in that want to change. They want to do something more creative or something more that are aligned with their values and passions, and purpose. And often, with lawyers, they are so good at school and they're just so encouraged to take on something really challenging, which is amazing and a great degree to have anyway, but it's not everyone's cup of tea at the end. So I think having that network where everyone is working on their own dream life or their own businesses, whatever that is, then that makes a big difference. And I think that's the plus coming in, but it's also, of course, has as many challenges. So I think both.
Lucy Kippist (15:20):
And you've also talked a lot about your own drive within you. Obviously, you know yourself very well, you've got high levels of self-awareness. And I was reading an article in Harper's Bazarr recently where you created journaling with having helped prevent an experience of burnout for you. I was just wondering if you could share how you incorporate that practise into your day and how it's helped to shape that resilience.
Kristina Karlsson (15:45):
So I've been journaling for a long time, and obviously that's what I do, like the Dream Life Store, that's what we do with, and obviously done with you guys a journal, so it's so exciting, but it makes such a difference in terms of keeping that balance. So I'm going to explain how I do it, but I just want to explain why I do it first. So a lot of us have a lot of challenges coming up all day and in parenthood, in maybe family and maybe business. And it's a lot that goes on in our heads. Sometimes we worry about what the business is doing or not doing. Maybe sometimes worry about the kids, worry about relationship, could be anything. And it goes round and round in our heads, and sometimes it's not real. And I find when I've write about that, and it's not like when I feel stressed, I do it. I do it every single day.
So it's not a practise that you can do just when you feel stressed and think it goes over. It's something you need to incorporate in your life. And for me, I do three morning pages, and it's funny because I am not perfect in any way. So when I say I do it daily, there are certainly days that I miss, but it's very rare because I actually don't feel quite balanced if I don't do it. So I do three pages, which I call morning pages. It's basically just whatever is in my head. And I write in English and Swedish, and now I study French, so I put a little bit of French in there. It's just crazy. It does not matter how it comes out because I do not save it. So that's an important component. Some people want to save it because they want to see patterns, but I've been doing this for over 20 years now, so I don't need to see it.
For me, it's just dumping it out, getting it out of my head, and I just feel so good. There's no structure how I do my morning pages, it's whatever comes, so I can write about something about the family and then the business, and then an idea. And I have a normal dream life journal, just a plain one next to it, that one I saved. So when I wrote my book, I went through all my journals to see what had a big impact on me when I created my own dream life.
Lucy Kippist (17:52):
Thank you for sharing that. I find it so interesting that you don't keep it because I'm thinking that's probably super cathartic, not keeping. Do you throw it away, do you rip it up?
Kristina Karlsson (18:02):
Yeah, and some people, there's a lot of people do this kind of journaling. It's based on a book called The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. And I read that many, many years ago, and I reread it, and I think she says that you should look at patterns, but because I know my patterns, I know myself really well, I don't save it because I will never look back on it anyway. I save the things that I think is important in my other journal. And also, sometimes I don't want people to read what I complain about, or sometimes I just feel overwhelmed, and I might just rewrite all the things that I need to get done to get it clear in my head what's important. And then sometimes I just journal about all the things I'm grateful for because I'm just so incredibly grateful for being alive and being able to do what I love, and be able to share everything that I learned.
So gratitude is a big part of that. And I do keep a particular journal called The Daily Wins, where I'd write down my daily wins and also plan my wins for tomorrow, and also my gratitude for the day. So I keep that separate, and I do that at night. But sometimes the small things are the one that annoys you, and if you get it out of your system, then you can focus on the more important things.
Carrie Kwan (19:05):
So many benefits of journaling. And what I really heard too was that self-awareness that you gain from this daily practise. I love it. And in that same article, I loved it when you said that there was nothing wrong with ambition planning and emotional dumping. And I'd flip it in terms of there's so much right about it, so much right about it.
Kristina Karlsson (19:40):
Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. And being ambitious is for anyone who gets criticised for being ambitious when you're a mum. It's something that I hear a lot of people talk about, and maybe I dealt with that too in the beginning, but I never really let that stop me because what I've learned, and I learned really early, thank God, is that everyone who has an opinion about your ambition, that's based on their own views on ambition. And we can't change what people think about what if they should be working or if they should be home with their kids. And you'll never get it right, because some people think it's amazing that you are a role model as a mum to be able to share all the things. And that comes with a lot of privilege because even if you were doing the opposite and home, that is amazing in some way as well because that's such a privilege.
But it might mean that you are missing something and you don't feel like you are living your dream life. You're putting everything into the kids. And that can sometimes comes out later on as a resentment. So there's no right and wrong, and everyone will have to choose what they want to choose. And it doesn't really matter what other people think because some will find it inspiring, some will find it not inspiring, and you just have to decide which one is right for you, and then go with that and just get used to that criticism and get used to those opinions. And there's one thing that someone said to me on my podcast, John Soforic. He's the author of The Wealthy Gardener, and he said that he always got criticised for being so ambitious. And he said, "I never really criticise people if they spend a weekend watching television because that's up to them," but I choose to work this weekend because for his dream was to have financial freedom, and who says that's right or wrong? That's right for him. And that's really the only thing that matters.
So I want everyone for mums there to have that. And I hear it all the time, to really focus on what's important to you.
Carrie Kwan (22:00):
And I'm so excited because that's exactly what our collaboration with Dream Life is all about. It's about Mumbition, being unapologetic, about how you do it, how you blend motherhood, how you blend your ambition together. We recently had a few of our members that were included in a thought leadership piece, a report that was by McKell Institute, commissioned by NRMA Insurance on microbusinesses in Australia. And a key finding of that was that there are commercial barriers that inhibit success for women in the sector, particularly in regard to commerce financing and marketing. Now, I wonder if there's any advice that you would share, maybe one piece of advice with women facing these challenges, given your experience?
Kristina Karlsson (22:41):
Yes. So I've dealt with that myself. And because I started with nothing in my first business, I borrowed $3,000 to kind of start my own business. So the way I did that, and I'm doing the same now in my second business, and that is to go out and share. So doing a lot of public speaking. So you as a person, if you have a great message, you can get paid to share that on stages. So that's a good way of not just being able to do something that is really important for other people to learn, because all of us have something that we can share and we learned, and it might be some challenges that we overcome, could be something that you learned by starting a business or in motherhood, or it doesn't really matter what it is. We all have that. We just have to work out what that is and share that.
And by sharing that, you will get more people who will be listening to you because you are out on stages, and you'll then drive people to your website or to your community, whatever you're doing. So that's how I did it. And I also entered a lot of rewards back. I haven't done that now. I feel up, I'm just getting started with my new business, but probably something I will be doing later on. But in the beginning, my first business, we entered a lot of awards, so we got a lot of PR, and working with free PR is also amazing. It's time-consuming. If you do it yourself, we can obviously pay for that, but it's sometimes expensive. So starting with free PR is really, really great as well.
Carrie Kwan (24:20):
Kristina, I'm really keen to dive into how you view risk as a multiple business owner, even as a parent, but perhaps we can stick on the professional side. How do you view risk? How do you describe your relationship with this element of business life, and what processes best support you?
Kristina Karlsson (24:40):
So with risk, I think that's such an individual thing. So I'm only going to share what works for me, but I think it's really important situation is different. So in my first business, we always did business cases. So we did like this is what we think it's going to be, this is what's going to happen. If we did 10% less, 20% less, 30% less, to always know what the risks were. And I'm talking retail stores here in terms of opening retail stores. But that applies to anything, like if you were investing, what if it doesn't go to plan? Always have that plan B, plan C in terms of if it doesn't go to plan. And we took a lot of risks because we felt that we had something incredible to share with the world. And when you start from nothing like I did and obviously build up some things over the years, but I always put everything back into the business.
When you take a risk, you just have to look at all the things that can go, which is obviously why we take the risk in the first place. But also, what can go wrong, and can you live with that? Can you survive on that? And I never ever thought that we will end up where we end up. Obviously, we couldn't see COVID happening, and we had a perfect storm. We had Brexit in the UK, we had stores in the UK, we had all the issues in Hong Kong, and we had bush fires here. I want to do everything that I want to do in my short time here on Earth, so I'm happy to take some risks.
Lucy Kippist (26:10):
Now, Kristina, we are so excited to have you join our fifth annual Be MPowered Conference on the 26th of October. Just hoping you could share a little bit of a sneak peek into what you'll be sharing with our community and what they can expect to take away from what you're sharing.
Kristina Karlsson (26:25):
Well, I thought I'm going to share my learnings because having started from nothing, and I know in your community there will be people who are just starting on their journey. There will also be people who've been on the business journey for a long time. And the lessons that I'm going to share are lessons that works regardless of where you're at on the journey. All my learnings have a lot of failure behind them. So I think it's great to share something that I learned over the years by failing or sometimes succeeding, or both.
Lucy Kippist (27:00):
That's fantastic. We can't wait for that. And also, the conference will be launching our Mumbition the journal, which is now in your Dream Life Store, which we're also really excited about. I'm just wondering if you have any tips. I know you shared before how you use your journal, but this particular journal, what would your tip be for our community in terms of how they can make the most of this really beautiful product that we've got with you, which also we should say you can personalise-
Kristina Karlsson (27:30):
... and put your name on the cover, which I think is very exciting.
Kristina Karlsson (27:35):
Yeah. And you guys have done such a good job creating this journal. I absolutely love it. And I think for anyone listening, you heard before what important part journaling has taken on my journey, but I think if I had a guided journal like the Mumbition Journal, that would really have helped me get to the juice a bit straight away. So I think what you guys have created with your community in mind is amazing. And I think that is a really good way of starting the journaling practise if you're not doing that yet. And perhaps we could go through a little bit on that, on the conference as well, where I can give a little bit more tips and even do some little show and tells on how I use the Mumbition Journal as well. Then people can get started. And then, as you evolve your journaling journey, then you could obviously use anything. But I think having a guided journal to start with is really, really helpful.
And when I saw what you guys have come up with, I think it's just brilliant. So I'm really excited. I'm very grateful to have a journal like that in our Dream Life portfolio. So thank you for being part of it.
Carrie Kwan (28:45):
We are absolutely thrilled and can't wait to reveal it. Now, at the same conference, one of the key themes is the art of, I guess, the benefits that come from networking, and networking with women in particular. But we definitely do love our Co as well, which are the men and the big businesses, and everyone's supporting us on our journey. So I'm just wondering who has been an introduction that has really resonated for you in this journey of networking? It could be a mentor, it could be just a client, it could be anyone that's influenced your path to success.
Kristina Karlsson (29:30):
Oh, do you know what? It's not one person. There's been so many, and I want to share a little bit in terms of mentors. Without mentors, there's no way I would be where I am today. But a mentor doesn't have to be a person that you know and you meet in a structured way. You can go and see someone speak at the conference that you guys are putting on. You can learn so much without even actually having a two-way conversation, just learning from someone who's sharing their experience, but also books. So that's why I started my book club, because I just read so much. And if I have come up with a new idea, a new dream, or a new goal, I rarely think about what am I going to do. I always think, "Who has done this before? Who can I learn from? Who can help me?"
And sometimes I go and have a coffee. So I have people like Janine Allis, been a mentor of mine. Gillian Franklin, she started Heat Group, which is like importing Max Factor, et cetera. Jo Horgan from Mecca is a friend of mine, and I have so many amazing women around me, and men don't see a mentor as one person. It's going to be part of your life forever. Maybe they will. But the most important thing is, who has done this before? Do I know someone, or can I find someone who knows someone? Or can I go and listen to someone? Can I find a podcast? Can I find a book?
Carrie Kwan (31:03):
At Mums and Co., we talk about harmony as this triangle of ambition, livelihood, and wellbeing. They need to harmonise, they need to work together and sound good together. Could you describe the shape of your dream life?
Kristina Karlsson (31:15):
Yeah. So I have a thing. When you create your dream life, you want to be really clear on what your dreams are. They need to align with your values. So when you're really clear on your values, you know what to say yes and no, too. And then you need to do something I believe that you're passionate about. Because when things get tough, and they do it all the time. So I had a tough period in my life, but before that, I had lots of smaller, tougher periods in my life, and I haven't heard of one business that don't have a challenge. So when you have those obstacles coming your way, if you're passionate about your business and love what you do every single day, and when I say love your business, there will always be aspects of your business that you don't love. For example, I don't like the financial part, I don't like bookkeeping, all that stuff in the beginning, I just didn't like it, but I did it, and then until I could outsource it.
So being really, really clear on your dreams, your values, your passion, and the last one is your purpose, what gets you out of bed each morning, and what gets you excited to get out of bed? When they all align, then I believe you have the perfect combination in terms of living your dream life.
Carrie Kwan (32:20):
Thank you for being so generous in sharing with us your journey, your insights, your smarts, and how you've actually created your dream life today, Kristina.
Thank you for having me. It's been so good.
Carrie Kwan (32:40):
If you enjoyed this episode with Kristina, make sure that you register for our Be MPowered Conference on Thursday, the 26th of October, and see her in action. Kristina is one of four brilliant keynote speakers at the conference that's been designed to work for every business-owning woman. No matter what stage of business or motherhood that you're in, head over to mumsandco.com.au and get your free ticket today.
Remy Kwan (33:10):
My mum says you really like Monday mornings. How can I start to like them too?
Kristina Karlsson (33:18):
Okay, so for a nine-year-old, and this is actually applicable to any age, but I just want to make sure that I can go for them. So Monday morning, love going to school Monday morning, but if you get up a little bit earlier and do something you love, then you can start loving your Monday morning as well. So I don't know whether that is, maybe there is some gaming involved, maybe there's some reading, maybe there's some creativity, maybe there's some sport, and maybe you could just spend 20 minutes in the morning on Monday morning, get up a little bit earlier, which means going to bed a little bit earlier. And then, because of what we all have to do, not just kids, so for anyone listening who wants to create their morning ritual, then you can't burn the candles in both ends.
So if you want to get up a little bit earlier, you might have to go to bed a little bit earlier, and that applies for all of us. And then do something you love, something you're really excited about waking up to. So for me, that means journaling. That means meditation. I absolutely love getting out in nature in the morning. So I'll go for a walk, and so I do journaling, meditation, and walk. That is almost like my kind of perfect Monday morning, but I know that's not for everyone. So the most important thing is to find what you love to do in the morning. So this could be creativity, it could be learning something new. It could be creativity, it could be drawing, it could be whatever. So the most important thing is to find something that you just can't wait to wake up to.