At the Australian Businesswomen’s Network (ABN), we know that “making it” in business can be difficult. However, finding a mentor is the one thing cited by many successful businesswomen that helped them make it through and get to where they are today. Kristina Karlsson, one of our Businesswomen’s Hall of Fame Inductees, has agreed to share her personal story and advice about the impact mentors have had on her success. Swedish born Kristina “Kikki” Karlsson is a stationery addict, lover of fine wine and founder of kikki.K – an Australian household name and one of the country’s fastest growing small businesses with an estimated annual turnover of $30 million. After growing up in Falkenberg, Sweden, Kristina followed her heart to Australia in 1995 and has since become a permanent resident. When Kristina decided to set up a home office in the late ‘90s, she couldn’t have known where that decision would take her. As she set about establishing her office, Kristina struggled to find beautiful and stylish products, which she had grown used to in her native Scandinavia. So she designed her own. By combining her appreciation of design with her love of stationery, the business was born. And today, Kristina has turned a desire for stylish home office products into a booming design and retail business, with boutiques across Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and an online store that services the world. Kristina started kikki.K with little business knowledge, but her drive and determination for what she felt passionate about was evident from an early age. At the tender age of ten, little Kikki would ride her bicycle around the snow-covered streets of her neighbourhood, selling and delivering Christmas books door-to-door. As a sign of things to come, she was named best saleswoman for her region. A love of stationery developed early. Bursting with creative energy, Kristina looked forward to the start of a new school year and the new notebooks, pencils and folders that it would bring. A true stationery lover, Kristina loved to be organised. That passion is still present today. Displaying an amazing amount of drive and enthusiasm, Kristina has followed her dream from concept to reality. If starting her own business wasn’t difficult enough, doing it in her second language with her family and friends on the other side of the world certainly added to the challenge. And years later, she has maintained her enthusiasm and boundless energy for her business. Over the years, Kristina’s looked to a few notable mentors for guidance through her journey in the business world. “My partner Paul believed in me from the very beginning. He helped me discover what it was I wanted to do with my life and he’s been along for the ride ever since. From the initial business idea – and now he’s the company CEO. There was a group of others who were really crucial to my success in the beginning. I even held a special dinner to thank many of them for their support. That was a special moment for me. Gillian Franklin who founded The Heat Group and was named by “The Age” as one of Australia’s most powerful businesswomen, has been a wonderful mentor and inspiration to me. She has taught me so many things. Perhaps the most important has been the value of having a mentor.” Kristina also has valuable advice for up-and-coming businesswomen: Build a supportive team and create a network: as much as your passion will tell you otherwise, you can’t do everything yourself, so surround yourself with wonderful people to help you on your way. Contacts are invaluable, so seek mentors too.