An interview with Karin Åkesson
Karin Åkesson is a Swedish-born illustrator and designer and has been a seller with us since 2010. In that time, her distinct style and charming range of homeware has gone from strength to strength. We asked her a few questions about her products, her business and her own home style.
What inspired you to create your business?
The inspiration for my products comes from making things I like to have in my own home. My designs focus on the sunny things in life; things that are personal to me but resonate with many people.
Describe your product range and what makes it unique.
My collection is built on simplicity, humour and love. My designs are influenced by my Swedish heritage, paired with a love of meaningful sayings, expressions and memories.
What is your best selling product?
The Personalised Friendship Bird print is very popular, customers really like the fact they can add their own personal message to the print to make a gift even more special. Another top seller is the ‘It was on sale’ canvas tote bag featuring the top 10 shopping excuses – a perfect gift for anyone who likes to shop!
Where did you start your company and where do you work now?
I started out working from home and I still do now – living in London, you get used to having limited space and you find ways around it. I love working from home but we have now outgrown the space and we are in the process of buying a house with a bigger studio. I am very excited about having a storage area for my stock and to have my wardrobe back for my own clothes!
What kind of support have you received along the way?
Until last year, it was just me working on my own, although I occasionally bribed friends and family to help pack up orders during busy times. In 2012, we took a big step and my husband David joined the company on a full-time basis. With his support I can now focus more time on developing new products – sharing the workload has been the best decision for both the business and our family life.
What’s the biggest hurdle you’ve had to overcome in running your business?
Getting through the initial start-up period for any new business is always a big hurdle. I overcame this by developing my product range alongside my regular illustration work. My product range grew and my sales increased after two years, meaning I was able to focus on the business on a full-time basis.
Where do you live?
We live in a Victorian flat with lots of character and I use our home as a stage for all the product shoots we do. I read somewhere that a home with personal photographs is a happy home and I like that idea. I always want it to feel homely and personal and a comfortable sofa is very important! It’s filled with things that we care about and bits of furniture – old and new – that we have collected over the years. I have quite a few of my own prints on the wall – when I make a new print I like to live with it and try it out at home.
What are the benefits of being a designer-maker?
There are so many benefits to being a designer-maker! It is a lovely feeling to come up with a new idea, to get positive feedback from happy customers and to spread my work into their homes. I have the freedom to explore and work on my own ideas and am incredibly lucky to be in control of my own future.
Do you have a good work/life balance?
I’d like to think we have found a really good work/life balance, but the workload does vary greatly depending on the time of year – the month leading up to Christmas is always the most demanding, so if you come back and ask me then you will definitely get a different answer! Christmas is also the most exciting time of the year, so much of the work we do across the rest of the year goes into making the holiday season a success – the excitement at seeing the business grow definitely compensates for all the hard work.
Has notonthehighstreet.com had a positive impact on your business?
notonthehighstreet.com has provided a fantastic platform for me to showcase and develop my work. The sales success I’ve had has inspired me and given me the confidence to push and grow my company far beyond my expectations. I have been very lucky to be featured in a range of marketing campaigns and they have given me amazing support in various areas to help me grow my business.
What are you lusting after on notonthehighstreet.com this month?
As we’re moving into a new house, I am obsessed with getting news bits for our home. I’m especially excited about getting a new office space and I’m on the hunt for a new lamp and some clever storage. I really like the Scandinavian style Basic Desk Lamp sold by Idyll Home.
What are your ambitions for your company in the future?
My mission for the future is to continue to expand my range of household products and to share it with the world. I have one of my bird prints above my desk with a message saying “Tomorrow something wonderful will happen”, and I like to think that’s true!
See Karin’s full range of products here.