As part of her upbringing in Sweden, Sara Lundgren was always surrounded by design. And she was always building or creating something. “There is something special about designing pieces for homes, as objects you are surrounded with help set the mood, and express individual style,” she says. However, when Sara landed in Australia seven years ago, it was as an exchange student while she was studying international business. While she fell in love with the natural surrounds - and warm climate - and settled in Bondi Beach, she initially took a corporate path with her career. After working for a small digital agency for a while, Sara took the plunge and launched her own design and homewares business Zakkia at Life Instyle in 2014. “I had not shown the collection to anyone before the show, and having never exhibited before, I had no clue what to expect,” she says. “It was a bit nerve-wracking, to say the least.” But the response to the collection was instant, and overwhelmingly positive, she says. “It was amazing so see people’s confidence in the brand from the very beginning. That was when I knew that Zakkia would work.”

Zakkia will be exhibiting at the upcoming Life Instyle Sydney event. Register now to attend and explore Happiness By Design. The trade event runs 18-21 February at the Royal Hall of Industries and Hordern Pavilion.

This post was sponsored by Life Instyle, an event I have attended many times over the years. All editorial content was produced independently. Thank you for supporting businesses that help to make Daily Imprint possible. - NW

Which five words best describe you? Determined, creative, sun-loving, passionate, motivated.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? I studied international business and marketing at university and worked in corporate marketing for a few years after my studies. I then transitioned to work at a small digital agency where I was fortunate to work with many small online retailers on their marketing and ecommerce strategies. It was during this time the inspiration grew to create something of my own.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? I feel like I learn new things every day with Zakkia, and that is one of the best parts of this journey. I definitely think a big lesson is just to stay true to who you are, and if you take the plunge and follow your passions great things happen.

What’s your proudest career achievement? Every time we launch a new collection is a very proud moment. There is a huge sense of satisfaction in seeing designs and products that you have been working on for a long time all come together into a complete collection. Our photo shoot days for our catalogues are usually the first time we see all our new pieces nicely presented together as a whole, and it is my favourite time of the year.

What’s been your best decision? Just taking the step and deciding to launch Zakkia - there has been so much work, late nights, long weekends, ups and downs - but I have not regretted one second of the time spent. Another big decision was when Zakkia grew and I had to make a decision on expanding the team. It is definitely a big step and commitment to bring new people on board to a relatively new and growing business. I’m so glad I decided to do this early on. Zakkia would not be what it is today if it wasn’t for the amazing team we have here.

Who inspires you? Australia has a lot of inspiring female entrepreneurs. I’m also very inspired by the incredibly skilled artisans we work with in Vietnam for the production of our collections. When I started Zakkia, I made a conscious decision to only work with small, family-owned producers for our products, and to have them handmade. One of our ceramics partners is a family-owned studio, which are now ninth generation ceramics masters. These artisans have such a passion for their trade and there is such a long tradition of skills that have been passed down through the generations. Every time I come back from a trip to Vietnam I always feel very inspired - we are so lucky to get to work with such an amazing team over there.

What are you passionate about? By working with our team in Vietnam I have learnt so much about traditional pottery and ceramic techniques, and this is something I’m very passionate about. Having products mass produced in a large factory will save on costs, but there is something so special about a ceramic mug that has been handcrafted using techniques that have been passed down through generations for the last 900 years. When you know how much time and passion goes into making each and every product it is not hard to appreciate the value of handmade products.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Zakkia is actually named after my grandmother, who I only got to meet once at a young age before she passed away. I would love to meet her again.

What dream do you still want to fulfil? I would love to be able to buy a house to renovate and create my dream home.

What are you reading? Lots. On my bedside table at the moment is a Swedish novel called Jag heter inte Miriam by Majgull Axelsson, gifted by my sister, The Monocle Guide to Better Living, also a Christmas present, the Collective Hub Magazine, and stacks of various home interior magazines.

images courtesy of zakkia; photography sam mcadam-cooper [interview]