Interview – Kyrie Kohlhagen of Messagemark

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Kyrie Kohlhagen has a determined spirit. It was whilst recovering from cancer in 2003, that she decided to step away from her corporate work lifestyle, and turn her part-time hobby into a successful fulltime stationery business, Messagemark.

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The Messagemark collection includes cards for all occasions, gift tags, invitations & wall art  –  each are adorned with colourful retro inspired designs with a modern twist.

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Kyrie is passionate about minimising waste and conserving resources. All Messagemark products are printed on 100% post consumer/recycled paper stock and printed with ECO EA Toner, paper offcuts are used for packaging, and seconds cards are donated to local primary schools for use in craft classes.

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Messagemark’s  office and windowfront (top) & Kyrie in design mode (bottom) Photo: John Kruger

Kyrie also runs theOrganic and Sustainable Market” in Henley Beach Adelaide every Saturday fortnight at the Fulham Gardens Primary School where  organic produce is available direct from the growers, and local designers feature their upcycled and sustainable designs. And in her spare time, she breathes new life into second hand and hard rubbish finds! 

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                                                                                            Photo: John Kruger

Between running her stationery business and Adelaide’s organic market, Kyrie took the time to share a little more about herself:

1. What inspired you to start designing stationery?   I originally started designing stationery in 2003 while living in New Zealand as a part-time hobby. Then not long after, my personal life took a dramatic turn for the worst – I was diagnosed with Cancer.As I went through the different stages of Cancer treatment, I made thank you cards to give to everyone that helped me along the way – doctors, nurses, specialists, volunteers, family, friends etc. It was my way of showing my appreciation and to say thank you.At the time being creative was healing, and gave me a future focus. Cancer really changed my perspective of life and opened up new opportunities. The overall experience has played a big part in the ongoing creation and development of Messagemark. I suppose you could say, the products I design, and the philosophy of my business are now a part of me and my own life journey.

My design aesthetic is characterised by a combination of current market trends in interiors, fabric designs, and fashion, and all things retro. I am a massive fan of the mid 20th Century, and the clean lines and simplicity of Scandinavian design. My “Retro Delights” Blog is a growing collection of all that inspires me.

2.  What are the essential ingredients of your business?

 Recipe for Messagemark
+ Creativity
+ Good Paper Design
+ Post Consumer Waste Paper
+ Love & Joy
+ Fun and happy paper products
+ Cure4CF Foundation
+ Feel good
+ Happy Earth

Mix the creativity with a dash of good paper design, and blend with 100% post consumer waste paper. Slowly add the love and joy and stir until you see fun and happy paper products form.
Serve to your friends, family and workmates, and support Cure4CF Foundation.  After only one serving you will feel good inside, and our Earth will feel happy too!
 
3.      Is there such a thing as a typical day at Messagemark?   No everyday is quite different and my hours vary dramatically. Because I wear all the hats – marketing, finance, sales, production, design so my day can change somewhat. I do try to maintain some structure though i.e. A day for production, a day for marketing, a day to be creative etc etc – although it rarely works that way. I have the type of personality that jumps from one thing to another very quickly so I work to rather extensive lists to keep me on track! When I am at the studio I spend a lot of my time on the computer, filling orders etc, and when I go home at night I always take some stock home with me in case I feel like sorting, creasing or packaging while watching TV in the evening.

4.      What are your major business challenges?   To create a product from scratch, and have something that can be marketed is an exciting process, however my greatest personal challenge has been to build business confidence and confidence in my product. I have found it hard to go out and sell my own designs because of fear of them not being well received. I think this is because I am so emotionally close to my business and my cards.

Another challenge is staying disciplined to maintain work and personal life balance.  Because I love what I do so much it doesn’t feel like work so there is danger in spending too much time on Messagemark. I really have to keep distinct lines between work and home life. To help with this, I ended up moving into a dedicated workspace earlier this year to help with that separation.   

5.   How does Messagemark endeavor to tread a little lighter on the planet?   I would like to eventually use all recycled envelopes for my products when my business grows. I can’t buy ‘off the shelf’ envelopes in the sizes I need so they have to be custom made in massive quantities so becomes really expensive – and wasteful. I am also working towards all my packaging being biodegradable. I would like to work towards Messagemark achieving good environmental choice accreditation.

6.       What are your dreams for Messagemark in the future?   I am constantly thinking of new products or directions to take my business. You could say my business plan is quite organic. The main thing though is I want to ensure I continue to be self employed so I can maintain my creative freedom.   I would love for my brand Messagemark to become synonymous with recycled (good) paper design and a part of everyday life.  I also hope that my contribution to Cure4CF Foundation (the charity I support through my online shop) will help to find a cure for Cystic Fibrosis. A small Gene Therapy Research team based at Adelaide’s Women’s and Children’s Hospital are making amazing progress towards a cure – they just require ongoing financial support to fund their incredible work. 

 7.     Share with us your easy eco living tip!   Before buying something new, truly ask yourself, do you really need it? Do you need that new cell phone when your existing one still does the job? Do you really need that brand new car? Reducing consumption will help save our Earth’s resources. And remember…the more ‘stuff’ you own the more it owns you!

Messagemark products are available direct through the Messagemark website, and select stockists in Australia, New Zealand & Denmark.

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