Karin Rysgaard, Founder + Creative Director of Cocoon Styling and Island Living by Cocoon
“Originally, I moved here with [my daughter] Sophie’s father, but we separated after 12 months. He decided to move back – he’s from Denmark – and I stayed on and launched businesses here,” Australian expat Karin Rysgaard shares matter-of-factly about the origins of her two successful home- styling and -furnishings brands, Cocoon Styling and Island Living by Cocoon.
That was 17 years ago. Prior to that, she worked at a university in Melbourne, teaching horticulture and garden design. Her first paid job in Singapore employed some of this expertise for her landlord. “We had a great house in Sixth Avenue, and my landlord said to me he wanted to renovate it,” recalls Karin. “I was a bit bored and said to him, ‘Look, I’ve got skill in this area. If you give me some contractors and some money, I will oversee the project for you.’”
The project was a success, and word of mouth spread. Before long, real estate agents and others started contacting Karin for outdoor and interior design work, and she formalised Cocoon Styling in 2013. “When I started the business, I met a lot of people who stayed in houses they didn’t feel connected to because they didn’t own it,” she describes of many expats. “The name ‘Cocoon’ was an obvious choice – it was about creating that space. Cocoons are a temporary home for caterpillars, where they become butterflies.”
Her latest business venture, Island Living by Cocoon – which she co-founded with Denise Vrontas in early 2019 – carries eco-chic home furnishings at a showroom in Henry Design Centre and via an e-shop. The latter did brisk business during last year’s circuit breaker. “[Denise and I] would go in in our trainers and leggings – just sweating and packing all day.”
Started in 2017 by The Finder, the Expatpreneur Awards are intended to honour hard-working, successful, community-minded foreign-born business owners in Singapore. All winners must exhibit how their businesses help people “live well in Singapore” – The Finder’s own mission. This year, marks the fifth annual awards. Find out more here.
By Sara Lyle Bow