Carolina Winterliv of Card Group International is the winner of two Business Worldwide CEO Awards 2024: CEO Innovator of the year – Franchise Industry and Digital Transformation CEO of the Year: Sweden. Here we delve into her remarkable journey so far.

As the Deputy CEO of Card Group International, Carolina Winterliv has made a name for herself as a beacon of innovation and leadership. Steering the company, together as a team with her father, sister and other managers, to unprecedented success in recent years, she has also earned recognition for her pioneering vision and commitment to digital transformation. Here we delve into Carolina´s rise to prominence, leadership philosophy, and the impact she has made on both her company and the industry at large.

From Gymnastic Instructor at the age of 12, to model to Deputy CEO: The Early Years

Carolina Winterliv’s journey to leadership began with diverse experiences that shaped her worldview. She started her leadership when she was 12 years old as a gymnastic instructor for younger children, and had her own gymnastics team shortly after this. Together with her friend they hand picked their own team by holding auditions for younger girls. She knew that to get the best team ever they needed motivated girls, who loved gymnastics and wanted to work hard. They then travelled around in Sweden and competed with her gymnastic team.

 “When I think back on this time I can not stop thinking about all the girls’ parents that let us travel with their kids to different cities and spend nights in motels. They must have really trusted and believed in us.”

 From the start she knew that if you love something and work hard  for it, it will pay off.  It did, and they won many competitions with Carolina as their instructor. 

“I also remember that the best part of being an instructor was when I saw the happiness in the girl’s own eyes and their pride in themselves as they developed and learned new things”.  

Carolina also started travelling the world as a model, experiencing different cultures and gaining valuable insights into the dynamics of a global marketplace, before returning to Sweden to work for her father’s business. 

The Evolution of Card Group International

Founded by Carolina’s father, Peter Hallström, in 1997, Card Group International has emerged as an award-winning global franchise company, with operations spanning over 40 countries.

From its beginnings in Sweden, the family business steadily expanded its footprint across Europe and beyond. Initially focusing on greeting cards, the company diversified its product offerings to include a comprehensive range of complementary items such as gift bags, wrapping paper, candles, and party products. Card Group has since embraced an environmentally friendly strategy whilst holding true to its passion for design and innovation. 

The company’s Headquarters in Gävle, Sweden are home to an international training-centre, design studios, R&D, administration, production planning/logistics, warehouse and support/management team. With over 300 franchisees and an ever increasing global footprint, it’s one of the most dynamic and well respected franchise companies in the world. 

A Family Affair

At the heart of Card Group International lies a strong sense of family and community. Despite its global reach, the company maintains a familial atmosphere, where every member, from the in-house design team to franchisees all over the world, is valued and supported. Carolina Winterliv’s leadership style reflects this ethos, emphasising the importance of open communication, collaboration, and empowerment. 

Let people speak. Let them share their ideas and give them space to grow. Everyone has a story and value to add. Listen, and it’s amazing what you’ll learn.”

Driving Digital Transformation

Over the past two decades, Carolina has overseen significant changes within Card Group International, most notably, the digital transformation of the company’s operations. Transitioning from traditional handwritten process to a digitized system, she has streamlined workflows, enhanced efficiency, and embraced emerging technologies to propel the company into the digital age so that not only but for our franchisees as well so that the master´s have their own site that their team can order from.

Navigating Challenges with Resilience

Like all successful business leaders, Carolina has encountered challenges and setbacks over the years: 

 “The biggest lesson I’ve learnt is that not everyone wants you to succeed. For every supporter, there will be one naysayer who doesn’t want you to do well. Even in the face of adversity I’ve always believed in myself and held true to my own values. I work hard and never doubt my own abilities. If I encounter a problem, I find a solution. This growth mindset is at the heart of everything I do, both at work and at home.”

Beyond her professional endeavours, Carolina is a devoted mother of three, and her dedication and hard work starts long before she sets foot in the office. She starts every morning at 5.15am, works out and heads to the park for a run. She sees exercise as her time to reflect and plan, listening to podcasts and thinking about what she can achieve during the day. She schedules everything, planning every day, week and month, dispelling the myth that women can’t have it all: “You can have it all, you just have to manage your time well!”

Carolina’s husband and their three children are all similarly hard working and dedicated to health and fitness. Their 21 year old son has recently joined the family business, and their two daughters – aged  13 and 15 – are both dancers who compete at the highest national level. Carolina acts as mum, mentor, trainer and supporter, doing everything from driving them around the country to sewing their dance outfits.  

This involves a huge amount of travel and the family come along as they take part in competitions all over Sweden and abroad. The girls are in the Swedish National Team of dance and compete in the World Championships and the European championships. In 2023 the girls won bronze medal in hiphop duo, in Junior 1 class, in the European Championships. It’s the kind of lifestyle that would leave many exhausted, but the Winterliv family thrive on it and grow ever stronger as a unit.

Whether overseeing strategic initiatives or supporting her children’s pursuits, Carolina approaches every aspect of her life with dedication and passion.

No Glass Ceilings 

For Carolina, it should never be about gender roles or labels, but instead about giving people opportunities based on their unique talents and personalities. She is the Chair of the Swedish Franchise Association and also the Vice President in the board of Directors of the European Franchise Federation, and has been working in the Franchise business for over 22 years. She got where she is today because she’s a good leader who works hard. “It’s about  having determination, resilience , big ideas and daring to express your opinions and ideas”. 

The Path Forward

Carolina Winterliv legacy serves as inspiration for aspiring leaders everywhere. With a steadfast commitment to innovation, integrity, and empowerment, she embodies the qualities of a true visionary. Whether championing sustainability initiatives or fostering a culture of inclusivity, she remains dedicated to driving positive change and leaving a lasting impact on the world.

“I feel so lucky. I get to work with all these amazing, interesting people, who are full of brilliant ideas. I learn from them every day, and for me, learning is the key to success.”

To find out more about Card Group International’s work, franchise opportunities and environmental initiatives, visit