You love your bestie. She’s your ride or die, your right hand chick. She’s the person who celebrates over cocktails with you when something good happens AND the first to show up your door with ice-cream during the tough times. But would you start a business with her?
Childhood besties and founders of Nimble Activewear, Katia Santilli and Vera Yan, did just that—and although it’s a decision that can be fraught with risk, it’s definitely one that has paid off. The duo has turned their Bondi-based label into a multi-million dollar empire and have managed to stay best friends in the process!
The pair has been inseparable since they were 14 years old, bonding over their mutual love of R’n’B and aerobics. After finishing uni, Katia moved to London to work at Burberry as a Merchandise Manager, while Vera worked in law, finance and investment banking in Sydney. It was when Katia moved in with Vera in Sydney in 2013 while sorting out her visa that they came up with the idea for Nimble. And as they say, the rest is history!
Here, the entrepreneurs share their do’s and don’ts for starting a business with your bestie.
Do: Pick a friend who has their sh*t together.
Vera: “Starting your own business isn’t easy. It involves long hours, a lot of crucial decisions and plenty of pressure. If the friend you want to go into business with is a bit of a flake, really disorganised or struggles to stick to a task and see it through, alarm bells should be going off for you. Katia and I work so well together because we’re both equally committed to growing our business. Pick a reliable friend who’s as passionate about your business idea as you are and you won’t look back.”
Don’t: Choose a friend chasing a cruisy job
Katia: “A huge misconception about starting your own business and ditching your day job is that you’ll have more time on your hands. Vera and I have never worked harder in our lives since starting Nimble Activewear, and our triple-digit growth year-on-year is proof of this. Ensure that you and your friend have the same expectations around your new workload and are both willing to get your hands dirty. If they’re thinking it’s going to involve an hour of emails followed by a round of golf and a boozy lunch, you’re going to have an issue.”
Katia: “Before you and your friend dive in to start your new business, ensure that you’re both on the same page regarding your vision. Vera and I are completely aligned when it comes to where we want Nimble Activewear to head. We’re committed to producing high-quality activewear, reducing our environmental impact through a short supply chain and our Compresslite fabric that uses recycled bottles. We’re also both passionate about improving the lives of women around the world (through donating $1 from every online purchase to i=Change). Sharing these core values means that we both agree wholeheartedly about every business decision we need to make.
Don’t: Hold back from giving your honest opinion
Vera: “Despite a friendship spanning over 17 years, one thing Katia and I have worked really hard on since starting Nimble Activewear is communicating really well. Rather than holding onto things and ruminating on certain issues, we’re really honest and upfront with each other and never hold back when it comes to sharing our opinion. This means that small issues don’t snowball into major conflicts. It might be difficult sometimes but always sharing your honest opinion with your friend – in the most respectful way possible – will ensure your business takes a direction you’re both happy with.”