When it comes to mixing business and friendship, Nimble Activewear’s founders Vera Yan, 31, and Katia Santilli, 32, are seasoned professionals.
The pair met as 14-year-olds at high school in Melbourne and in 2014 started their stylish, affordable activewear label from their Bondi apartment (yes, the pair live and work together). Fast forward four years and the brand is turning over $4 million annually, has sold tens of thousands of quality activewear garments, has two award-winning bricks and mortar stores in Bondi and Melbourne and employs seven full-time staff members. So, you could say they’ve got this friends-turned-business-partners thing totally down pat.
Want to do the same with a mate of yours? Here are four key things you need to know before you take the plunge.
1. Share the same values.
"Even if you and your friend-turned-business-partner have some hiccups along the way, having the same end vision and being aligned on the bigger picture means your business will be heading in the right direction," Vera says. "Katia and I are definitely aligned in our values when it comes to Nimble Activewear. Being authentic as a brand is really important to us both, so we’re committed to both producing products that do what they say they will and presenting an authentic brand image. As part of the second biggest polluting industry globally, we’re also both really committed to reducing our environmental footprint. This means that Katia and I are both on board when it comes to putting more money into creating high-quality garments and a sustainable supply chain."
2. Know each other’s strengths.
"In the early days of any business, you have limited funds so you’ll both have to do absolutely everything yourselves," explains Katia. "When we created Nimble Activewear, Vera and I split tasks so that I looked after a facet of the business and Vera could run with a facet - we divided and conquered and got on with it. I mainly look after product, design, production and planning and Vera is stronger at marketing, accounting, finance and social media."
By playing to their individual strengths, the pair avoided stepping on each other's toes in the early days. "Before you start your business, figure out what each of your strengths are and stick to them," Katia adds.
3. Choose a friend you can trust.
"It’s really important to go into business with a friend you trust implicitly," Katia says. "Vera and I have known each other for over 17 years; our families are friends and we know everything about each other. We know that we’re both decent people and neither of us is going to do anything to benefit ourselves at the detriment of the other. Starting a business is a high-pressure environment regardless of how close you and your friend are and there are always going to be speed bumps - if your friend isn’t someone you truly trust, those speed bumps can turn into huge conflicts."
4. Don’t hold grudges.
When it comes to relationships and friendships, many people hold things in and let them brew rather talking it out. "The same can happen in business and it’s really unhealthy," says Vera. "Katia and I are really good at communicating and not holding issues in but it’s taken a lot of work to get there. If something’s bugging us, we pull each other aside and address it straight away so that it doesn’t turn it into a bigger issue. We live together, socialise together and work together so we don’t have a choice other than to be upfront with each other and communicate."
You can find out more about Katia and Vera's journey with Nimble Activewear here.