“It’s Like a Marriage”: Nimble Co-Founders On Running Their Own Business As Best Friends


It may seem like a dream; to run a business with your best friend, but what is it really like? Our closest friends can be like family, and those relationships can be tricky to navigate, let alone run a business with.

In episode seven of Dinner For Two host Alyce Tran sits down with Katia Santilli and Vera Yan, co-founders of quietly successful brand Nimble Activewear.

The high school best friends launched Nimble Activewear in 2013 with a vision to make quality activewear that feels great. Together, they’ve followed their passions and instincts to build a successful brand, with a focus on using recycled materials and practising its craft consciously.

Tran spoke to Santilli and Yan about what it’s like building a brand with your best friend and what tips they can share on managing that kind of relationship.

“We actually never intended to start a business together which is interesting, because people always ask us if we’d been planning this since high school,” Yan says.

“We actually went down really different career paths. I went super corporate and Katia went down a this really glamorous path of working in fashion in London. We came back together in Sydney, where I was living for work and Katia had come back to get her Italian visa.

“We were living together and going to gym classes together — back when the world was a sea of Lulu Lemon — and we both felt that the activewear market was lacking an aesthetic element we both craved; that real fashion element that you could team with your other pieces.

“Slowly, after many conversations and ideas bubbling, we started thinking we should give it a shot.”

“It made it easier because we were living together at the time,” Santilli chimed in, “which meant that things were able to move quite quickly and in alignment.”

When we imagine best friends starting a business together, it is often something that they’ve planned for years, or were “always going to do”; but the organic birth of Nimble Activewear is super inspiring.

Sometimes, when we feel disconnected from close friends, or have dreams of doing things with friends that have gone onto take a different path, it can be disappointing. Therefore, it’s really nice to know that there is always the possibility of coming back together.

“Our relationship is definitely a bit like a marriage,” laughs Santilli. “It’s a very close relationship and there have definitely been challenges along the way, being best friends from such a young age and now having a business together, you really learn what your relationship needs to become.

“It’s different from a friendship for sure — more like a marriage or partnership — because open communication is so important. You don’t want to let things brew, you always need to be on the same page in a business environment, but then we’re also involved in so many facets of each other’s lives outside of work that you’ve got to be able to separate things. I think you really need to have a strong foundation to make it work.”

Santilli says that for her and Yan’s business to work, they’ve needed to share the same vision on everything from how much money they were each putting in, to how to grow a business.

“And if your views aren’t aligned, you need to be able to have a conversation that makes you both feel comfortable to move forward. It all comes back to communication, and we haven’t always gotten it right. There were moments where we clashed in the early days, you know, we’d assume things or let things build up, but we’ve definitely become stronger over time.”

Yan prescribes a lot of their growth to their business mentors.

“We learnt how to listen,” she says. “It’s like marriage counselling!”

“You learn not to assume how the other person is feeling, just because you know them. Like “I know what she’s saying here” etc, because sometimes you just don’t. We’ve been really coached on how to lean into each other’s strengths, which has been really helpful.”

“We’re actually really different in terms of our skill set,” Santilli adds, ” which is great because allows us to both have different lanes, but to work together.”

You can listen to the full episode below. Shop Nimble Activewear here.

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