Katie Santilli and Vera Yan have been friends since they were teenager. They went to school together, before they pursued careers that saw them living in different continents. It was only when Katia was temporarily back in Sydney that her and Vera saw a gap in the market for functional, practical, but beautiful activewear (while training together in the gym, no less).
The result was Nimble Activewear: a now million dollar business with a bricks and mortar store in Bondi Beach, Sydney. Even in the thick of running their business, the pair are still evangelistic about their holistic, health-centred lifestyle. I was lucky enough to chat to the pair about all things wellness, business practice, and what’s next for Nimble.
What’s your approach when it comes from wellness – do you both have an overarching philosophy?
Katia: We’re firm believers that wellness is not about chasing a number on the scales, it’s about nourishing your mind, body and soul with what it needs (that could be a beach run, or a big glass of shiraz). It’s about feeling empowered to live your best life. Nimble was founded on the belief that being happy and healthy should be neither complicated nor expensive. We’re so trilled our products accompany thousands of women on their wellness journeys.
What was the defining moment when you decided to take the leap and turn Nimble into a brand ?
Vera: The seed was planted in 2013 when Katia and I grew more and more frustrated about the lack of stylish, high-performance activewear on the market. At the time, we were living together in Bondi, fitting in exercise classes in our spare time. We’d rush home after a workout to wash our expensive tights for the next morning’s session because out budget wouldn’t allow for an entire wardrobe of gym gear. Finally in 2014, we launched Nimble Activewear for women just like us.
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve both faced in business, and how have you overcome it?
Katia: One of the biggest challenges has been how fast we’ve grown, which sounds like a humble-brag, but I promise it’s not! It’s been incredible to see the brand up to the point where we’re now turning over $5 million annually, but with rapid growth comes big growing pains. We’re a completely self-funded business, so we’ve had to be really strategic and calculated with our funds, but it’s helped us to become better business owners.
If you could offer one piece of advice to other female-founded business starting out in the wellness space, what would it be?
Vera: It’s a really exciting time for women in business right now! My biggest piece of advice would be to seek out some incredible mentors who can help you develop as a business owner – you don’t need to go it alone. Seeking a second opinion or some feedback from people who’ve walked the entrepreneurial path before you can be invaluable and prevent you from making mistakes too.
What’s next for Nimble Activewear?
Katia: We’ve just celebrated our fifth birthday and we’re turning our focus to the next five years. We’re continuing to evolve our sustainable COMPRESSLITE range (each pair of leggings uses six recycled plastic bottles and every sports bra uses four). We are so proud to have saved over 300,000 plastic bottles from going into landfill over the past year and in July we launched our new poly bags which are made from corn starch and are biodegrade in your rubbish.
What other women in the wellness space inspires you?
Vera: Alison Rice is someone I really admire. For her podcast, Offline, she has really honest, open conversations with incredible people. She’s not afraid to expose herself and her vulnerabilities and helps other women while doing this.
How do you wind down after a busy week?
Katia: Winding down means placing clear boundaries between my work and me. Being a co-founder means I’m always “on”, but I try not to answer emails once I’m home. Enjoying a good meal with my loved ones is also the best way to relax.
What do you typically eat day to day?
Vera: I always start my day with breakfast – I love the ritual of it and find it really sets me up for the day. What I eat depends on the time of year, porridge during Winter, smoothies and muesli in Summer and eggs on the weekend. For lunch, I will either make a salad at work with veggies and protein, or if I’m organised, I’ll have leftovers from the night before. I try to eat at least two to three home-cooked dinners a week. These range from quick options such as salad or meat and roast vegetables, to more adventurous options. I currently love trying out new Chinese dishes my mum has taught me.
What does your current workout routine look like?
Katia: I’m a big yoga lover, but have also been incorporating HIIT sessions and Pilates classes to switch things up.
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Jessica Sepel is an absolute pioneer in the wellness space worldwide. She is an Australian blogger, best-selling author, and the creative genius behind the JSHealth App, and JS Health range of vitamins. But most importantly, it’s her approach to wellness that’s the most impressive. Jess is an advocate for nourishing your body with healthy foods, finding balance and practicing self-love. I chat with Jess about all things business, her daily routine and loads more.
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