Nimble Activewear Founders On When To Make Your Side Hustle Your Full-Time Gig

It's not as simple as handing in your resignation.

Nimble Founders Katia Santilli & Vera Yan
Nimble Founders Katia Santilli & Vera Yan

You don’t have to be in a work rut to quit your job. To any onlooker, Vera Yan and Katia Santilli, founders of Nimble Activewear, were nearing the peak of their careers when they threw in the towel. It was a brave move but three years on, it’s proven to be a smart one too.

Not only is Nimble going from strength to strength (they showed in this year’s MBFWA and undoubtedly stole the show) but the girls, who have been friends for years, actually love what they do and get to do it together.

That being said, it wasn’t always so clean cut. They juggled two jobs for quite some time before making the break. So, how did they know it was the right moment? We sat down with Vera and Katia to find out.

Meet Vera Yan

Vera Yan Co-founder of Nimble Activewear
Vera Yan, Co-founder of Nimble Activewear

What were you doing prior to Nimble?

Prior to Nimble Activewear, I was working in tax law at Greenwood & Herbert Smith Freehills. Before that I worked in investment banking at Macquarie.

What stage was Nimble at when you decided to quit your day job?

Nimble Activewear was over 2 years old when I went part-time at my day job and six months later I had left my job completely.

What was it like juggling the two? 

I juggled both Nimble Activewear and my day job for two and a half years. Towards the end of the juggle, life was pretty hectic as I would constantly be “on” 24/7—during the day I would be giving everything at my day job and then on evenings and weekends I would be throwing myself into all things Nimble Activewear.

We also opened our Bondi Beach store while I was still in the transition phase—I was incredibly fortunate that Katia had already been full time in the business for some time and she really steered the business as I was transitioning over.

During the first year of opening the store, Katia and I also worked the retail floor every Saturday. We thought that this was critical so that we really understood how our retail space operated and it also gave us fantastic insight into our customers and what they needed and wanted from us but needless to say it was a very big year!

What is it like leaving the security of a full-time, steady job to go out on your own (or together we should say!)?

Daunting, scary but also very exciting! There can definitely be tough days where everything feels very uncertain but I am so lucky that I get to wake up and be excited to go into work every day (and with my best bud!). I am so passionate about Nimble Activewear and it’s very exciting to see our little community growing each month. For me also, transitioning over step by step definitely helped make the move less scary.

How did you know that it was the right time to quit … if you had your time over would you do this differently?

I knew it was time to quit when I found myself being unable to give 100% to either my day job or to Nimble Activewear. As someone who has always been a bit of a perfectionist, it was very frustrating to feel like I was letting people down on both sides and it was at this time that I knew the time had come to dive into Nimble Activewear full time.

What practical advice would you give others wanting to do the same? 

Depending on your business and situation, I would recommend transitioning to part time first before quitting your day job. This will give you the best idea of what it is like to transition into working for yourself full time and will also help to prepare for the emotional, mental and also financial differences between working for yourself and working for someone else.

How is working for yourself different to what you had imagined…What don’t people tell you about working for yourself?

One of the best parts of working for yourself is the ability to make decisions and implement ideas. It’s amazing to not have to go through layers of bureaucracy and approvals when you want to implement something and just to be able to action it.

The other big thing about working for yourself is really living and breathing all things to do with your business. For me, it’s amazing to be so passionate about something but you also have to make sure that you take a break and switch off every now and then to avoid burnout and being too consumed.

Meet Katia Santilli

Katia Santilli Co-founder of Nimble Activewear
Katia Santilli, Co-founder of Nimble Activewear

What were you doing prior to Nimble?

I have a fashion and sportswear background— my roles have included managing the women’s fitness business at Puma Australia and working in London as a Merchandise Manager for the women’s outerwear business at Burberry.

What stage was Nimble at when you decided to quit your day job?

We were about 8 months into the business and we were at a stage where one of us needed to move across full time. Due to my background and experience, Vera and I both decided it would be best if I was the one to make the move.

What was it like juggling two jobs? 

After moving back from London I was working as a Merchandise Planner at Sunshades Eyewear. A few weeks before launching the business, I spoke with Sunshades about my plans and asked if I was able to move into a part-time position. They were so supportive of my future endeavors. I worked part-time at Sunshades for around 8 months before I moved across to the business full-time.

What is it like leaving the security of a full-time, steady job to go out on your own (or together we should say!)?

As I did it in stages, it was not too daunting and I moved across full-time when it was needed and the business was ready. However, I did face a lot of challenges moving across. I was at a great stage in my career where I had opportunities to grow in management roles. It was a hard decision to walk away from these opportunities and start my own business from the ground up. I was also working from home, full-time in the business quite a bit before Vera moved across or we hired our first employee so you had to get used to being by yourself during the working day.

How did you know that it was the right time to quit … if you had your time over would you do this differently?

We were going through a growth stage and the business needed it. I would not have done anything differently other then going into a co-share workspace initially. In the early days I was really missing the human interaction you get in an office and the ability to bounce ideas off others.

What practical advice would you give others wanting to do the same? 

Don’t be afraid to ask for help and also don’t be afraid to share your ideas with others. I found that initially working part time was a great safety net until I was ready to move across full-time.

How is working for yourself different to what you had imagined…What don’t people tell you about working for yourself?

You really have to be a jack-of-all-trades which makes for interesting days.