’We quit our jobs, now we make $4m a year’
KATIA Santilli and Vera Yan became friends when they met at a Melbourne high school at age 14.
After school, life took them in different directions. Vera moved to Sydney and Katia went to London and worked for Burberry.
When Katia returned to Australia to wait for her European passport to come through, she stayed with Vera in Sydney. While visiting the gym together they identified a gap in the market for "beautiful but functional activewear".
In 2013 they took a gamble and left their careers in finance and merchandising to launch their own label.
They say it was a six-month process to build the website, source fabrics and manufacture the products.
It paid off. Five years on and the business now pulls in a whopping $4 million in revenue annually.
Katia and Vera opened their business on the side without any outside investment, while still juggling their full-time jobs.
"Being a self-funded business, cash flow and effectively funding our growth is one of the biggest issues we've faced - on the flip side, one of the positives of this is that it always keeps us on our toes and ensures that both we and our team are innovating and constantly challenging the status quo and how things are done," Vera tells mybodyandsoul.com.au.
Things haven't always being smooth sailing, with Katia explaining they had some early manufacturing issues where "one of the legs on [their] leggings was shorter than the other."
While problems like this might make others feel hesitant about starting their own business, Katia and Vera simply see it as a learning experience.
"We are both pretty stubborn and determined - even though there have been many tough moments, 'not making it' has never really been an option. There have certainly been moments when we have felt like we were in over our heads, but we see each of these as being part of the learning process and it's when we are pushed that we really grow," Katia says.
So what's their key advice for budding entrepreneurs? Two words: Be prepared.
"Go and seek out mentors in the industry. Listen to the advice of others and don't be too tunnel visioned - be prepared to pivot and change your idea based on market feedback," explains Vera.
But starting a business doesn't mean saying goodbye to your social life, and family and friends.
"We make a conscious effort to balance our time between the business, socialising and also time to ourselves. It can get hard at times to pull ourselves away from work, and although it can be very consuming, we have found that taking time out to refresh and reset is incredibly important to ensuring that we are at our best," they say.