We’ve all heard of the seven year itch. Katia Santilli co-founded Nimble Activewear with her best friend Vera Yan six years ago, in 2014. But for this fashion, fitness, and friendship success story, year six has brought its fair share of bumps – in more ways than one…
The first bump involves the coronavirus pandemic hitting the entirely self-funded Nimble at a time when they were really hitting their stride. Two retail stores, a growing team, and big growth plans have had to be put on ice while lockdown plays out. Then factor into the mix an actual bump – Katia is weeks away from giving birth to her first child – and you start to see that Nimble is very aptly named. If there’s one thing businesses have needed to survive this moment in history, it’s the ability to be light on their feet and willing to pivot. It’s something Katia is well aware of.
“Nimble was my first baby”, Katia tells us. “In a way I’ve been fortunate because I had set up a home office pre COVID–19, to use on maternity leave, so I transitioned into this way of working earlier. Once the baby arrives I will go on maternity leave, while still being across work as much as I can and as much as my baby allows. Given how busy the business is currently, I do worry about how well I will manage this juggle!”
But with her track record, we’re not too worried for her. Katia’s story proves her ability to beat the odds. She left a dream job at Burberry in London to found an activewear line with her high school best friend. The two managed not to only to disrupt the market, but to do it consciously – their commitment to sustainability goes beyond lip service and every pair of their MoveLite leggings uses an average of 6 recycled plastic bottles in its fabrication. So far, they’ve saved over a million bottles from going to landfill. When we ask her about challenges, Katia tells us that the biggest one has been “how fast we’ve grown, which sounds like a humblebrag, but I promise it’s not!”
We spoke to the founder about how she’s managing pregnancy during a pandemic, how she found the confidence to launch her own business, and her plans for maternity leave. If the first six years are anything to go by, that seven year itch won’t hold a candle to this unstoppable woman.
Visit Nimble Activewear
Congratulations on your pregnancy! How has it treated you so far?
Thank you! So far so good. As with everyone, pregnancy comes with its challenges and while I was fortunate not to get bad morning sickness, I’m trying to listen to my body and rest where I need to. I’m in my third trimester now and have particularly noticed that nights are starting to get more restless. I think it’s time to invest in that pregnancy pillow.
You co-founded Nimble with your best friend Vera. How will you approach juggling motherhood and the business?
Vera and I are really lucky to have the partnership that we do. When we started Nimble Activewear in 2014 I had left my job at Burberry in London to invest in the business full time while Vera worked to support us, spending weekends and any time she had on Nimble. It’s a fairly unique dynamic and it works. Recently Vera got married and shortly I will have my baby and take on the juggle of balancing parenthood and work! It’s definitely a new adventure for me and I’ll be closely watching how other mums manage, with the support of an amazing husband, family and our all-female team!
How has your work life changed given the current state of the world? This must have been such a stressful time to be both a business owner and an expecting mama!
Like most, our business has needed to react quickly and adapt to the new norm and our team has been working from home with many Zoom meetings. Work is definitely busy, and while I want to nurture this, I need to remind myself to slow down ahead of the baby’s arrival in a few weeks.
What has your life in lockdown looked like? Are you managing to work from home, or are you on maternity leave now?
In a way I’ve been fortunate because I had set up a home office pre COVID–19, to use on maternity leave, so I transitioned into this way of working earlier. Once the baby arrives I will go on maternity leave, while still being across work as much as I can and as much as my baby allows. Given how busy the business is currently, I do worry about how well I will manage this juggle!