Vera Yan, 29, co-founded women’s clothing brand, Nimble Activewear in 2014 alongside her bestie, Katia Santilli. Nimble was born out of a desire to create a range of women’s activewear that was not only on‑trend and technical but also affordable for the everyday woman. Vera’s career journey began in the fast-paced environment of financial services, where she learnt resilience and how to be resourceful, oh and how to conquer the dreaded excel spreadsheet! Vera chats to us about her journey.
At Melbourne University I studied a combined Commerce & Law degree with a Diploma of Modern Languages in Mandarin. I chose the university as it was the one that many of my school friends were attending! In terms of the course, I had always been a bit of an all-rounder so chose the course as it was so general in nature and gave me the freedom to choose from a range of career options.
My career in finance started after landing an internship in the industry at Macquarie which then led to a full-time job after finishing uni. I got the internship through the usual internship application process that happens in your penultimate year at university. At that stage, I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do so I cast my net wide and spent many hours applying for internships across both finance and law – luckily for me Macquarie must have liked something that they saw in my CV and offered me an internship.
Once working in finance, I was really attracted to the fast-paced environment, the strong emphasis on problem solving and also the incredible access that you had to senior people at amazing corporations. The role also taught me resilience and how to be resourceful – two things that have come in very handy when running your own business.
The idea for Nimble Activewear actually came from our own frustration as consumers – we found that there was a real gap in the market when it came to activewear with the aesthetic that we wanted, that was accessible in terms of price and importantly, also offered the functionality that we needed to get us through a sweaty workout. It was from this realisation that the idea for Nimble Activewear grew as we set out to create the pieces that we, as consumers, were looking for.
Bringing the idea to reality was really a case of one foot in front of the other – we started sourcing fabrics and developing the product about twelve months before we launched and then once the website launched, it really was all systems go. My background in finance helped in terms of understanding financial jargon and the ability to analyse figures. I have to say that the comprehensive training in Excel has also proved to be invaluable.
The decision to take the leap to resign from my job and run Nimble full time was certainly a scary one but I wouldn’t say it was a particularly difficult one. After a couple years of juggling the two, there came a point where having both was no longer sustainable – I found myself totally burnt out and once I realised that I was unable to commit myself properly to either of the two roles that I had been juggling, I knew that it was the time to make the leap.
I’ve made sacrifices to achieve my career goals; moving away from family and friends in Melbourne to Sydney to complete my internship definitely felt like a fairly big deal at the time though looking back, it has also been one of the best decisions that I could have made. More recently, the jump into working for yourself has certainly made it much harder to switch off and I find that my brain is constantly ticking and on the look-out for new ideas and workshopping how we can make the business better. I’ve found that as my mind gets increasingly full, yoga is a must for me to de-stress and feel grounded.
I really don’t have any regrets about my journey so far – there are different aspects of every role that I’ve had that have taught me fundamental skills in terms of running our own business. Looking back, I would have loved the opportunity to work on an e-commerce or retail transaction to get an additional insight into the industry from another perspective.
I love the variety that comes with my current role – no two days are the same and I am constantly learning and being challenged in a range of different ways. It’s also incredible to have the freedom to implement ideas. We have a great team and as a small and young company, we can also be very agile and innovative which is exciting. I also love the fact that we are building a community and being a part of other women’s active lifestyles. It’s still the most exciting feeling to walk down the street and see someone wearing Nimble Activewear!
If you want to get into the industry; be persistent and do your research. If there’s a particular company that you are wanting to target, make sure that you read up about that company and approach them with a well thought out CV and cover letter. You should never underestimate the power of persistence and a targeted, well-researched application.
Don’t forget to read Vera’s business partner, Katia’s journey here!