Kunal and I have been friends since we were 13 years old having gone to the same secondary school in Kent.
Growing up Kunal was always very entrepreneurial, whereas I was more vocationally focussed, but we’d always have long conversations about hair-brained business ideas and opportunities when we probably should have been studying.
In our early twenties and fresh in our careers at the time, we jumped on the property ladder and along with my brother bought a house in London knowing that we had more financial leverage if we pooled our money.
Perhaps it was that trust and financial awareness between us at an early age which set us on the path to Nikura, the essential and fragrance oil business which we now run. The idea for the business was inspired by Kunal’s late father’s pharmacy business and was founded in its current form in 2016 in Kunal’s bedroom (in the shared house we owned) whilst he should have been studying for an accountancy exam. Instead he was writing his resignation letter and thinking about starting an e-commerce business.
At the time I was working as Head of Business Affairs for another start-up but Kunal and I had been discussing going in to business together for around 20 years by that point – so in 2017, I officially joined Kunal and embarked on the most exhilarating project we’ve ever done together that has both challenged and strengthened our friendship.
One of the best things about running Nikura together is being able to celebrate each business milestone with a mate by your side. We still remember the excitement we felt from that first sale through Amazon Prime. Before that, setting up our first production line was a dream accomplished which allowed us full quality control and empowered us to not only deliver the best to our customers but to be more sustainable with our supply chain.
Fast forward to now, we have grown over 10 times in terms of revenue – a lot of which is down to our focus and the increased presence that comes with Amazon’s size and audience reach. We are proud of having expanded and moved into our own facilities in Tottenham with over 20 employees – our first grad hire was in 2020, another memorable moment along our journey. We have a healthy turnover in the £2-5 million range with the bulk of our sales coming from Amazon combined with other channels, wholesale, and our own growing D2C website – www.nikura.com. We’ve just begun our journey of global expansion, with the help of the Pan-EU programme with Amazon. Last month we sold our first products in Germany and are looking forward to expanding our reach throughout Europe, US and beyond.
Top tips for being in business as friends
For anyone thinking of getting into business with a friend, know that you’re going to end up spending a lot of time together and be prepared for disagreements. Lucky for Kunal and me, we have had lots of practice having lived together and argued about many ridiculous things over the course of our 25-year friendship! Here are some of our top tips which we’ve learnt along the way.
- Define clear roles from the start! Being friends means you will know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, so use this to your advantage and be strategic about divvying up your responsibilities.
- At times one of you might feel that the other is not pulling their weight or feel let down – have an honest conversation about it as soon as possible and nip any negative feelings in the bud.
- Try not to spend your time blaming each other for past mistakes, focus on fixing problems and keep moving forward. “I told you so” isn’t always the most useful sentence to hear!
- Make sure you continue to invest in the personal side of your relationship alongside the business side. If you neglect one, then the other will suffer!
- Take time out of work to reflect on what you’ve achieved and celebrate your successes. It’s easy to forget the progress that you’ve made in the day-to-day – but a retrospective over a drink or two (or more) works wonders.