Money & Career

These Best Friends Started A Pyjama Empire Together

Here’s how the Hickory Hill designers juggle being mates and business partners
Hickory Hill Home sleepwear designers, Gendy Parry-Okeden (L) and Edwina Wills (R)

If you want to test your friendship with someone, start a business with them.

In 2013, lifelong pals Gendy Parry-Okeden and Edwina Wills did just that, launching Hickory Hill, a designer sleepwear and loungewear brand.

Having been best friends since they were 12, they both insisted on making their friendship the priority when they became business partners. “We put our friendship above all else, we wouldn’t want to ruin it over the business, that was important to us,” says Gendy.

It helps that they don’t disagree about much. “We know each other’s deepest darkest secrets, strengths, weaknesses and loves. Because we know each other so well, there’s unconditional trust, which is essential in a partnership,” says Edwina.

That unconditional trust was invaluable when launching Hickory Hill. Despite not knowing anyone in China or speaking the language, Gendy and Edwina jumped on a plane and went to a trade show over there. “We had no interpreter and no idea,” says Gendy, but that didn’t stop them from lining up a supplier and getting stuck in.

In the four years since, Hickory Hill has grown 200% every year. Last year, the business grew by 300%, and now has men’s, women’s and kid’s lines. Next year, they’re rolling out a wholesale business.

Keeping up with a rapidly growing business has its challenges. “There is a lot of hard work behind any success, there’s nothing easy about it,” says Edwina. “There’s a lot of grind, mistakes and failures along the way.”

Importantly, Gendy and Edwina don’t blame each other for those mistakes; “You need to let things slide a bit when things go wrong because, inevitably, it’s going to.”

The hardest part about working with your best mate isn’t resisting the urge to crack a bottle of wine every afternoon – it’s the whinging, says Edwina. “Gendy cops all of my whinging. Realistically, I probably speak to her more than I speak to my own husband. It’s great for me because I have an outlet, but not so great for her,” she says, with a laugh… 

Breakfast of champions

G: My daily green smoothie packed with oats, nuts and seeds amongst the kale.

E: Gosh I wish I knew!

Best advice

G: There’s no such thing as overnight success. And make friends with your accounting reports!

E: Run your own race. I find it best to stay in my own world and follow my instinct when I have a goal to achieve

Hardest lesson

G: That a perfect work/life balance is mythical – something to strive for but very hard to get right!

E: Giving up. Sometimes it’s necessary to open new doors. Learn when something is not working and face up to it. 

Top job interview tip

G: Be candid with your responses and let your personality come through – don’t try and behave how you THINK they want or expect you to.

E: Do some homework, research the company, the industry and your competition. 

Coffee order

G: LARGE soy latte

E: Small soy latte

Wind down

G: Cheese and wine with family and friends

E: Write lists of what still needs doing then run a bath

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