I recently had the opportunity of speaking to two amazing entrepreneurs that have been making a lot of progress in their business over the past 12 months. Since the last time i spoke to them (Dirujan Sabesan). You can certainly say that hard work and persistence does pay off.
Dirujan Sabesan and Sam Thornton are the co-founders of creative nerds -A UK based design & development firm that specialises in beautiful, creative and exclusive designs.
Hope their story inspires you, enjoy the interview.
Hi Guys, how are you doing today?
We’re good thank you
So before we go any further, can you guys just quickly give us some background information about yourself so that the YHP readers can get to know you better, especially you Sam?
Dirujan Sabesan – London based, 18 Year old founding director of CreativeNerds. You could say I’m the face of the company in terms of the visual artwork you see as I have the role of lead designer. I’m in full time education at Sixth Form studying A2 Graphic Communication, Music Technology & Media Studies.
Sam Thornton - I'm 20 and also a founding director of the company in question. I am the ‘geek behind the curtains’ so to speak as I also hold the position of head developer. I currently work full time in Liverpool for another design agency.
A lot has changed since I last spoke to you Diri, first of all, you were 16 and now you’re 18 right?!
Yup, we’ve come a long way since you interviewed myself a few years back. You’ll notice the new website which we launched in the summer of 2010. We have added a few more exclusive names onto our client list and also our actual presence as a design agency has developed. Since then we’ve also officially registered the company as –CreativeNerds (UK) LTD, making sure we’re taking the right steps forward.
Bring us up to date with some of your recent developments; a lot has happened since the last time i spoke to you?
Well we’ve managed to add some more companies to our client list such as – Sony Music Entertainment & The Jonathan Lipman International Group. Our largest project since speaking to you back in 2009 has been the SB.TV project which is always developing.
We created the identity for the company and went on to build the website which is now just over a year old and achieving over 45K hits a month. Artists such as Flo Rida, Drake & Devlin have all featured on there.
How is it like working with each other? A lot of people try to keep away from working with friends; Hope Sam doesn’t try to pull some “I’m older do this” card on you?
Dirujan Sabesan - No way. His shackles lock him onto his desk so I maintain control… Only joking. The best thing about us is that we are such a small team. Seems that being spread about England helps us because we simply work over emails, phone calls and video conferences. We’re not here to live of each other and have a democracy. Instead we put our passion for our talents together and create work that will always keep generating a healthy income .
Sam Thornton - We see it as an ‘equal opportunities’ environment, everyone has input and everyone gains the benefits of such a well-developed company in a very difficult industry. That’s not to say that we don’t disagree with what the other person says but we know each other than well, we pull through and settle on a compromise
Dirujan Sabesan -Teamwork is always key, if things were not working out then the company would have dissolved ages ago.
Do you guys have an office or you just work remotely from home or how does it work?
Dirujan Sabesan - We don’t have a core studio as such, we work virtually from home. Our communication to each other is over the phone, through constant e-mails, texts, and video calls. Right now we both work on CN part time, we both have our own individual lives and put as much time as we can into the company.
How did you guys know each other and why did you decide to start a business together?
Dirujan Sabesan - The World Wide Web put us together. Social networks such as Twitter and Behance allow you to find new and undiscovered talent. CN was simply created because we knew we had a passion for being creative individuals. At that time I was roughly 16 and only right that I wanted to make some extra money. Paper rounds weren’t really my thing.
Sam Thornton - We both realised each other’s talents and just set out doing a few designs as a hobby – I always saw web design as nothing more than this and never actually realised the potential in the market. 2 years down the line and we have a great client list, we are well known and becoming what I would describe as ‘successful’
The last i spoke to you Diri, you said you guys focused a lot of advertising but it know it seems “word of mouth” and referrals has now taken over for you guys?
Dirujan Sabesan - Seriously, I gave up on advertising. All I did was to leave textual links on any online projects we created, such as websites. Our support has risen and it seems that more and more people are getting to know about us. People like Neil Ransome, Jonathan Lipman, Jamal Edwards, Derek Amedume, Anthony Layiwola, SQ Magazine, Adeel Niaz , Ed Griffiths and the L4M camp always push our names out to anyone and everyone. I appreciate people like them who don’t simply want to use us for a service and then run away after.
Sam Thornton - It goes to show that if you do offer a great service and the end product is the quality that you advertise then you will be rewarded. We have now turned to relying on social media and the word of mouth of our current clients to spread the word.
What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
Dirujan Sabesan - Self Motivation. Self Confidence. Time Management. You have to be motivated to carry out work for clients, work to maximise your potential. You must have the confidence in yourself to sell your product and push your business. And as Anthony from Base N Rebulz told me, time management will always keep you on track! Find the right assets and try not to indulge in any liabalities.
What have been some of your failures, and what have you learned from them?
Dirujan Sabesan - If someone ever says that there has never been a failure within his or her business or career then that’s a lie. You will always make some mistakes in life, and these will make you a better minded because you know how to tackle the problem next time round.
Sam Thornton - I wouldn’t say we’ve had any catastrophic problem, I would say that on a day to day basis we are always learning new things, not just about the market but also about our clients and how to approach issues. I suppose our biggest failure is not capitalizing on things earlier…
How many hours do you guys work on average in a day?
Dirujan Sabesan – Depends really on how much work I’ve got to do. More or less I would have about 5 hours a day? I get home around 4pm and I don’t really sit there working non-stop, Facebook & Twitter seem to get the better of me on some days. Oh and half an hour has to be set aside for Eastenders.
Sam Thornton – When aren’t I working…In all honesty I only really have about 2 hours to myself all day as I work full time so I get-up, go to work, come home from work have an hours break, do CreativeNerds work then have an hours break before bed…
How do you define success?
Dirujan Sabesan - "Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it." --Henry David Thoreau– So the more hard work I put in, and every time I look at the time and realize that I’ve got to wake up in 4 hours, I guess im getting somewhere close to success.
Sam Thornton - Success for me is being able to look at what I have been able to build and see people talking about it, obviously there’s a financial side of things but i'm more of the rewards from the things people saw type-a-guy.
What do you like the most about being an entrepreneur?
Sam Thornton - The fancy title I guess…In all honesty I guess it’s the recognition you get and the fact that when you meet someone new and slightly slip in the fact you own a business they seem very taken back…
Dirujan Sabesan - The fact I can work whenever I like, set my own work rate and meet new people. Im doing a job that I enjoy, so it seems more of a hobby more than anything
Do you have a favourite project that you’ve worked on at creative nerds?
Sam Thornton - On a personal scale my favourite project would have had to be the Look4me Entertainment website, it taught me a lot of new things and helped develop my skills further, not to mention we launched the site with 1 minute to go before our deadline…exciting times
Dirujan Sabesan - Don’t really have a favourite project, every project is new and exciting. As Sam says you learn from working on new things.
What do you like best about the Internet?
Sam Thornton - I guess how diverse it is and the fact that new opportunities are always cropping up, just to think without the internet, CreativeNerds (UK) Ltd wouldn’t have been formed and people wouldn’t be reading this interview.
What softwares do you guys use for your design and development work?
Sam Thornton - It’s well known that most people won’t divulge such information but we are always out to help others as we wouldn’t be where WE are today without the help we received. Some of the software we use are:
- Adobe Creative Suite: Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Illustrator, Flash…
- Too many web browsers to mention
None of our software is bespoke, we just have our own way of using them
Let’s go back a bit, who was your first client? How did you guys have so many big name clients, how did it start? How did you get your first big name client?
Dirujan Sabesan - I am not too sure who our first client was. I started of doing free work for my friends, way before the days of CreativeNerds, and these began as MySpace layouts, I get a lot of people on twitter telling me ‘oh I remember you from when you used to do layouts’ – This was back in early 2008. That’s more or less where I started. You’ve got to start somewhere.
In terms of the big name client, I think messaging TinchyStryders managers back in 2008 got me going. Back in the days of MySpace I simply sent Jack & Archie from Takeover Entertainment a message on there and offered to do some free work for StrydersMyspace. I left my logo on the artwork and soon things started to pick up. They helped me to meet the peeps at Universal and then the next big hit was N-Dubz.
Are you looking to diverse into other industry in the future under the creative nerds umbrella?
Dirujan Sabesan - We are not too sure yet, as businessmen, - we are both investing into little things which we feel are assets to us. In a few years hopefully some of the things that we are working on will bring some good returns. Only time can tell. The company has really been doing well for the past two years. However give it another two and see where we are then.
What sacrifices would you both say you’ve had to make to get to where you are now?
Sam Thornton - I would say the biggest sacrifice I have had to make is spending time with friends/family, however they all know why Im not out most weekends with them having a bit of personal time. At the end of the day if you aren’t willing to put some things on the line then the other things aren’t going to grow.
Dirujan Sabesan - I wouldn’t say this is a sacrifice but I didn’t go down the route of looking for a job like my friends, instead I headed down the self-employed route. That was the big risk, but it sees that it’s paying off now and I have something I am proud to put down on my CV. Thank you for putting us in the TOP 15 YOUNG ENTREPRENURS list too!
What's the toughest feedback you've ever received from a customer and how did you learn from it?
Sam Thornton - I wouldn’t say we’ve ever received ‘tough’ feedback, and any feedback we do get we manage to turn it into a positive anyway, as some feedback is better than none right?
How have sales grown in the last few years?
Sam Thornton - To be honest we have hit a balance, obviously the capacity of work has gone up and so have rates especially with the quality we supply to our clients. Last year was a very good year for us and we hope to better that this year
Is the business profitable?
Sam Thornton - One simple word…Yes, one big reason for this is the fact that our initial cost-base is so low, at the end of the day there are no real costs we have to pay out for other than our servers and general business costs.
Dirujan Sabesan - Everything we make is 100% profit in most cases. Because we are working for ourselves. We are not buying something to sell and make profit off.In the circumstances when we are using freelancers we will take commission from the work, which is simple enough and keeps a steady money flow. When we work on a larger scale in a few years, we will hopefully have the right funding and set up to carry on working efficiently.
What are the most crucial things you have done to grow your business?
Sam Thornton - Continued to expand on what we know and continually reviewing our aims and goals.
Dirujan Sabesan - Making the right partnerships with the right businesses. You’ll see in a few months what new opportunities we have taken and how those will become great assets to the company. We’re not allowed to say anything at this moment in time.
Have you guys thought about creating and selling website templates?
Sam Thornton - This was something we had initially explored, however there are too many sites out there doing it and we enjoyed taking on individual projects and creating bespoke designs, it gives us that sense of satisfaction that we built it to specification and the client wants to use it.
What plans do you have now to expand your business further?
Sam Thornton - Well, next month is business plan review time… However our achievable goals right now are to push out our name further and look towards other industries as we have been focusing heavily on the music industry. On a personal level I may setup a small branch in Liverpool and push small site designs through CreativeNerds..Who knows
What three pieces of advice would you give to college students who want to become entrepreneurs?
This interview may give you some sort of motivation to start your own business. Make sure that the service you wish to offer is something unique. People start a company because someone else they see has been doing the same. However you need to have something that’s exclusive, something that the others don’t offer. You have to have the right assets to make yourselves the best and if you need funding, apply for some. There are many companies that will help fund for young entreprenuers such as The Princes Trust, The Big Lotto Fund and Shell-Wire (http://www.shell-livewire.org/).
Thanks for your time guys.
If you want to connect with them, contact them on the links below, Real nice and humble guys.
Check out their designs - http://www.flickr.com/photos/itouchfx
Contact detail - firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com