He doesn’t go to sleep until 4am, but then wakes up promptly and gets straight back to work. At just 18, Dirujan Sabesan is the founder of Creative Nerds and has already achieved the kind of success that many only dream of, including working as a web designer for Tinchy Stryder (when he was only 15!) to creating the entire SBTV website for Jamal Edwards. And he now manages his own team of people. It takes some kind of character to be so accomplished so young.
Flavour catches up with the young entrepreneur at his office in central London where he is juggling countless work deadlines, but still he happily manages to give us an insight into his ambitious mind and that crazy energy…
You’re quite an achiever, Diri, tell us a bit about yourself.
I basically run Creative Nerds. It started out as a hobby in late 2008, with myself and my business partner Sam. At the time I was really into designing and he was really into the web development side of things; eventually we started getting a few pieces of work, and since then it’s turned from a hobby to a part-time and now a full-time job.
Is it true that you founded CreativeNerds when you were just 15 years old?
Yeah! I can remember Tinchy Stryder had ‘Stryder Man’ out at the time, and that’s when his manager got back to me after I messaged him on MySpace asking for a shot. And he said, ‘Yeah, we’ll give you a chance,’ which led to me doing like four or five different MySpace designs for him – and that’s when it all kicked off!
That must have felt awesome?
I didn’t really think much of it. I don’t know why, but I guess it felt surreal; I genuinely thought nothing’s really going to happen when I messaged him. He was going from the underground into the mainstream with his first album so I guess I was kind of happy. My friends were like ‘Oh shit! Wow, it’s amazing!’ But yeah, it was surreal and I still keep in touch with him and his manager, so it’s cool!
So how did you form your own team and business?
Myself and my partner Sam worked online, and we ran a web design agency first, a place where people would come and share ideas, share their design work. Then we thought, well, this is turning into a hobby now so we might as well make something of it. It went from there.
Before we go on to what is a pretty impressive portfolio, tell us what was your first paid work?
[Laughs] My first ever paid work was a small website and it was for someone called The Pirates, I think. It was for £100. I wasn’t even 16 at the time, so my mum had to sign
Speaking of your family, what do they think about everything that you’re doing?
I don’t really think my mum or dad know how much work goes into it or how much I’ve achieved. My mum is a lot more involved than my dad. My dad is just like, ‘Go get a real job,’ [laughs]. My mum is proud of me and obviously she has seen me in various magazines and websites, so yeah, they’re all good!
We’re sure they are very proud. Let’s drop some names… who are your big clients now?
SBTV has to be one of them! Tinchy Stryder, N-Dubz – I did their MySpace, that was always good exposure, and I have a big one coming up that I can’t talk about!
What was it like working with Jamal Edwards and doing the SBTV website?
It was crazy. Jamal came down to Starbucks in 2009 to have the meeting; and then like a year down the line, I’m sitting at home and seeing SBTV going crazy, blowing up, and I’m just looking at the logo that I did in my room, thinking whoa! Then when it went in the Google Chrome advert, I’m sitting there thinking, that’s my logo there! The whole nation has seen it, something I’ve done… It feels great!
You’re an inspiration, but what motivates you?
I think when people tweet you things like ‘that’s amazing, that’s mad, that looks crazy’, it pushes me more. I enjoy doing it because when I finish I get that good feeling! For example, I just did Link Up TV’s new website, and as soon as I did it I fell in love with it! [Laughs] I guess it’s just like seeing the final product and being so excited to get it online, then just listening to all the feedback is great!
You were recently nominated for the Spirit of London Awards – that’s major!
Yeah! I look forward to seeing what happens with that, I have no idea who I’m up against, though; that one I’m going to fight for, I’m going to get everyone to vote [laughs]. Like three years before this I wouldn’t have said, oh yeah, I’m going to be meeting the Prime Minister. Now I’m going to Downing Street to meet the Prime Minister and everyone else there! So yeah, it’s a big deal.
What other achievements are you most proud of and are you up for anything else?
We got nominated for the Smarta 100 awards – which we won. It is like 100 companies that are the most disturbing, powerful, creative youthful, companies! I doubt that we’re going to win Spirit of London, but I can say at least we won the 100 thing!
Where do you see yourself in the next few years? Have you made any plans?
I can’t even imagine! Well, I’m going to university this year, but also have a feeling like something big is about to happen; I don’t know what, I just have this feeling something really good is going to come along! Hopefully have a bigger team too, have someone that will read and answer my emails for me [laughs].
Fingers crossed! What advice would you give to anyone who is up and coming?
If it’s the creative field, be unique, be different. There’s so many designers I know that always try and like copy a style or a design thing that you might do, so always be unique, be different and work hard. If you want something, work hard to get it! I remember when I wanted to work with Tinchy, I’m pretty sure I might have sent him 20 emails on MySpace just to get the attention, but it worked either way [laughs]. I heard Sean Kingston had to keep messaging someone on MySpace constantly until they realised it was them – just shows, if you want something go and get it and be unique!
You’ve done work for a lot of big companies and people, but who would be your ideal client if you could choose?
MTV? [Laughs] That would be big! Or Roc Nation. I guess either one, really. I don’t really know who I want to work with these days, but I am trying to move away from music as much as I can, but it always keeps coming back, but there’s not much money left music-wise. Websites seem to be the way forward now, so we’re always working on that. This month we’re doing four websites at once: MistaJam, Link Up TV, Max’s website and then some independent label in Copenhagen!
Wow, remember to eat! Saying that… Diri, you are definitely someone Young & Ambitious to look out for! We wish you well you and thank you for having us!
You’re welcome man! Thank you!