Lily and Violet Adams are biscuit addicts, freelance marketeers, award-winning filmmakers, twin sisters, and co-founders of their creative company, Nerd Pirates. Having produced work for Microsoft, Courvoisier, and the Barbican at the age of 14, the twins founded Nerd Pirates in 2013 as a portfolio of their weird and wonderful personal projects. Since then, having graduated from Keble and St John’s colleges in 2016, Nerd Pirates has grown into a fully fledged PR and marketing HQ. They build cardboard boats, write scripts, curate tweets - whatever it takes to promote their clients. They are a small but mighty team of two.
Currently working on two experimental short films in association with Channel 4.
Q: What is your background? What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?
A: That’s a hard one to answer. That pivotal ‘decision moment’ never really came around for us. Turning our hobbies into ‘business plans’ is something we’ve done since we were children - creating websites in primary school and trying to charge our classmates for ‘design’ services, writing plays, running blogs, making a nuisance of ourselves in the name of art. It’s in our blood.
Q: What is your definition of entrepreneurship?
A: Giving yourself permission to value your work by no other standard but your own. Sometimes you live by it, sometimes you die by it. But at least it’s yours.
Q: How and when did you know your idea was good enough to develop it?
A: Short answer? Once we called it ‘Nerd Pirates’, we kind of thought, ‘this one’s a keeper!’. Nothing bad could be called ‘Nerd Pirates’.
Long answer? Every time we take on a new project the business shifts a little, so it’s more of a series of good (and sometimes bad) ideas than one. We hope it never settles into being one core ‘thing’ that gets developed because, for us, being a good business sometimes means being versatile enough not to think anything is ‘good’ for more than five minutes.
Q: So what would you say are the top 3 skills that needed to be a successful entrepreneur? Why?
A: Enthusiasm - Being self-employed is hard. There are lots of disappointments, crippling self doubt, people telling you to ‘get a real job’. You might as well do something you’re deeply, deeply, annoyingly in love with.
Stubbornness - The ability to be accommodating, personable, and friendly is something we strongly value in our work lives. We only work with nice people! But it’s also worth knowing that it’s ok for your work to get in the way, to make waves.
Be There - You know that thing where you and your friends are having a night in, and you all want takeaway, but no one wants to call up the takeaway people because, ‘oh my god that is the worst!’? And then some brave soul volunteers because you’re all getting hungry? You have to be that person. All the time. It sucks.
As online junkies it goes against everything in our systems to be the ‘phone’ people or the ‘I’ll just pop by and see you in person’ people. But you WILL get more done that way.
Q: What is your favourite part of being an entrepreneur?
Q: What individual, company or organization inspires you most? Why?
A: Joss Whedon. He’s commercially successful, committed to artistic integrity, and his work has a valiant social conscience. Plus, its rare to find someone so found of verbing his nouns. We dig that.
Q: If you could have 5 minutes with the above indiv/company/org, what would you want to ask or discuss?
A: How do you make sure you’re always growing and learning as a creative? What stops your specialisms from becoming ruts?
Q: What has been your most satisfying or successful moment in business?
A: One of our recent projects was working with a virtual reality marketing agency called Virtual Umbrella. We acted as Project Manager and Account Manager at a VR exhibit as part of the launch of San Miguel’s ‘Rich List’ at Somerset House, London. Working in such an iconic building and with such an iconic brand was an exciting chance to apply our skills to something with serious national coverage (The Guardian, Event Magazine, Carlsberg).
Q: What would you say have been some of your mistakes, failures or lessons learned as an entrepreneur?
A: We wasted a lot of time thinking that we weren’t doing good work unless that work took us longer than it should. Don't waste your time agonising over the small stuff. If you finish early, discover a new skill, or focus on a side-project.
Q: How have you funded your ideas? Are there any sector-specific awards/grants/competitions that have helped you?
A: We’ve never had any extra funding as a PR business, but our most recent side-projects as directors/writers/filmmakers have been funded through the Random Acts initiative in association with Channel 4. Aimed at giving young people the opportunity to create broadcast standard short films for potential television broadcast and cinema distribution, it’s been an incredible experience already, so we absolutely encourage you to apply.
Q: What is good about being an entrepreneur in Oxfordshire? Bad?
A: We’re now based in Bournemouth, but having worked on Nerd Pirates throughout our degrees in Oxford we can definitely say that it’s a great place to be an entrepreneur. You’re surrounded by bright, ambitious, and tenacious people. Use them! Take especial advantage of all of the societies/clubs in Oxford which aim to support young talent in business. You’ll miss them when they’re gone.
Q: If a new entrepreneur or startup came to you looking for entrepreneurship resources, where would you send them?
A: Go to networking events in your area. Even if you don’t learn anything, you’ll make connections with people who have the knowledge you need. Speak with them, get their names, send an email. Don’t be shy!
Q: Any last words of advice?
A: Google is your friend. You’d be surprised how much you are capable of. Learn everyday. Take on more than you can handle. Don’t wait for someone to give you permission to be an expert in your field (or in somebody else’s!).