More than ‘Frens’: How two family-run NFT projects found success in a volatile industry

More than ‘Frens’: How two family-run NFT projects found success in a volatile industry

The idea of ​​separating work and private life has long been ingrained in traditional business culture. Never mix business with pleasure, the old saying goes. Establishing well-defined boundaries to promote a healthy work-life balance is seen as a milestone for success.

However, the Internet has made the world a smaller place, connecting people more than ever before. We are digitally closer, but physically further apart; a paradox of isolation. And the rise of telecommuting and a changing workforce demographic has only further affected this.

The NFT Space is an extreme example of this, with pseudonymous identities that blur the distinction between ‘friends’ and friends, digital personas and IRL realities. But amid the decentralized boom, some notable NFT projects are being built and supported by close-knit families, whether they are spouses or siblings.

Decrypt spoke to two sets of NFT project founders who have embraced this unified work-life philosophy and explored where the biggest benefits and challenges lie.

Marriage and NFTs

Sara and Jake Baumann are high school sweethearts from Dallas, Texas, who have been together for 20 years and married for over a decade.

Founders of the NFT project Women and gunsthe pair see themselves as a perfect match, a balanced portion of peanut butter and jelly with Sara as the more energetic, artistic archetype, and Jake her more pragmatic, business-oriented counterpart.

Before the foundation of Ethereum-based NFT project in October 2021, the founding couple explored a variety of side hustles – from starting an energy drink business to real estate photography and Airbnb arbitrage. Sara was a full-time occupational therapist early in the Covid-19 pandemic, but had always reserved wishes to pursue a career in the arts.

“I always knew that Sara’s internal goal was to be a full-time artist,” Jake said. “She was a kick-ass occupational therapist and was commissioned to make art as a side income, but wasn’t able to go full-time with it.”

Looking for financial opportunities, Jake became interested in Bitcoin and Ethereum before discovering NFTs. Immediately it became clear to him that, although in its infancy, the space attracted a vibrant community of artists whose ideas and passions sought to redefine the archaic principles of digital art, authenticity and ownership.

A digital renaissance of art was happening, putting the opportunity for budding artists to transition from selling physical art at local markets and on Etsy into the digital world within reach. And on top of that, they could join a thriving community of like-minded people.

Following the success of Sara’s 10-part genesis collection in August 2021, the couple decided to launch the full-scale 10,000-piece World of Women profile picture (PFP) collection. Sara hand-drawn each of the woman’s features in a mid-century thematic style.

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“We were non-technical founders, so we had to put together a rock star team to help us navigate from A-to-Z: bringing it to life, launching it, distributing it, creating the website and building everything out,” he recalled Jake about the big fall.

At the time, Sara was still working at the hospital – so on the back of boring 8-9 hour days as an occupational therapist, she returned home and joined Jake on a 5-6 hour evening shift at their burgeoning NFT business.

“It’s one of those things you have to feel in your gut,” Sara said. “If it tells you that this is a good thing and to really put in the effort and do it, you just find the energy.”

Some 18 months later, the pair are working as hard as ever, living their dreams and speaking with the openness and enthusiasm of a couple embracing every moment. Women and Weapons has so far generated $17 million worth of NFT trading volume, per data from NFTGoand counts prominent holders including actress Brie Larson and entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk. Sara credits their long-term connection with fueling their success in the space.

“I think the fact that we’ve been able to go through 20 years together, frankly through some of the toughest times of our entire lives, makes it easy to do a business together,” she said of her partner. “I get to see his strength and see where he shines. And I think that just makes me love him even more.”

Their entrepreneurial honeymoon has come and gone – the demands of the NFT space and their responsibility to thousands of holders from countries all over the world saw to that. Still, the couple has retained their original sense of purpose, even as they continue to work on their work-life balance.

“We’re campaigning for the weekends,” Sara said, noting that finding three hours of personal time last weekend was a success. Nevertheless, they enjoy the work.

The couple is happy to “bounce ideas off each other all day, every day” at home, Jake said, in a close-knit environment that he believes is a “tremendous strength.” Most of their work is done at a desk in their office space, although jumping in Discord is usually done on the couch.

“If I had a dollar for every time I woke him up at midnight and said, ‘Jake, Jake, how about blah, blah, blah,'” Sara joked, adding: “You can’t do that with someone who isn’t married to you and with whom you work. It’s good, it’s fun.”

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“And I feel like it helps us build even better and faster, because we’re together 24/7,” she continued. “It’s certainly not for every couple, but it happens to work really well for us.”

Sharing his advice to others in the space looking to start a family NFT project, Jake said that sharing a roof shouldn’t be the main driver for joining forces in Web3.

“Make sure you complement each other’s skills and that there’s a reason you’re working together more than just proximity,” he said. “Make sure it’s well thought out and you have a plan in mind to be unique in what you’re delivering.”

From Brothers to Chimpers

Chimpers is an NFT project founded by twin brothers Oliver and Jacob from Manchester, England in their mid-twenties, who go by their respective pseudonyms Timpers and Insight (they chose not to share their last name).

Timpers entered the Web3 space in 2021 and first created 1-of-1 artwork at Foundation, then contributed to RTFKT and created art for the launch of Noun, an NFT powered open source IP. Inspired by the early success of Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC), he decided to create one of the first Ape derivatives in a nod of creative recognition.

Chimpers sets up shop at Web3Expo 2022, with Art Foundation Lead Maz (from left) plus Timpers and Insight. Image: Chimpers

The debut episode of The Boring Ape Chronicles (TBAC) – an animated GIF scene inspired by BAYC – was minted in July 2021. One hundred NFT issues sold out almost immediately at a price of 0.25 ETH (about $470 then) apiece. Almost two years since its release, it collection have a floor price of 9 ETH, or roughly $17,400 each.

“It was never meant to be a collection or series,” Timpers explained. “Instead it was artwork that paid tribute to the club I loved.”

Insight, on the other hand, said he had just graduated with an English degree and was working at a restaurant while writing Substack articles about NFTs on the side. He interviewed creators and founders from the Web3 world, and Timpers saw the bubbling well of knowledge as an ideal complement to his own alluring artwork.

“Timpers and I have always been very close,” Insight shared Decrypt. “We’ve pretty much done everything together our whole lives, so it was quite funny that after university – at a moment where our careers were going in different directions – we somehow managed to get back together and work at a company.”

Over the next year, Timpers revealed that the pair were “intentional and delicate” in their approach to building the TBAC series, working to cultivate a “small, tight-knit community” by “building depth into the series through the teachings and the universe.”

This year-long effort culminated in the launch of Chimpers, a 5,555-piece pixelated art collection that has generated over $37 million worth of NFT volume since May 2022, per data from NFTGo. The success of the project took them to America for the first time last year, expanding their world view in the process, they said.

“Being able to connect with community members all over the world, from something you’ve created, is something you can’t really describe — it’s an amazing feeling,” Timpers said. “We have loved sharing these moments together.”

Today, the twin brothers live in separate flats in Manchester, but within the same building complex, and find that the home-based lifestyle suits their needs better than operating from an office space. Much of their day is still spent communicating with each other, either on strategy talks or discussions with the wider team.

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“Between Timpers and I, there is a lot of overlap in terms of creative direction, strategy and ideas for future plans,” Insight revealed.

The Chimpers community of keepers is primarily based in the US, and with New York being five hours behind their location, the brothers tend to work later hours than the typical 9-to-5. While they enjoy their work schedule, they equally recognize the importance of sustaining themselves for the long term.

“It’s important to keep a healthy work-life balance,” Timpers said, declaring it “incredibly difficult as a Web3 founder.”

At weekends, like many others, the couple enjoy socializing at local bars and pubs with their friends, watching football or working out at the gym. “We’re as close as we’ve ever been, if not more,” Timpers shared.

Following the launch of Chimpers in May 2022, the wider NFT industry entered a downward spiral of falling prices and waning demand, along with a wider crypto crash. It changed the economic landscape and seriously affected the dynamics of many projects.

Reflecting on this period, Insight revealed that “sentiment and emotions can change quickly and dealing with this is probably the hardest part.” He added that “it is not the road map or the implementation of plans that is difficult, but the expectations of society.”

A selection of Chimper’s NFT avatars. Image: Chimpers

“We’ve learned that while you can focus your attention on calculations and numbers, that’s an impossible task with space being so volatile,” he concluded. “The most important thing any project can do is focus on the task at hand.”

Even with a bumpy road provided by the volatile NFT market, Insight said embedding Web3 with his brother has been a rewarding process.

Being siblings provides extra connective tissue that most Web3 collaborators lack, but Insight said it takes long-term commitment and trust to get any kind of project work in this area. In this case, it pushed them from working together on artwork and narrative to “building a full project and company,” he said.

“You have to trust each other, support each other and plan for the future,” Insight affirmed.

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