In this series, we share some of the inspiring stories of how WordPress and its global network of contributors can change people’s lives for the better. This month we feature a WordPress entrepreneur on the difference it can make.
In 1998, Kori created her very first HTML website. Her dad was creating websites for a living at the time. She needed a website for her band because she wanted to be a rockstar. Under his training, and with a little bit of self-teaching, she learned how to build a website.
She had been aware of WordPress since 2005, and, in 2008 a client specifically hired her as a freelancer to develop a WordPress website. Kori went straight to Google and taught herself how to build a WordPress website during a single weekend. She really enjoyed the experience of working with WordPress.
My mind was absolutely blown when I saw the drag and drop options inside of menus to create dropdowns and a form builder.Kori Ashton
She suggested to her dad that WordPress could be a solution for their customers who wanted to be able to access their own websites. Previously, they had found this was not as easy for clients unless they had specific software and knew how to code. So, Kori and her dad worked to learn WordPress over the next few years.
Then in 2012, Kori and her parents launched their new business in San Antonio, Texas, US. It started out small, with just Kori and her parents. Soon, they started subcontracting design work and quickly continued to grow their team.
Going big time in WordPress development
Even though the business was in a saturated industry in San Antonio – more than 700 freelancers and agencies were providing similar services. Five years later, Kori and her parents were able to sell their company, with a multi-million dollar valuation. There were five major choices they made early on that led to that success.
1. They picked a niche: WordPress specialists
At the time, there were no WordPress-specific agencies in San Antonio. They emphasized the fact that WordPress was the only CMS their company would use. Prospective clients looking for a different type of CMS solution were not the right fit for their business. They also offered on-site, WordPress training and weekend workshops that were open to anyone (including other agencies) as one of their revenue streams. They soon were established as a city-wide WordPress authority.
2. They cultivated a culture
Kori wanted a great culture and environment in her company and to make that happen, she needed to hire the right people. She believes you must be careful about who you bring into the culture of your business, but particularly when hiring leaders into that community. You can’t teach passion so you’ve got to find people that are excited about what you do. You also need to look for integrity, creativity, a love for solving problems, and an eagerness to keep getting better.
You can teach code all day long, but be sure to find people with the right hearts to join your community and then train them up the right way. This way you will grow your culture in a healthy way.Kori Ashton
3. They learned how to build sustainable revenue streams using WordPress
Like many other web development agencies, their firm started out with the “one-time fee and you’re done” business model. This business model is known for unpredictable revenue streams. Hearing about recurring revenue business models at WordCamp Austin was a lightbulb moment for Kori. She started drafting a more sustainable business model on the way back home.
Support packages were key to their new business plan. Clients needed ongoing support. They decided to include at least 12 months of post-launch support into their web development projects. This doubled their revenue in one year and allowed them to even out their revenue streams.
4. They knew the importance of reputation
Kori believes that every client, whether they have a $5,000 or a $50,000 budget, should get the same type of boutique-style, concierge relationship.
Every single project results in the absolute best solution for a client’s needs. In addition to that, offering training helped boost their reputation. Explaining the lingo of the web development and SEO fields and showing the processes used, added transparency. It helped set and meet expectations and it built trust.
5. They proactively gave back to the WordPress community
Kori heard Matt Mullenweg speak about Five For The Future at a WordCamp US. In this talk, he encouraged people in the audience who make a living using WordPress, to find ways to give back five per cent of their time to building the WordPress software and community. Matt talked about how firms and individuals could give back to the community. He suggested examples of what to do, for instance:
- start a WordPress Meetup group
- present at a Meetup even
- facilitate a Meetup group where maybe you’re just the organizer and you never have to speak because you’re not a fan of speaking
- help organize a WordCamp
- volunteer at a WordCamp
- write a tutorial and tell people how to do WordPress related things
- run a workshop
- make a video
This gave Kori another light bulb moment. She could make videos to give back. So her way to give back to the WordPress community is her YouTube channel.
Every Wednesday, she published a video on how to improve your online marketing. This made a huge impact, both inside the WordPress community, but also in her own business.
Understanding how to add value
So, how did Kori and her family turn their business into a multi-million dollar buyout in just five years?
Ultimately, it was about understanding that you have to build value. About keeping an exit strategy in mind while building your business. For instance when naming your company. Will it stand alone? Could it turn into a brand that you could sell as an independent entity?
- Think about revenue streams and watch sales margins.
- Be sure to include healthy margins.
- Don’t hire until you have no further option.
- Make sure to structure your offerings in such a way that you’re actually recouping your value.
- Understand entrepreneurship, watch Shark Tank, read more tutorials, watch more videos.
- Get involved in the WordPress community. Get to know its core leaders, the speakers that travel around to all the WordCamps. Start following them on Twitter and try to understand what they’re sharing.
“We kept training, going out and speaking at different events… we kept giving back and establishing ourselves as the authority.”Kori Ashton
The fact that Kori was so active in the San Antonio community helped her to not only grow the business, but to later sell it successfully.
She said: “We just kept hammering on the fact that we were the go-to place here in San Antonio for WordPress. We kept training, we kept doing free opportunities, going out and speaking at different events, and people kept seeing us. We kept showing up, kept giving back and kept establishing ourselves as the authority.“
Share the stories
Help share these stories of open source contributors and continue to grow the community. Meet more WordPressers in the People of WordPress series.
Alison Rothwell (@wpfiddlybits), Yvette Sonneveld (@yvettesonneveld), Abha Thakor (@webcommsat), Josepha Haden (@chanthaboune), Topher DeRosia (@topher1kenobe). Thank you to Kori Ashton (@koriashton) for sharing her #ContributorStory.
This People of WordPress feature is inspired by an essay originally published on HeroPress.com, a community initiative created by Topher DeRosia. It highlights people in the WordPress community who have overcome barriers and whose stories might otherwise go unheard. #HeroPress