Highlights from WooTrip 2013

WooThemes has a tradition of getting the whole team together for an annual WooTrip. Past years trips have been skiing in the Alps, visiting London, England, and visiting WooHQ in CapeTown, South Africa. This year WooTrip 2013 was planned to bookend WordCamp Europe 2013 in Leiden, Netherlands.

When it was decided six months ago that this year’s WooTrip would be to WordCamp Europe I was very excited because I love traveling to Europe and I would finally get to meet all of my coworkers in person.  It had been seven years since I’d been to Europe and I’d never been to the Netherlands before.

Leiden Netherlands

Leiden, Netherlands

Leiden, Netherlands

We stayed the week in the city of Leiden in South Holland. It’s a university town that is very pedestrian friendly with picturesque buildings and canals. Our hotel was a block away from the main train station which was a very convenient location.

The Siege of Leiden festival was so much fun!

We arrived during the 3 October Festival which commemorates the Siege of Leiden during the Eighty Years’ War. We couldn’t have chosen a better time to show up! Growing up in San Antonio I’m used to city-wide festivals, but this festival was truly extraordinary. The entire city center was dotted with amusement rides, food and beer booths, and live music stages. It was an electric atmosphere to welcome us to the Netherlands!

Friday night we walked around town and the best part was dancing on a gigantic metal barge that was set on a canal in front of a stage that was

Since I packed light I had to do some laundry on Sunday. It was a bit of a hike to the nearest laundromat that was open on Sundays, but I didn’t mind because Leiden is fun to explore by foot. It was a brisk morning and was fun seeing more families out in the streets. There were also several people boating in the canals in kayaks and small motor boats.

Leiden Netherlands


The Dutch love their bikes and one thing you notice is how everyone rides a bike. Young, old, male, female, they are all on bikes. It was amusing to see what people would do on their bikes:

  • Eat
  • Text
  • Talk on the phone
  • Hold hands with someone riding a bike next to them
Amsterdam Central Train Station

Amsterdam Central Train Station

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Friday a group of us took a 30 min train ride into Amsterdam. I hadn’t done very much research of what to do in Amsterdam so a small group of us hopped on a tour boat. We took an hour long trip through the harbor and canals. The boat tour was good for general highlights and to get familiar with the layout of the city. We got to see iconic architecture, house boats, and several landmarks.

After the tour and some lunch Dwayne and I got separated from the group and spent some time wandering/exploring the city. We found ourselves walking through Dam Square, passing by the Anne Frank House (line was too long to enter), following several canals, then making our way back to the central train station.

A few hours wasn’t nearly enough time in Amsterdam and I can’t wait for a return visit!

WordCamp Europe

I’ll write more about the highlights of WordCamp Europe tomorrow, but it was great to be able to attend the camp with the WooThemes team.

Woo Team

Woo Team + 1

Meeting the team

The best thing about WooTrip 2013 was getting together with the entire WooThemes crew. They are a bunch of super talented and fun people. The team is diverse as we are 30 people spread across 7 countries and 3 (sometimes 4) continents and have WordPress as a common bond.  I had met the US based ninjas at WordCamp Atlanta, but this would be the first time meeting the team based in Europe and Africa.

The team first assembled at a cafe in Schiphol Airport. It was fun playing the “Who looks like their avatar?” game while we waited for everyone to arrive and found a place to buy a SIM card. At first it was surprising how many of us there were and It was difficult to move around as one group.  Through the trip we split out into smaller groups for meals and activities and it was easier to relate to folks.  I really enjoyed asking the non-US ninjas about where they live.  In the back of my mind I’ve got a plan to do a “Woo World Tour” and visit all of the countries where a ninja lives!

Over the next several days we talked life, sports, WordPress, and business. Knowing someone only from Skype chats and Google Hangouts doesn’t match getting to know them over a meal or traveling with them. For a remote team meetups are vital for building connectivity and trust and both were built on this trip.

Selling plugins to get out of debt

Last week my wife and I achieved a huge milestone for our family. We finished paying off all of our non-mortgage debt and are now debt free except for our house! We paid off $67,000 in 8 months. We now are moving on to Baby Step #3 which is a fully funded Emergency Fund that is equal to 6 months of expenses in the bank.

Selling Plugins

How did we do this? In short, I sold my babies.

Before you call CPS and report me – I’m not talking about my kids, don’t be silly! We were making great progress on cleaning up our debt mess from the revenue of plugin sales combined with my job’s salary. Then last month we got an inquiry for the rights to two of my plugins. These two plugins were our cash cows and were bringing in between $4,000 and $5,000 combined recurring revenue per month. The plugins were the first two plugins I had ever built so that’s why it felt like a member of the family was leaving.

So how did we come to the decision of selling these plugins now? Why not wait 12 months to be out of debt and keep the assets? This is how we came to the decision to sell now.

We stuck to our one goal

At the beginning of the year my wife Amanda and I chose ‘Hustle’ as our word for the year. Specifically we decided to hustle to get out of debt as soon as possible. In past years we had tried to do multiple things at once which produced lackluster results. We decided that only laser focus on one goal would lead to success.

We were sick and tired of our debt hindering us from being able to follow our passion of slow travel with our family as digital tentmakers. Our one goal became cleaning up our financial mess and removing that hurdle. So when we received the offer to sell we asked “Does this get us to our goal?” and the answer was “Yes.”

We wanted to be in the sunshine

Using the classic metaphor of being ‘in the hole’ with money we had lived our entire married life as subterranean dwellers. We had tried climbing out of the hole, but it was a long and difficult climb. We could have made ourselves comfortable in the hole, but it’s not a very hospitable place. There isn’t much light, you can’t move laterally without tons of effort, and it’s prone to cave-ins.

With the sale we had the opportunity to be on the surface for the first time in decades. If we got up there and didn’t like the view then it wouldn’t be very hard to dig ourselves another hole. Something tells me we’re going to like the sunshine.

I can build more products

Change happens every day. There are changes in WordPress, there are changes in the internet, and there are changes in the world. With so much change happening I’m very confident that I can find a new niche to serve customers. The WooCommerce ecosystem is still growing every month as is the overall WordPress ecosystem. Opportunity abounds.

Additionally now that I don’t have any creditors demanding my attention I can build at my own pace. I can take a risk on a project that may take longer to pan out. I don’t have to work on things that translate to money quickly in order to make a monthly payment.

There is a next chapter yet to be written

We don’t know what the future holds. Our desire is to start traveling and connecting with ministries around the world. We want to experience first hand what it is like to live in other countries. We want to see how Christians are serving their communities and tell their stories. Now with the debt gone we can see the horizon and start moving toward it.

Competition In WordPress Ecommerce

I’ve been building ecommerce sites for the past five years since quitting my corporate job and going freelance. All of my income is from ecommerce products and services. So you could say I’m very invested in WordPress ecommerce and specifically very invested in the WooCommerce plugin.

Earlier today a new WordPress ecommerce plugin was launched by the guys over at iThemes. Based on my situation how do I feel about having another competitor in the market? I think it’s great! It’s exciting to see another offering in the WordPress ecommerce ecosystem because I think the market will continue to grow and competition is a good thing.

Competition Keeps You On Your Toes

Healthy competition keeps those of us involved in the community striving to make our products better instead of resting on our latest stable version. Plus, if there are people competing in your market that means that there is a market.

How we react to competition is telling of the health of our community. From my experience I’d say the people involved in the WordPress ecommerce community have a high level of respect for each other. I’ve seen the lead developers of competing projects collaborate with each other for the benefit of the users and even stick up for each other in public forums. The products can be rivals while the people are friends.

It’s Not a Zero Sum Game

Sometimes competition gets a bad wrap. There is an expectation in our culture that business competition is all or nothing and if someone moves in on your market you should attack them directly. Actually competing doesn’t need to mean win-lose. Providing more quality options for those that use WordPress to sell online more people will be drawn to the platform and the market will grow. There can be a win-win scenario.

Instead of seeing making money as the cutting up of a cake where there are limited pieces to go around, it’s better to see it as Rabbi Daniel Lapin describes in his book “Thou Shall Prosper”. Rabbi Lapin describes making money more like the lighting of a candle. When we serve others through commerce we light someone else’s candle. We don’t take anything away from them, instead we both go away burning brighter and the entire room benefits from the added light.

It Pays To Be Kind (or Don’t Be A Jerk)

I jokingly tweet with the hashtag #DramaPress because watching the interactions of some in the WordPress community resembles a daytime soap opera. Some choose to leave the blog comments and twitter streams stained red with blood. It’s sad to see since this kind of activity only breaks down community. Thankfully there is plenty of positive community building that pushes the drama to the side.

Mark's Tweet

It was glad to see my WooThemes leader Mark Forester tweet congratulations to the iThemes owner Cory Miller. I met Cory at WordCamp Austin and enjoyed his “45 Minute Business Tune Up” presentation. I fully expect to meet up with him or someone from his team at future events so even though we have competing products it would be pointless to be disrespectful.

I’m excited for the future of selling online with WordPress. I’m excited to continue to be involved in the WordPress community and to watch how it grows.

Photo Credit: Sum_of_Marc via Compfight cc

WordCamp Atlanta 2013 Recap

I think I’m suffering from a WordCamp hangover.  I’m an extrovert and going from interacting with dozens of internet folks back to working in my bedroom has given me a bit of a headache! 🙂

I can’t wait to go to more camps and meet more of the WordPress community!

WooNinjas Assemble!

WooNinjas Assemble!

Here’s my recap thoughts and some sights/sounds from the weekend:


Here’s a list of the presentations I attended.  They were all fantastic and full of useful information.

“Going for it: How to Become a Respected WordPress Developer”
Brian Krogsgard (slides)

“What the Git?”
Nathaniel Schweinberg (slides)

“Finding a Niche Through Experimentation”
John Saddington

“10 Things Every Plugin Developer Should Know”
Dave Donaldson (slides zip)

“What You Should Know About Responsive Web Design”
Matt Haff (slides)

“Level-Up Your WordPRess Development Skills”
Tom McFarlin (slides)

“Designer vs Developer: Creators in WordPress”
Sara Cannon (slides)

“The Power of Your Story Through WordPress”
Kimanzi Constable

“How to Make Six Figures in Web Design”
James Dalman

“Wrestling The Writing Muse Down To The Dusty Earth”
Chris Ames

“How to Make Great Tutorial WordPress Videos”
Steve Burge



Products Shipped January 2013

One of my goals this year is to build three extensions per month to have a total of 36 new products this year.   I thought about making it one per week, but I realized that’s crazy and I would end up with some half-baked code.  Three per month is totally doable.

In January the following three extensions went live.

WordPress › Pushover for WooCommerce « WordPress Plugins

Pushover Notifications for WooCommerce

In December I saw some tweets about the Pushover App which is an iOS and Android application that has an API making it easy to send notifications from your web app.  I loved the concept and wanted to do a free plugin for WordPress.org.  Chris Klosowski had already built a general WordPress notifications plugin so I decided to build one for WooCommerce that would allow store owners to setup notifications to their phones of new orders, low stock, back orders and out of stock events.



UPS Shipping Method for WooCommerce

WooThemes asked me to rebuild the UPS shipping module for WooCommerce.  Up till now I had only built payment gateways so it was fun to build a shipping module.



Easy Digital Downloads – CSV Product Import

Last fall Pippin Willamson asked me to build an import module for his Easy Digital Downloads ecommerce plugin.  After some delay on my part this plugin went live mid-January.  It was my first plugin to be added to WordPress.org which was a fun milestone.

New WooCommerce Plugin – PayPal Express

I’m proud to announce that a new WooCommerce plugin that I developed is available for purchase over at Woo Themes – PayPal Express Checkout.

The plugin adds the the functionality of the PayPal Express payment metnod to your WooCommerce site and  puts the  “Checkout with PayPal” button on your cart page.


Update: I’ve sold this plugin.  You can purchase the plugin from WooThemes.