Welcome to Press This, a podcast that delivers valuable insights and actionable tips for navigating the ever-evolving world of WordPress. 

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Brian Gardner: Hey everyone, welcome back to Press This. 

In the last episode of the podcast, Sam and I explored the profound impact of the WordPress community and how it plays a pivotal role in shaping the future of WordPress. 

Today, we’ll shift a little bit, but I want to welcome back Sam, the community manager for developer relations at WP Engine. She’s now part of the Lifecycle Marketing team here. 

Welcome back, Sam.

Sam Brockway: Hello Brian, Thank you for having me on the podcast. I’m so excited to be back.

Brian Gardner: Sometimes, I wish we could talk about community as the entire podcast moving forward because I love talking to you, and we always have much to discuss. Our passion for communities is canyon-wide and deep. Is that true?

Sam Brockway: Yes. Community is the word that we’re using, but it’s people. It’s people that power businesses. And so that’s something that you and I share as a passion and something that we always keep at the heart of all our work.

Brian Gardner: Yes, very true. And today’s episode is inspired very heavily by a tweet or a post—whomever or however you choose to refer to these things these days on Twitter slash X—from probably at least a few weeks ago. And so the title of today’s episode is Your Product or Service Needs a Community, which gives away the next question I will ask you to kick this off.

It’s a true-or-false question. I want to caveat this after I ask the question and before you answer with a bit of clarification behind the question. So, true or false? It’s a statement, but true or false: Your product or service needs a community. 

Now, let me clarify again. In this case, a product is a digital product in WordPress, something like Genesis or Divi, which I know you’re familiar with Elementor. In this case, a service outside of WordPress is something like ConvertKit, an email marketing service, which is less of a product and more of a service-based thing. Hosting in WordPress could be something of that nature. So, true or false?

Sam Brockway: Yes, true. Your product, service, or SaaS product needs a community—a group of people who champion it. But I’ll stop there because it was just a true or false question.

Brian Gardner: Well, I will follow up with a true-or-false question. What inspired you even before we started with some of my questions on our list? I know the answer at a 30,000-foot level, but what specifically inspired you, if you recall that tweet or post?

Sam Brockway: Well, I was thinking about how the most vibrant companies, the companies that have just a huge excitement around the brand, are the ones that value the people who make it possible to be in business. And that would be your community, right?

A place or a space doesn’t necessarily need to be like a Facebook group or a specific hub for your community. Still, emphasizing people and exchanging information and experiences as a company is incredibly valuable. 

You have super fans who live there who try out all your stuff and tell you what’s good, bad, and works. They talk to their friends and tell their next friends, and then it’s just like this: What’s the word that I’m looking for?

It’s just this big explosion that happens because of people, because of community. And so I think that I was thinking about that and like how just observing like the best brands, like again, inside of WordPress and outside of WordPress, but especially in like the online world for businesses that have products online or services online, the best ones, the ones that feel like the most energized are the ones that value the people and give them a space or an opportunity to build a community amongst each other, centering their product.

Brian Gardner: I remember well, actually, one of the few moments back in the day. It’s funny to say it that way, but it was 15 years ago. So that is back in the day, proverbially with Genesis and the whole StudioPress thing. All I set out to do was make money and sell things. And while successful, that was a lot of that.

The success I didn’t know I was about to have. As we merged StudioPress into Copyblogger, it came about through that transition. I’ll use the word accidentally because I never set out to build a community, but a community formed around Genesis. That was something that people always mattered to me, even ahead of the StudioPress thing and long before my day job, which led to me becoming an entrepreneur.

When I worked at a convenience store, I learned the whole idea of people and customer service and got to know folks very early, even in my high school years, the importance of service and people and community. And I remember I didn’t intentionally set out to build a community with Genesis. 

Still, I know how powerful that became in its success: the sales, revenue, and brand recognition. Folks walked around with Genesis shirts and wore them proudly at word camps and stuff like that. And the community got so big and strong that we, around WordCamp US and even Chicago, decided to do little Genesis meetups to piggyback off those events where we knew people would be in town anyway. And ahead of those events, we had people come in, and I recall a few.

WordCamp US in Nashville five or six years ago; we probably had 50 or 60 people at that meetup, which was great. And so, yes, I for sure agree. As we define the word need, they may need a community, but it helps. You know, products and services can exist without communities, and in many cases, they do, but WordPress.

The community itself is innate in people and how they consume and build. So, it’s easy for people to rally around products and services, especially those led by people who care about people and want to make a change.

Sam Brockway: Yeah, and there are different levels of this, too, right? Like I said before, having a spot for people to go and communicate about your product or your service is like one version of a community. 

Having a hashtag that you use that unifies your tribe of customers is another way to form a community. Being in touch with your customers, as with your clients or whatever you call them, can also create a community. So there are many different ways, but the heart is talking and interacting with people and having their experience with your product. It can help shape how you move your product in the real world. 

So it’s like looking at how people are using it and listening to them instead of just building things in a silo. I mean, I think that that’s kind of an excellent way to think about it, too, as far as like the need is like you have to be at some point and some level if you’re creating a product or a service for people you have to be in touch and interacting with those people in some capacity. The value of bringing them together is that they can hear from each other and get inspired by each other around what you have created.

Brian Gardner: Yeah, that’s a great point. I always compare the Genesis community to the WordPress community on a much smaller scale. Many people like myself became fans of WordPress and flourished and wanted to partake in the WordPress community, mainly because, yes, it was excellent software, but it also, and I’ll go down the rest of my life thinking this way. I owe Matt and Mike Little, the co-founders of WordPress back in the day, a whole lot because it gave me excellent software to use and play with and changed my life. It changed my life from a money-making perspective and a family perspective. We talked about that last week: Just the ability for that software to give me a way to make money, quit a job, live the dream, and do everything. And that’s what happened with Genesis at one point. We can get into this later: the idea of having a recommended developer or recommended experts group or page where people use and rally around the product or service and build their businesses on it. And so when you can find something that works for you and then make a business, and you know, if you’re a stay-at-home mom or, you know, a dad in my case, like.

Any of those reasons or things that allow us to live our dream, you’re like, hey, all of a sudden, I like this product and service because it’s allowed me to do X. And then you grow fond. Then you become a fan and an advocate, and we’ll call it the street team, whatever you want to call them, the community. So, talk to me about your early experience with Divi because I know that Divi was a product that you used back in the day. And I know that you did a lot of education about it. How did you use Divi to build up some of your business, community, or tribe?

Sam Brockway: Yeah, so I mentioned this on our last podcast. I know I did. I wasn’t in the quote-unquote WordPress community when I was in the thick of running my business. I was in very business-focused groups and found some slightly more technical ones. Divi is one of them. I am trying to remember the name of the Facebook group, but it’s like the Divi Facebook group by Elegant Themes.

I enjoyed being there for several reasons. I liked seeing the questions people were asking and then feeling like I had the opportunity to give advice or thoughts. It was an excellent place for me to pull business from potentially. For example, if someone’s struggling with this, they’re just looking for someone to help them. Cool, I can do that for you. It was good fodder for content that I was creating around Divi.

But mostly, it was fun to see how people would do a lot of knowledge sharing, which I know I shared last time. The value of the WordPress community is all of the knowledge sharing. However, I enjoyed seeing how people used the tool differently to achieve different things. And it’s like, I didn’t even know you could do that; I’m trying to think of a good example. They came out with many new features when I was using Divi.

Seeing how people used the visual builder with their clients or played with mobile optimization was excellent, so it was perfect for gaining new information. This community was living independently, correct? Once you get a space thriving where people are just talking to each other, it doesn’t require anyone from the company to start the conversation.

It was more of just people saying, hey, I need help with this. And you know, people are jumping in and wanting to be helpful, and everybody is learning from each other. So I just, I found it valuable from a business perspective, but also just from an educational standpoint for myself, as well as, I guess, the human side too, you know, it’s like, here are other people who are building businesses with this tool and it validated my desire to use Divi as like my primary theme for my business because I saw all these other people using it as well. So, that was a community of which I was a big part. And it was fun, right? I want to create new videos and share them with everybody. And they’d be like, thank you. You know, I didn’t know how to do this. Someone else would make a video, and it was just really positive. And with a pandemic, everybody is kept inside or spread out more.

And so you’re more than just having this opportunity to walk into a coffee shop and meet many people as often. You know, some of us do that. A lot of us work remotely. Online spaces like this allow you to connect with other people. I’m an introvert. I won’t walk into a coffee shop and say hello to somebody, but I’ll do it online. Like my third space, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of that expression, but my third space has always been an online space for the most part.

Brian Gardner: Hmm, yeah.

Sam Brockway: It was on this when I built my first little HTML website. It’s funny to say this, but it was on Neopets. I was 15, and I was talking with other people who were coding, and we were in a little guild for it. And third spaces, for me, have always existed online. That works for my personality, and it works for meeting people worldwide. So, I expanded outside of your question, but Divi was an excellent space to get started.

Brian Gardner: I enjoy using analogies from my past to talk about things we discuss here on the podcast. Last week, I mentioned how the WordPress community was similar to the East Coast and West Coast hip-hop era of the 90s. And I’m going to do the same thing here with communities in the sense that when I was in college, I went to Southern Illinois University and was in a fraternity, Beta Theta Pi.

In a community, there’s the early stage, the middle stage, and the late stage of that tenure where, you know, with the fraternity, you’re a pledge. So you’re the newbie, and you come in, and you’ve got, you know, brothers that are older than you and have been in the fraternity longer. And so they take you under their wing and so on. And so there’s a process of metamorphosis there where you become that in a couple of years down the road, where then you’re the older brother, and the new pledges come in. And so.

Similarly, with communities, I’m new to the community, in this case, the product or service of the Genesis community. I’m just learning this. Can someone help me answer this question or figure out how to do this thing? And so, those people become proficient in your product or service over time, months, years, or whatever. And then, as a rite of passage or a pay it forward mentality, you find people who then Realize, Hey, I’ve gotten to this point on the benefit of people giving me their generous time, energy, effort, and answers. And so then all of a sudden you kind of then are in the place of wanting to pay it then forward and then give it back to the, to, you know, through the community, to people, which only helps strengthen the brand because now you’ve got, we’ll call them juniors in the sense of the street team. And then you’ve got seniors. It’s not that we’re talking about an army, but there are, and unofficial ranks will be tongue-in-cheek, so call it that way.

And so some of the people who ended up working for us at StudioPress and, consequently, Copyblogger came in through the community, people who, on their own, just really loved the product and helped out as much as they could. You could identify certain people with skill sets in particular areas through that interaction. And so, a few of the people who were early on in the Genesis community became employees of our company through their work and efforts. And so there’s lots of dynamics there with the community. I want to get around the whole idea of the recommendation. This is fresh in my mind because I just saw this question come through Twitter yesterday—the idea of the recommended experts or, in the case of Genesis, the developer’s page.

That is how I addressed a question I also wanted to get to: how do you foster and grow your community outside of, as you mentioned, people doing it themselves? Whether they are intentional or unintentional tactics for people who want to develop community as a business owner. One of those things is rewarding the people in your community. When we did that with Genesis, we had a recommended developers page. We gave people freelance work because we wouldn’t do it ourselves and wanted people to continue using our product. And so, Divi, I know Divi, there’s a whole. I remember saying it was like a microsite for the Divi developers and designers a year ago. Were you one of them?

Sam Brockway: I was not, no, I never got into that. They also have a cloud now. Like I said, I last used Divi three years ago, so I’m still determining where they are as far as that kind of community building goes. But yes, they did have or do have certified Divi people. And then, they have a way for you to upload to a marketplace. And then again, that creates community, too, because everybody pulls from each other’s visions. So that’s different. However, many products will offer some certification type because they want people to use their product. I know Entrepot is an example, or many CRMs, Active Campaign, et cetera, will create certification things they’ve created for their product so that someone could come in and say, I want to become certified in your tool. Or Asana has the same thing. Then they can go out, and then, of course, the tool or the product is marketing for them. But at the end of the day, if someone becomes an Asana user, let’s say, and then they hire an Asana expert, well, Asana is the one that ends up getting that, you know, a new customer. So it’s brilliant from a business perspective, but also from a community and human level, like you’re empowering people to use your tool to go off and do business. And then that, just like compounds. So, especially from a business-to-business approach, if you have a product that serves other companies, it’s like a no-brainer to set up something where you have some affiliate program or a certified or recommended experts section of your community.

Brian Gardner: We’ll get to the affiliate thing in a second because that is one of the questions I wanted to discuss. But before we get there, one of the things, another accidental sort of byproduct of the Genesis community for us was, it’s kind of like an adjacent thing to the recommended developers thing, were we allowed third-party themes to be created and sold also through studio press, because thanks to, was it Tim Ferriss in the four hour work week? Was he the one behind that?

Sam Brockway: I think so.

Brian Gardner: Everybody working for time isn’t good enough, right? They also want to create products and then go to bed and wake up and make money. And so there were people who, you know, did take advantage of the developer page and did freelance work through that. But then, through all of these relationships, and because we had built something easy to be built on top of, in other words, Genesis was a framework. We sold child themes, but the community also expressed interest in saying, Hey, if we created child themes for Genesis, would you help distribute them? Because we had a lot of traffic and a big brand and all of that. And we did. So, not only do you have the freelance version, the recommended experts, whether it’s ConvertKit, Genesis, or whatever you also think ConvertKit is starting to do, but I also thought I saw it as a CRM-based thing for ConvertKit where you realize, it’s like the app store, right? The Apple app store is where people build extensions and sell them. WooCommerce is an example of this in WordPress, where you allow and facilitate digital product transactions built on your products. That’s another way to foster and grow the community, which is to have something that people can also build on top of and then give them a way to get exposure and make money.

Sam Brockway: Yeah. And also just like a plug, right? Because we both work at WP Engine. This makes me think of our agency partner program. We have a similar setup where we have people you can sign up and become an agency partner, and then you can get different levels. And then, at a certain point, I can’t remember which level it is exactly, but then you’re exposed. Your business is exposed in the agency partner program section of our website so that people can find a certified, sorry, not certified, recommended WordPress developer agency through WP Engine. So that’s how we do it at our company.

Brian Gardner: You mentioned this earlier and made another phrase in your comments here. This is something I’ve felt. I have a love-hate relationship with the idea, and the words cause the words, I don’t know. I, for me, and I won’t speak for anybody else. The word or the phrase affiliate program 15 years ago, ten years ago was just the norm. That’s what things were called. Hey, you have my, you know, we have an affiliate program. That’s what it was.

I don’t love that word or term anymore. And I have some reasons, but I want to let you speak to that first. We’re talking about something other than the concept of that. We’ll get to that in a second. That’s more of what you alluded to with WP Engine; the agency and the partner are good words. What does that make you think of affiliate programs?

Sam Brockway: I don’t have a negative relationship with the affiliate program term or a referral program because that was how I got into WordPress. I started a blog about DIY stuff, and then we became a Share-a-Sale affiliate. Like we got into that program. Are you familiar with it? Where can you recommend specifics? They go across the board, but we were creating DIY tutorials. And so we had the AdSense thing for making money through Google ads, but then also through, you know, someone going and clicking our link, whatever. That was like my first start. And then when I started my blog about children’s books, I got into the Amazon affiliate program, and I was like, just, it was just such an easy, innovative way for me to be like, here is my here’s my content, I’m not going to give you any ads and get stuff in the way. I want to talk about these books. If you buy it, cool; you still pay the same amount. It was just so apparent to me. That was such a lucrative part of my business for so long. Then, even as a developer, I just pulled that through for so many years because, as a freelance developer, I became an affiliate of multiple WordPress-related stuff.

I’ve been a Divi affiliate forever. That’s obvious to me, too, right? It’s just like, I love this tool. Here’s how to use this tool. If you want to buy it, buy it through me. So I don’t know. I have a perfect relationship with the term affiliate. And now I know there’s the influencer space, which I’m at admission to, but I love those ASMR videos of people restocking their fridges and houses on YouTube. I know it’s littered with Amazon affiliate links, and people are just buying stuff and then sending it back and earning commission off of people’s love of more and overconsumption. I’m not a big fan of that, but otherwise, as far as running a business, I love the idea of affiliate programs, and I have no bad taste in my mouth about even the term. That’s just me.

Brian Gardner: Well, what you just said is a two-part thing. You addressed the idea of it, the concept of the program, and then the term, which, to me, are two different things—cause I fully understand. I grew up in the land and space of affiliate programs. And that’s what everything was called back in the day. And I can’t help but hear the word affiliate, and immediately I think of it. I’m dating myself online, like Shoemoney and ringtones, like a guy who made lots of money recommending ringtones as an affiliate. And so when I hear that, it’s true. It’s true. Google it. It was a thing back in the day. And so affiliate is sort of like, it just brings me back to like, you know, Google AdSense, Yahoo publisher network, Digital Point forums. And like, I think of all of the sleazy is not the right word because it’s,

Sam Brockway: I’ve never heard of that in my life.

Brian Gardner: Some people abused affiliate programs and recommended things only because they could game SEO. And so I look back at the history of the word affiliate. And I get a bit of a taste in my mouth. The tech industry also compensated for that by shifting to using words like you use, like the referral program, the partner network, or whatever. It seems more, I don’t know, less, and I can’t even think of whatever word I want to use here, but it feels better, safer, and more trustworthy.

Sam Brockway: What else? It’s collaborative, too. The terms like partner make you feel like this is not just me giving you a link; when you’re out in the wild talking about it, I will provide you with the resources to succeed. And like, those are the most, like the most successful affiliate programs for the business, and the affiliates will be anything that is like a win-win as far as, like, here’s a bunch of resources to go and sell my product essentially, and to make you successful. I had an affiliate program. I used to sell Divi website templates essentially, and they were called Effortless Website Kits. I had an affiliate program, and that thing was fantastic. I just had other people who liked the websites that I built. They became affiliate partners. I offered a perfect percentage, too, and it was a partnership. I provided them with resources, imagery, and copy and tried to make it so that they would be successful as people in my community, but then I would also be successful by selling my products. I’m a big fan of referral programs.

Brian Gardner: As I think back to Genesis and day one, one of the Genesis developers and theme creators was a girl named Sara Dunn. Sara used to be a Genesis developer and created all kinds of websites. She found herself in a particular niche: the wedding industry. It’s been fun to watch her. I did a podcast with her. I think it was on StudioPress.fm several years ago, where we talked about her, the evolving nature of her just general business and focus, into, you know, I think it originally started through her, her passion for SEO, but through that, she found the wedding industry. And as I was on her site, Sara Does SEO earlier today. I was looking through, and just like looking at all of the products and services, she offers a whole bunch of stuff for the wedding industry.

Well, you sell several products. You may have some courses, digital downloads, and a service-based aspect. But what she’s also done is she’s got up in front of people, so she’s got a speaking element. That’s part of her marketing.

And as I think about it, how big can the wedding industry be? Well, first of all, it’s enormous. If you think about all the people getting married, it’s one of those industries that will always be right. Education is another one. There will always be people who go to school, and there will always be people who get married. So, it’s different from a niche that will come and go. And, OK, that’s the first check for why you should follow a niche like that. But as I was looking through her homepage, She talks about this, which sounds like, OK, well, it’s just wedding photographers she’s going after. So that’s OK. If you read her copy, you know you’ve got the wedding industry, wedding planners, photographers, and venues.

Sam Brockway: The florists, the people that do the makeup, like it’s a whole industry.

Brian Gardner: And I realized, I’m like, OK, so she’s got five different sub audiences all under wedding, and all need to learn about SEO to build their business. And so, she speaks now at wedding conferences, and I can only imagine she has a community of weddings; we’ll call them professionals who follow her work, who buy her stuff, who support her and champion her stuff, and likely, you know, refer her to other colleagues and things like that and so I’m like, wow, that’s, it’s fascinating. So, having a group of professionals is a vetted way to ensure that you’ve got people who are prepared to spend money and likely will because they want to build their business. Talk to me about your website making magic and stuff like that. The people who started to follow Sam, and then, whether you want to call it a community or not, how did that come about, and how did you ensure that these people stayed with you along the way?

Sam Brockway: Yeah, it’s interesting that my business has evolved a lot. And I think back, and I’m like, well if I had gone back and done it differently, there would be things I would have just cut, but it was a lot of experimentation. And that’s just business. I’ve never offered outside of, let’s see, I provided the effortless website kits, which was the only product I ever really put out there. And I created a community space around that. So I can touch on that in a second, but, in general, when I run my business, I just try many different things, right? Building websites was the most successful at the end of the day, from both a time perspective and money. I tried many things, like scaling, but building one-on-one client websites was ultimately the best for my business.

However, selling the products, as you said before, is a whole four-hour work week, and, you know, making passive income is very enticing, and I enjoyed that aspect of the business. So I mentioned I started in a group where all moms ran businesses, and I built a community there. OK, and that was the only social media that I had. It was Facebook, and I used it strictly for business and talking to people. I didn’t have Instagram or Twitter or any of these things because I was like, I’m a service provider. I can teach people how to do stuff without teaching people how to do things. I need to find clients and build them stuff; they’ll refer me. That was my method for a long time. And that was the most successful for my particular business. But when I started to sell these products, it was necessary to share the behind-the-scenes or talk about them in a more one-to-many approach.

So, the whole building community has a very one-to-one referral network. But when you are starting to promote an actual product and then build a community around that product or start to pull people in or create an affiliate program or whatever, you need to have a broader approach, which social media, email lists, things like that give you access to. So that’s what I finally started doing. I created an Instagram account and taught people how to do things with my website kits. So, as for my product, I taught people how to do stuff. I made either a Facebook group or a Mighty Networks group for people who had purchased the kits or were interested. And then again, they’d show each other how they did stuff: I created this new page with the website kit, have a question, or do giveaways like everything surrounding the product itself.

It was never like a huge bustling community, and that was OK because, as I said, this is different from the route I want to go as far as having a product in a community and that stuff. I was more interested in teaching people how to do web development, so I started a podcast and everything about websites, but that’s not necessarily a product. But anyway, I hope that answers your question. When I think back, I’m like, you tried so many different things, which is just a part of running a business. You try, and you fail, or you try, and you learn, and you go from there.

Brian Gardner: Yeah, one of the things I was thinking about as I was thinking through all of this and, you know, I was going to ask about, but I want to pivot away from the question, you know, is there a difference between having a community of users versus a community of advocates, which I guess is more like the product consumers versus people who are on your, call them your street team or whatever. But what you said when you were talking dawned on me, and this is where I want to sit in the last part of the day.

Today’s show discussed the community’s needs regarding your product or service. Still, there are some other revenue models or, you know, businesses that exist that are communities themselves. Does your community need a community in a sense? The Rockstar community led by Julia Taylor, formerly known as GeekPack, and many of our friends on build mode and otherwise have come through this. And she has some courses and things like that. So, education is another aspect of community building, but Julia’s bread and butter is the Rockstar community. That is her thing. And so inside of that, you have a community of, as she calls them, geeks, go-getter coders, designers, virtual assistants, and highly ambitious folks who are willing to solve problems. Her Facebook group has 1300 members, which is a large community. And they’ve all presumably paid something. So there’s that. What I love about that community is that it is very active. If you go in there, it’s like every day, there are several new posts.

Similarly, with Genesis in the early days, people go in there to learn how to become, I think, kind of back in the early stages of GeekPack; it was like during, like, you know, the girl boss or the mom boss stage of the internet where you had people who, you know, maybe people who were looking for extra income. And so they were trying to learn online, and you can learn two ways. You can go on LinkedIn learning and do something a little more. You can do it for me and learn independently or through a course and community. And that’s where Julia and her community shine because it’s a collaborative group similar to the fraternity sorority thing; you come in as an early person who doesn’t know what you’re doing. You ask a bunch of questions, learn many things, and suddenly you realize, you know, you’re knowledgeable. And I remember I even talked to her about this as well. One time, one of my favorite things in her community was watching people post on a Facebook group that said, ” I got my first client today, and thank you, ladies or men, or whomever.

OK, Sam. You were never part of the Rockstar community. I know you had a community that you came up with and threw. Do you want to talk about that for just a minute?

Sam Brockway: Yeah, so one thing about this whole conversation is I’m thinking about the person who is, well, not interested in starting my own community. I’m a WordPress developer or an agency owner or whatever. And I want to be a part of a community. How is that beneficial? So, I was a part of a community called Boss Mom. I mentioned that on our last podcast. And that was when I was just.

I had a full-time job as a software developer, and I blogged about children’s books. And I went to like an in-person event for that group, and I met a bunch of people, and I started making lots of connections just like, I don’t know, I had like grand visions for my blog, and I created like a website, kind of like a Goodreads for children’s books. But then I ended up getting a call from my boss. It’s like my whole like,

My whole, what is the term? My origin story is from my business, but I got a call from my boss. He’s like, we’re going to, our biggest client closed down. So I have to let everybody go anyway. So they did close their doors, but I was like, OK, this is an opportunity. I have a community. I have a group of people who know how to build a website because I realized through creating my blog that I’m like, wait, it’s actually like the website-building stuff that I enjoy and less like the blogging about children’s books and motherhood. So, when I was about to be laid off from that job, I went into that boss-mom community. And I still have a screenshot of my first message on my computer somewhere, but it was like, hey everybody, this is happening. I’ve been a part of this community for two years. You all know that I have been, you know, just giving WordPress advice and whatever over the years. Contact me if you need any help with your website and are looking to hire someone. And that was it.

My first year in business was incredibly successful, 100% due to having been in a community myself. And so for anyone listening who’s like, well, I don’t want to start a community necessarily, but like, I’m in a couple, like it is worth your time and effort to build those relationships because, like when we say community, it’s not just like this, you know, nebulous weird thing. It’s made up of real people with real needs, and you can fill them. No, I was not part of the GeekPack community or rock star one, but the boss mom one. It was the stepping stone to the rest of my business. Ultimately, I started working at WP Engine on that, too. So, it’s cool to think about how much community matters in building any business.

Brian Gardner: That’s a good point. The phrase goes that the two best days to plant a tree are 20 years ago and today. Similarly, as was your case, sometimes the best time to get into a community is when you don’t immediately need the community because you had said you had given two years’ worth of time and energy before you needed to pull the card, right? Like I’m here, and now I need help.

And it circles back to the Greek system thing, essentially paying your dues. You have proven value to this community so that you can ask it for something back. And so, as community members, we’ve focused a little bit more on why having a community is essential for product owners and service-based providers. You also have to consider the people who are in that community. As you mentioned, many people in communities don’t want to start their own, or they may intend to wait to start their own. They could form their own business or product and have a community because they became successful. Those are great stories to tell, as well. So, are there any parting words for people, whether they are product builders, service-based companies, or freelancers, who want to cultivate a community in terms of just things to look out for or a couple of like little helpful hints that you’ve just experienced over the years that maybe would be beneficial for folks.

Sam Brockway: I might have said this on our last podcast, but business is all about people. You’re selling to people; you’re interacting with people. And so trying to keep that human component alive as much as possible is so valuable, especially in a world of AI and just like, you know, less and less human connection. If a community you’re in or part of can maintain humanity and excitement from a person-to-person level, that’s where you find thriving opportunities. You get people excited about your product because they’re other human beings unless it is something that an AI chatbot could pull out. You’re talking to different people. So, making the community fun and human-centered is where conversation sparks. Some of my most popular things on Twitter or in my communities have always been about people. So think about that, especially in a tech space, like how you can always include the human element and whatever you are working on or trying to build.

Brian Gardner: Well, very well said, and you’ve walked yourself into a Jerry Maguire moment for us here on Press This, where we talk about the people, the power of relationships, and all of that. I am thankful for the relationship you and I have. I am grateful for the community passion you have as well as I do. I’m also grateful you’ve blessed us with your knowledge and wisdom. During these first couple of episodes, we’ve taken the reins of the Press This podcast. And I will head off into the WordPress community and find folks to have on the show. But you have been an excellent guest. Thank you for giving us two episodes. 

And again, we are here at Press This, a community-driven, community-focused podcast where we talk about insights and actionable tips for navigating the ever-evolving world of WordPress. Thank you for listening. Feel free to leave us a review—hopefully a positive one- because that’s what we’re here for: to impact the WordPress community positively. Thanks for listening, and have a great day.