2011 has been an incredible year for iThemes, our team and our customer community.
As I sit here on New Year’s Eve and reflect on the past 365 days or so, looking down a long list of things we’ve done, I can’t help but feel a sense of pride for our team’s work and how far we’ve come.
It’ll be four years next month that I started iThemes in my home office to offer high-quality WordPress themes. Today as I write this, we have over 20 employees (most of whom are here in Oklahoma City, but now in California, New Mexico, North Carolina, Virginia and overseas in Scotland, The Netherlands, and India).
We have four major brands — iThemes, PluginBuddy, and WebDesign.com and of course our joint venture at AllureThemes (and a couple more in the works)!
All of these brands and teams offer professional products and services to make people’s lives easier, better, more fun … and awesome.
Earlier this week, I asked our team (on our internal communications channel) to post things we shipped and did. I didn’t say “accomplishments” but to me (and us) that’s what it was. It was great to see various team members and leaders sharing what we’ve done and I want to share them here for you now …
Our mission is to Make People’s Lives Awesome … here’s some of the ways we did that in 2011 (full disclosure: I’m sure I missed something!):
- Hired new team members: Kristen Wright, Cody Smith, Ty Carlson, Bes Zain, Dustin Akers, Dan Harzheim, Jordan Wooley, Justin Kopepasah & Jeremy Trask in 2011 — business is about people and I’m honored to serve with these individuals as well as all the other iThemers here! (Check out all of our incredible staff here)
- Started joint venture with Lisa Sabin-Wilson called AllureThemes.com (March)
- Co-authored WordPress All-in-One for Dummies (March)
- Named Matt Danner the Chief Operating Officer (May)
- Launched a nonprofit tech education foundation called The Div (August)
- Chris Jean celebrated his three-year anniversary with iThemes (September)
- Started The Panda — aka live chat on brands for customer sales issues (September)
- Held two live in-person workshops in Oklahoma City for WebDesign.com to meet and train customers (September and November)
- Rolled out the iThemes Education Program — offering the iThemes complete product inventory for free to qualified educators (October)
- Named 7th Fastest Growing Private Company in Oklahoma City (October)
- Honored with Creative Oklahoma’s Great Inspiration Award (November)
- We shipped a lot of schwag: well over 300 shirts sent out in the mail! Also coffee mugs and WordPress for Dummies All In One books!
- We attended, spoke at and sponsored a whole bunch of WordCamps as well as SXSW Interactive (for the second year)
- Held several townhall webinars to talk about upcoming projects, get feedback and ideas from our community
- Created an Affiliate Resource Center with banners, done-for-you blog posts, tweets, emails AND paid out a 500% increase in affiliate activity from 2010!
- Created a PDF product catalog for download and viewing of all our products
- Transitioned to new forum software for a better customer and support team experience
- Created and released eBooks, including: 5 Keys to Rockin’ Websites, Getting Started with Plugins, Turning Contacts into Contracts, Redirection Plugin Guide and 7 Year End Tips to Put Your Financial House in Order (with at least four more on the way shortly!)
- Redeployed iThemes TV to offer free “getting started” and beginner-level webinar training each Tuesday
- Through our software repo, our dev teams made over 2,184 updates to our products, including 180 to BackupBuddy and 86 to iThemes Builder — going along with our philosophy of releasing good products and making them better and better over time and with customer input.
- Held iThemes Builder 2nd Birthday Bash and celebrated 12 Days of WebDesign.com in December, and throughout the year other numerous goofy fun!
- We also built a lot of Legos, including a Pirate ship, Millennium Falcon, the Space Shuttle and X-Wing Figher. Oh, and Ginger Bread Houses before Christmas.
- And for the last 3 weeks, we’ve done some major remodeling to our Oklahoma City office, building two new private offices, putting in some new doors and new paint … all in an attempt to tweak our office layout to be uber-productive for you. We’ll be posting pics soon.
Those are some of the general / overview type things we did … now I want to mention each team and make commentary on the specific teams and their hard work in 2011:
The iThemes dev team, lead by Chris Jean, rolled out over 30 new child themes for Builder (including Depot, one of the most comprehensive ecommerce styled themes I’ve seen). With the addition of Cody Smith and Justin Kopepasah, under the direction of Chris, lead developer for iThemes Builder, we’ve seen some great work rolled out and I’m excited for 2012 and what they do with Builder child themes. And I know Chris has some awesome ideas for making Builder even better.We started 2010 with Matt Danner and Brad Ulrich, alongside Chris, as our theme dev team … but mid-year transitioned them to broader duties for the company but not before they released over 10 themes.
One of the most exciting and comprehensive child themes I saw come out this year was Depot that currently supports three of the most popular ecommerce plugins out there. Capping off the year with this feature-loaded of a theme, I’m anxious to see what’s next from our theme dev team in 2012!
Along the way, Chris has made Builder core better and better with each update — now version 3.4.6. He works tirelessly for our team and our community and is often one of the first at the office and last to leave. His commitment to our team inspires me (and others).
Ronald van Weerd and Sridhar Katakam continue to serve our customers on the support forum in an unparalleled way. There’s almost not a week that goes by that someone doesn’t email me directly or I’m forwarded a glowing testimonial about these two long-time support veterns. Both came as customers first and both have been vital to what we do every day. I look forward to seeing them in-person in February for our Builder Bonanza live event in Oklahoma City!
Here’s a list of the Builder child themes produced and released in 2011: Rainey Day, Covell, Covert, Classen, Blueprint, Ionic Sky, Ionic Green, Americana: Interstate, Americana: Mojave, Americana: Libertas, Encased, Encased Light, Cubed, Scooter, Drafted, Heat Wave, Cool Breeze, Revised, Dockside, Keen, Thinner, City Church (with Church Block), Singular, Kepler, Acute, Traverse, Patterned, Expansion, Expansion Blue, Expansion Red and Depot.
Lead by Dustin Bolton, lead developer of our hit plugin, BackupBuddy, our team at PluginBuddy released a number of plugins that extend WordPress and help you do more with it!
BackupBuddy 2.0 was released in March, updated with WP Multi-Site support (in beta, last fall) and we’re already working on 3.0 with some awesome new features. In October, we hit over 50,000 licenses in BackupBuddy alone!
I am so proud of our BackupBuddy plugin as it is truly helping making people’s lives awesome. The proof is in this testimonial I recently received from long-time community member Bob Randklev:
Cory, I’m so ecstatic I want to know the best way to give BackupBuddy and the team some huge kudos… our own site CyberInnovation.com went down when my wife was editing a page… ALL pages and posts gone… Backup Buddy restored it in about 10 minutes and we are live again! Thanks for all you do!
I’m super excited to see what the team at PB does this upcoming year in particular by Josh Benham and Dan Harzheim. These two guys have already contributed a ton of value for our plugin dev team by updating plugins, ensuring compatability with WordPress 3.3 and squashing bugs (and releasing their own plugins).
Additionally, our PluginBuddy support team of Jeremy Trask, Dustin Akers and Bes Zain have been incredible this year. As with our theme team, I continue to receive “thank you” emails all the time exuding customer gratefulness for these great, helpful, knowledgeable moderators. (Our dev teams can’t thank them enough for allowing them to focus on development while meeting the needs of our customers!)
Here are the plugins released in 2011: VidEmbed (February), BackupBuddy 2.0 (March), ThumbsUp (April), TailoredLogin (May), Accordion (June), LoopBuddy 1.0 (July) and Tipsy (October), in addition to numerous other upgrades and new features added in to existing plugins that make them better, more helpful to our community or easier to use.
I’m proud of our team at PluginBuddy and in particular of Dustin’s leadership and mentorship of our group there. With a new plugin framework and internal training resources, look for some really cool things from PluginBuddy in 2012!
This year we surpassed 300 hours of 24/7 on-demand, professional yet practical training at WebDesign.com, most of which was due to the hard work of our lead instructor Benjamin Bradley.
Benjamin came to us as a customer first almost two years ago, and has served our community at WebDesign.com in an amazing capacity — helping you learn and grow and expand your skills and business at the same time.
I love hopping on the chats on his webinars and seeing the lightbulbs turn on as our community sees what they can do with WordPress web design. With over 15 hours of new content added to the library every month, we’re fulfilling our belief to “underpromise and overdeliver” at WebDesign.com.
In December, we celebrated our second anniversary of offering the premiere and most comprehensive training program in WordPress. The two live in-person events in Oklahoma City led by Benjamin were extremely gratifying to be a part of for our team (not just our community) as we got to meet them in person and hear their stories and field their questions.
Benjamin is leading three live in-person workshops in 2012 and I’m looking forward to what he and other guest instructors (including Lisa Sabin-Wilson and myself) will be offering our community! Additionally we consolidated our community forum at WebDesign.com with iThemes and PluginBuddy in order to create a better experience for our community and added over 100 written descriptions for 100 webinars.
As we say at live events, you’ll be drinking from a fire hose of learning in 2011 … and again from a real firefighter, Benjamin Bradley!
Lisa Sabin-Wilson and I have been great friends for several years now going back to the first WordCamp Chicago which she ran and organized brilliantly. Along the way, she’s participated in training at live events and on webinars for our community, gone on RV roadtrips with our team and hung out and laughed so hard we cried at WordCamps, MassiveCamps and wherever else we are together.
We were also super honored to be asked to contribute the theme chapters for WordPress All-in-One for Dummies (released in March) and so it was natural for me to want to find a way to collaborate on a business project with her … which finally happened this year at Allure Themes to offer beautiful WordPress themes for women.
Lisa, as many of you know who follow her, has had a very rough year with the passing of her beloved father. But despite running her own successful web design business at E.Webscapes and writing other books, she has rolled out 15 themes this year through Allure (with more to come!).
Several of her themes are available now as iThemes Builder child themes, as well as Genesis and coming soon — Headway.
Lisa is unofficially (yet truly) one of our team. We love and thank her for being a part of our geeky ragtag bunch. And look forward to seeing her in January for the WebDesign.com WordPress Developers Course.
Although I’ve mentioned them above, I wanted to single out our support team. You make what we do possible. You build our brand by serving our customer community in unparalleled ways. You make me proud. And I thank you for what you do.
Ronald van Weerd, our support team lead gave this report for 2011 as it relates to support:
“We had a total of 11,285 topics were posted (data from Dec. 30), these topics contained a total of 52,509 posts.
iThemes Support now has five moderators on board, Sridhar (8,232 posts in 2011), Jeremy Trask (3,022 posts), Dustin Akers (1,086 posts), Bes Zain (2,392) and Ronald van Weerd (5,538). Total posts by moderators: 20,270 (38.6% of all posts in 2011).
Our moderators managed to take care of all these users issues, which could have been anything from user error, a bug or code issue, an enhancement or feature request, and there have even been a few marriage proposals.
The Codex keeps growing and contains a large number of articles, troubleshooting guides and (video) tutorials. Internally, we have implemented new bug and issue management software, which is a vital tool to keep our support and development processes manageable.
Support is dedicated to provide at least the same level of services to our community in 2012, and is looking forward to doing so!”
To all that I say: #boom
As we have grown, we realized the need for a Central Team — one that would support and serve all our brands. Our Central Team currently includes: Kristen Wright, Nina East, Brad Ulrich, Jordan Wooley, Charleen Green, Ty Carlson as well as Matt Danner and myself.
This team is mostly responsible for our communications and marketing as well as maintaining our software and server infrastructure.
As this is the team I work with more directly (along with our team leads), I wanted to take a moment to say thank you to them. They do a lot of the work you may or may not see, responding to sales emails (almost 24/7), working to produce effective marketing promotions, new designs for shirts, affiliate ads and that fun holiday bling on the brand site navigation, new content (like all the blog posts and free ebooks we’re released), and keeping the backend software running smoothly.
Thanks guys and gals for gelling as a new team and working together to promote our products and keep things rolling smoothly so our dev teams can focus on what they do best!
Our Mission is to Make People’s Lives Awesome
One more thing if you’ve lasted this long … a couple months ago, we decided to do a cool display of our mission statement in our office lobby for everyone to see as they walk into our playground. We also made staff shirts with it too to be a reminder of why we exist and do the work we do above every day.
Without you — our customer community — all of the above could not have happened.
As you support us with your hard-earned money (by starting and then renewing your membership) we support you — by offering the best products and support we can each and every day.
So cheers to a great 2012!