How We Got To 100.000 Happy Users
On a light Tuesday morning in April, Siniša, our CEO, came into the office and settled at his desk. He opened a window, letting in a soft, spring breeze as his laptop booted up. After he checked his mail, fired up Chrome, and glossed over his to-do list, he clicked on a tab – and opened the Themes Kingdom stats dashboard. There it was:
100.000 registered users
Plastered over the screen, a six figure user statistic looked Siniša straight in the eye. He called Željko over, our co-founder, to see. They both stared at the screen for a quick moment until Željko just said: “100k. Would you look at that.”
“Yeah…” Siniša replied.
And just like that, Željko unceremoniously turned around and went to the kitchen to make coffee.
Siniša is a willowy man in his early thirties, bespectacled, with deep hazel hair. Today he wore the latest OVER Clothing black sweatshirt. Poised and laid back, he flicked the screen of his phone as he nibbled his way through a french quiche for breakfast.
Once finished, he cleaned up after himself and came into the office, yelling “Foosball time!” A few of the guys got together and played their morning match – a daily ritual at Themes Kingdom.
After a lot of passionate shouting, one team won and they dispersed. Siniša sat down at his desk with a glass of water. And he remained quiet for hours on end, typing and clicking.
Open your eyes
Siniša met Željko during their days at university. The friendship blossomed into a work partnership when they started their own web agency – Just Dot. It was basic client work mixed with web design, front-end and back-end, but they liked it enough to drop out of university.
WordPress was on the rise back then. The CMS was rapidly rising in popularity. They tried it out with one of their clients and loved it. Soon, all projects had WordPress in them one way or another. They realised that developing sites based on WordPress let them save time and still produced happy clients. It was much easier to create a theme – the “looks” – for WordPress and deploy it as a site, than to build everything from scratch. Providing support for custom website was a nightmare, too.
The marketplace for themes and plugins for WordPress saw explosive growth. Themes Forest was on the rise, as were a few other theme shops. Thus, one day in 2006 Siniša and Željko decided to spend less time on client work and more on designing and building themes for WordPress.
They took the money they made from clients and invested it back into this new venture. After a while, and a few dozen themes, they started making more money that way than from clients. That’s when they decided to end client work.
Just Dot was scrapped and Themes Kingdom was born.
Grow your business the big and boring way
Turns out, people loved themes made by Themes Kingdom. With little to no marketing, and based on only word-of-mouth, the first customer turned to 1000, which turned to 10.000. Suddenly, 50.000 customers flew by, and they celebrated the occasion with catering and free booze for friends.
All this happened without any angel investors, VCs; before the buzzwords from the startup world existed. Heck, before the iPhone even happened.
Themes Kingdom was brought up as a viable, profitable business. Instead of haemorrhaging money, it was able to support itself and future expenses by reinvesting in itself – similar to what Amazon is doing. As Gary Vee famously said: build a business, not a financial machine.
As the team grew, so did the bank account – more developers came onboard, and theme production bloomed. With a lot of hard work, they had published over 90 themes to date. Somewhere along the way, they wanted to design special t-shirts to commemorate the startup’s success. They got in touch with a lanky, youthful designer to help them out. He did an amazing job with the tees, and they figured he could also help them out with designing themes. After a few late night beers, the courtship was complete and superstar designer Marko Purać of OVER Clothing fame decided to join.
Flirt with calculated risks
Marko Purać had a following of friends who eagerly waited his blank emails. Filled with nothing, he sent them out every now and then. But he always attached a collection of illustrations and a price tag.
People would reply with orders, which he would fulfill dutifully. Each illustration would be printed on t-shirts, and then folks would get in touch and pick them up.
This relatively small circle of customers was incredibly loyal and devoted to Marko’s designs. Each new collection inflated the inner circle, until it grew too large for a small indie venture to handle. Then Marko offered the idea of a mutual partnership between Themes Kingdom and his own brand, OVER Clothing.
Themes Kingdom, like Just Dot before it, invested a small part of its revenue into OVER. The clothing project took off and orders from all over the world started coming in. An award-winning website for OVER clothing was made, and it attracted designers and fashionistas alike. The brand grew from tees to long-sleeves, caps, socks and more, while still retaining its indie vibes. There’s no sign of OVER stopping its steady – and safe, sustainable – growth.
Fuel your growth with these 3 key values
Siniša and Željko always adhere to these values, which allowed them to grow at a steady and sustainable rate.
Sometimes do stuff for others, for free.
Your altruistic spark will not only attract people to your business, but it will help out someone who’s either stuck or trying. We’re running a hackathon in May where we create a site based on one of our themes, for free. Read more about it.
Always combine function with form
If you focus only on the “pretty” side of any theme, no one will use it. If you focus only on the “usable”, no one will want to buy it. Who wants to look bad on purpose? But a “pretty usable” theme is the sweet spot. Take great care of the presentation AND how it works at the same time.
Code like your mother’s watching you
Don’t cut any corners with code. It has to be spotless. It’s your work’s work, and people will judge your themes based on how well they work – or don’t!
News about 100.000 users spread through the office quickly that morning – there’s only 7 of us, so word travels fast. Amid the HOORAH’s and YASSS’s I came up to Željko in the kitchen and asked him “So… 100k, that’s a big deal. What we do now?”
He poured two teaspoons of Turkish coffee into his cup, paused, then asked “Is it too early for pizza?”