We are back with another interview as a part of our WPLeaders Talks series. Today we have Josh Kohlbach, the founder of Rymera Web Co.
In this interview, he talks about his WordPress background, WooCommerce, Thirsty Affiliates, common mistakes store owners make, WooCommerce themes and plugins, and more.
Let’s dive into the interview.
1. Hi Josh, thanks for joining us today. Could you tell us a little about yourself and your WordPress background?
My name is Josh, I run a company called Rymera Web Co which is based in Brisbane, Australia.
We’re a software company and we make tools that help store owners grow their stores, specifically we help WooCommerce store owners.
I love WooCommerce (and WordPress) as a platform, I’ve been using it for nearly a decade now, coming into the scene when WordPress was around version 2 and tools like WooCommerce didn’t even exist yet.
Initially, I was a consultant working with small business owners, building brochure websites and eventually e-commerce stores with WordPress. We grew on that path for a while, taking on more and more complex projects but, eventually, I pivoted our company into software as I was more interested in building tools that could have a broader impact on people’s businesses.
I still get up excited to work with WordPress day-in and day-out 🙂
2. Now tell us a bit about Rymera Web Co and how your plugins are helping WooCommerce users to grow and reach their potential.
At Rymera Web Co we firmly believe that small stores can grow into big stores and that every store owner has something valuable to bring.
Our mission is to give them the tools that let them do that. We want to level the playing field in e-commerce.
Our main products are Wholesale Suite and Advanced Coupons, both extensions for WooCommerce. Coming out soon will be a new product called Inventoroo which is going to revolutionize inventory management.
We want to cater to store owners’ needs at every stage.
3. You were the original creator of ThirstyAffiliates. Later, you sold it to Caseproof. Tell us the story of creating Thirsty Affiliates and selling it.
Yes of course. ThirstyAffiliates is a plugin that I created over a weekend. It was born out of frustration while I was doing a lot of affiliate marketing. I needed an easy way to manage a lot of affiliate links and also on occasion change those affiliate links when providers would change the platform they were using, eg. Going from a self-managed affiliate program to something like Shareasale or similar.
When we changed our company into a software business we revamped ThirstyAffiliates, completely rebuilding it from the ground up. We also changed the business model to something more consumable and it took off with a new life.
By the time I sold it to Caseproof it was at 30k+ people using it, many of whom were on the Pro version. Customers of ThirstyAffilaites are serious affiliate marketers and they use it as a professional tool. Once I understood that I learned that making a tool that really connects to a hard business need and solves that problem well is one of the keys to building good software.
The main reason we eventually sold ThirstyAffiliates was that it didn’t fit our core focus anymore.
After a lot of soul searching and brainstorming I made a decision at the start of 2019 to refocus the entire company into helping store owners and my little baby didn’t fit into that vision.
It was a tough decision to let it go, but I’m glad that Blair over at Caseproof (who also makes the Pretty Link) plugin was the acquirer. He’s a fantastic developer and they have some pretty cool plans for improving it.
4. You’ve joined the WPBeginner Growth Fund. What is it like to work with Syed Balkhi? Share some learnings with us.
At the end of 2019, Rymera Web Co partnered up with Syed via the WPBeginner growth fund.
Syed is an interesting dude and a very astute businessman. We’ve actually known each other for nearly a decade at this point. He was one of the first people to use ThirstyAffiliates and see its potential.
I’ve always wanted to find a way to work with him and the growth fund was a great opportunity because I really want to take Rymera Web Co to the next level.
We’ve spent a lot of time brainstorming, talking, and implementing and it’s set to be a wild ride. We’re already seeing a lot of growth happening out of the advice he’s been giving us.
5. Are you working on any new plugins or just focusing on the existing ones?
We have a few exciting things happening in the background at the moment.
Firstly, we’re working hard on the user experience of Wholesale Suite, aiming to make that a smooth and seamless process for people to add wholesale to their stores.
Second, Advanced Coupons is going through a revamp and we’re excited to be launching a free version of the plugin in the coming months.
Lastly, we have a new project going on called Inventoroo.com which is a SaaS-based tool aimed at solving inventory management for WooCommerce once and for all.
6. You’ve been working with WooCommerce store owners for years, share some common mistakes that store owners make.
The biggest mistake I see people make when starting a store is trying to master too many things at once.
They want to do influencer marketing, and SEO, and conversion optimization, and blogging, and LinkedIn marketing, and Facebook ads, and google ads… and so on.
It’s like that old saying “when you try to chase 2 rabbits at once you’ll catch none”.
I see a lot of folks try to chase 20 rabbits at once.
My advice is always to come back to basics:
- Know with fierce intensity exactly who your customer is. You should know them so well that you could make a list of their names and emails.
- Know exactly where to find them. What is going to be the first channel of new customers? It doesn’t mean you can’t add more channels later but have one main channel first an make it work.
- Know what they want. This is essential. If you try to give them something they don’t want, it doesn’t matter if you know who they are or whether you found them or not.
7. What are some common WoCommerce themes and plugins you recommend to store owners?
I generally don’t give broad advice for anything beyond the basics because store owner needs are very different and succinct, unlike bloggers who tend to try out new plugins quite regularly. Often its drive by a business need.
So, it might be boring but for me, there’s probably only a few essentials for a store:
- WooCommerce, of course.
- Yoast SEO or All-in-one SEO or similar SEO plugin, something that takes care of all the basics and gives you a sitemap and the right metadata and things like that.
- MonsterInsights or some sort of analytics tool that hooks up to Google Analytics and can push data like e-commerce sales information. You can load the script yourself but these plugins are all so lightweight these days its hardly worth the hassle of coding that. Just use the plugin.
- I don’t recommend using an SSL plugin, just migrate over to using https in all your URLs (you can use something like WP Migrate DB and do a search and replace for non-https URLs for your domain in the database… always take a backup though!)
- Mailgun or similar because email deliverability is key. Don’t use the host’s email sending and likewise don’t try to use your google account. Use a proper provider like Mailgun or SendGrid or any of those. This will boost your email reputation like nothing else and ensure your emails are delivered properly.
8. And which WooCommerce hosting do you recommend?
We surveyed people on our Store Owner Tips group about this recently to see which hosts people were actually using for hosting their stores.
SiteGround was the most popular and reportedly very stable, just go for their higher tier WooCommerce plans.
My personal favorite is Digital Ocean but that is because I’m comfortable with managing my own VPS.
Using something like ServerPilot (a VPS management SaaS) or EasyEngine (open source) makes managing a VPS quite easy and having your own VPS is great as you can scale it up and down as needed.
9. You have been blogging and content marketing for a while, give us some tips on blogging and content marketing.
It all comes back to knowing your customers and solving their problems. Sometimes this can be done with content, or, at least you can guide them using the content.
If you are ever stuck for ideas for content it means you haven’t been thinking about your customer’s problems hard enough. Content idea generation is the easy bit, writing it is the hard bit 🙂
10. And finally, give us some advice to our readers who use WooCommerce.
Treat your store like a real business no matter what the size is.
I have personally seen WooCommerce based stores generating over 8-figures a year, some managing thousands of product SKUs.
I’ve also seen very successful and happy store owners earning 5 or 6-figures a year using WooCommerce.
WooCommerce is just a tool like any other. Albeit a pretty awesome tool.
I guess my parting message is that your store might start small, but you can grow into a big store with time. I hope this helps someone get the motivation to start a store! It’s a great ride.