Most people don't know much about our team or who we are. Many of us are self-taught. We've seen that anyone who tries building websites and enjoys it can be successful.
Where I started
My success has been a result of my passion for development and seeing others succeed. But you know what? I haven't always been a developer. I worked as a Registered Nurse (RN) for 4 years in a hospital, a nursing home, and finally pediatric home health.
Nursing is a rewarding career, but is also high-paced and high-stress. Despite the schedule and pace, I enjoyed it and planned to continue working, but God had other plans.
A couple of weeks into maternity leave with my first baby, I didn't know what to do with myself. I spent a lot of time holding my baby girl. I found I could even use two hands to play World of Warcraft if I put her on top of a Boppy on my lap with a bottle propped in her mouth.
That could only entertain me for so long and I wondered what else I could do to pass the time.
An unexpected mentor
Then along came my cousin Blair Williams, author of Pretty Link, Affiliate Royale, and MemberPress. At the time, he had several Ruby on Rails contracts and was desperate enough in his search for subcontractors that he was willing to recruit anyone who had HTML experience or an interest in web development. Honestly, I had neither.
But my husband Steve had learned a bit of HTML in high school and was interested in learning more. So Blair gave us a small training session on how to set up a local computer to work with Ruby on Rails. I tagged along as a potential cure for my boredom, with expectations of it going way over my head.
After attending the first training session, setting up my Windows PC, and a memorizing the HTML tags on w3schools.com, I started on my first Ruby on Rails site for my sister. There was no database connection and other than a dynamic header and footer, the whole site was static HTML.
That $400 project ended up being one of the biggest milestones in my life. I learned that I love writing code and craved more. Once I learned I could do it, my confidence grew to the point I felt like I could try something bigger.
Blair handed me more and more work and I kept learning and getting better. From Franklin Covey HTML email templates, to an attorney that needed a full site (that has rightfully been rewritten on WordPress since then), to managing a project with a single developer.
I was determined to make the deadline on the project I was managing. The developer I was working with must have been less than thrilled with my aspirations. Despite my determination, the deadline was slipping.
So I took matters into my own hands. I dug into the code and went after the least-daunting of the bug list in the Ruby on Rails app. And I fixed it!
So I tried another and another. This exploration came hand-in-hand with increasing confidence and more projects to work on.
Pressure makes things happen
Enter personal life. Steve took an "exciting" job in San Diego during this time. It was going to be a "great opportunity." Right? Not so much.
The company didn't have the investment they claimed. So we came back, desperate and frustrated, two months later.
After the moving expenses, California rent, and the mortgage for the house that luckily hadn't sold yet, we were down to $200 left to our names. Not nearly enough to cover the mortgage.
Turning down stability for flexibility was a risk that we deemed worth taking. Steve turned down his sole job offer in a down 2008 economy. And I still wasn't ready to leave my 7-month-old to go back to work.
Now that we were both unemployed, we hit Blair up for more work. Steve started learning HTML and CSS too, and I got my hands into a new, large-scale Ruby on Rails application for a start-up company.
An introduction to WordPress
After a couple months, we started taking on our own clients.
A college buddy of Steve's contacted us looking for cheap development on an existing WPMU site (now WordPress multisite). We bid out the job and agreed to a flat rate. We made it clear this would be a learning job as I started into the unfamiliar territory of WordPress and PHP. I wrote a single, 2000+ line file with no organization, and tried to retreat back to the comfortable organization of Ruby on Rails.
Luckily, a platform as incredible as WordPress won't be ignored. We took on more WordPress client sites. Steve created the themes while I wrote the plugins. Formidable started in here somewhere too, but that's another story.
WordPress came knocking from every side when our bread-and-butter client decided to convert their large-scale Ruby on Rails site to WordPress. This client then became our employer. We were lucky enough to both have jobs and be able to switch off on who went into the office each day.
Taking the plunge
Aside from my day job responsibilities, Formidable monopolized my days and nights off. A year after the Formidable launch, we replaced the stable paycheck, office politics, and stress of a lame CEO with independence and freedom.
We've been completely free of client projects and micromanaging bosses for 11 years now. For me, that is the dream. I'm not great at being managed, as my husband would readily confirm.
Getting here has taken a lot of late nights and a periodically neglected family. The cost has been high at times, and the balance between work and being a wife and mother is a constant struggle. Enjoying work makes that balance incredibly difficult to pinpoint and maintain. I have to rebalance over and over and over and over.
It's never too late to start
Discovering my love for writing code has made all the difference for me. I see so many well-known and super savvy developers in the WordPress community and come to learn most of them started much younger than I did.
But you know what? It doesn't matter.
It takes time, dedication, and probably some world-tuning-out hyper-focusing no matter when you start. But if you think you might possibly like it, there's no reason not to start.
Find out if you enjoy it and then do what you enjoy. Then love your work to keep it from feeling like work.
Nice 🙂 Great story and inspiration for others.
All the best for you, your work, and your family.
What a beautiful family photo!
and thanks for sharing your live story with us. I think many users of FormidablePro will appreciate it to know a bit better the people behind the plugin. And it is certainly an inspiring story!
Kind regards from France
Salute for your dedication to family & works. We really inspired to do more & lead a balanced life.
Great to know about Formidable Pro teams & their family 🙂
Thanks so much for share the story behind Formidable Pro with all of us. I feel reflected and inspired for it.
You are a true mother, wife, and developer. And being a boss upon ourselves is also my dream. Thanks for sharing this story.
Thanks Steph 🙂
...and also, your writing skills are just fine, and as long as you can keep your words from getting in the way, then its all about the story anyways!
Steph.. if I may be so bold, add social links to these blog posts... as adoring fans and invested developers we do want to see Formidable Pro grow and flourish. You have a motivated appreciative audience.. by all means use us, ask us to spread the word.
For the countless hours of patient, unfaltering guidance and support you have personally devoted to us.. and the baton your team has picked up and likewise run with, its the least we can do.
Your commitment to supporting your customers is unique, rare and one of the biggest additional value propositions on top of a great bit of software.
Steph Wells says
Thanks for the nudge. I just added some share links.
Since we wrote Formidable for people like us who are developing client sites, we want to help you impress and succeed with those clients, just as we would want from a product we used as contractors. Using a good product makes you look good and get more work. That is why we are here!
I totally agree with rgkeenan! Let us help you grow! I'm constantly telling people that they can solve their form problem with your plugin. I'm a superfan!!
Your story also really inspired me. I am 4 years into my development/design business and I absolutely love it. I'm small potatoes but it's nice to see that someone just like me did something so freaking awesome. It helps me to think that maybe I will so something awesome someday too. Please keep writing!!
These are the inspiring stories showing us that "soul-less" technology has a beating heart.
Very often we forgot that behind forums, contact forms, help desks, hotlines, there's more than a username with an avatar.
Behind the curtain of a firewall there are people, individuals, families, with a story to tell, a hand to shake, and a life's tale worth to hear.
Thank you for giving my support heroes at Formidable a human identity, and thank you all again for your patience and help.
From now on I will sign my support requests with "Hi Steph, thanks for the code. Say hello to Steve and enjoy your weekend with the kids".
Now I only regret I registered my Formidable license with the company name.....
robert clapp says
It's nice getting to know your background and we fully support your team and your efforts. You're doing a great job!
Thank you Stephine, few months ago, I was wrote in your support forum, that how do I become a good web developer, that time you were so busy and was ignored my questions, so I was upset then, but now thank you to share your success story with us. It will help me a lot.
Sorry, don't mind I will renew my license as soon as possible.
Great story Steph! 🙂
Thank you Steph for sharing a bit of yourself. It is also good to "know" those that have been so helpful to me.
Thanks for that as well.
Walt Mayhew says
Love the story!! Wonderful family pic as well. The Formidable plugin is the best!! And when it comes to support there's none better. I'm talking it up with everyone I know on WordPress. I wish I knew about Formidable before I started with Ninja forms. Their stuff simply didn't work as advertised for the more complicated of projects, which I didn't find out until many many hours later. They were good with their support usually back in 24 hours and eventually refunded every penny. But this plug in and support is just vastly superior!!!
Umesh Ghimire says
Awesome story , thank you for sharing 🙂