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This time, we’re chatting with Tracy Childers, an entrepreneur who’s behind one of the most celebrated internet marketing success stories, WishList Products. Now WishList are arguably most famous for WishList Member that powers thousands and thousands of online membership sites across the internet and around the world.
So, Tracy, it’s a pleasure to meet you.
Well, thank you. Appreciate you having me.
You have been around on the internet now for many, many years. Can I ask how your journey started?
Well, that’s a great question. It’s maybe a unique background. Well, I grew up, when I was a kid, I had a father who was an entrepreneur and all kinds of businesses. The first, primarily, was automotive repair shops. And then eventually, he just took his entrepreneur background and started investing in real estate. And then after he started investing in real estate, he started teaching people about how he invested in real estate. And back then, the only thing that was really around was direct marketing and also seminars. So, he did a lot of teaching at seminars. So, back then, at the ripe age of 11 or 12, I had my job was the director of shipping, which basically meant I duplicated audio tapes and packaged them up to send them to the people that purchased them at the seminar over the weekend.
So, I kind of took that and recognized just how the world was just, even way back then, this is a long time ago, I’m talking in 1982, people were hungry to buy information, all kinds of information. It wasn’t just learning how to invest in real estate, but just all kinds of things. And just over the course of the years, it naturally kind of evolved into things were being sold online in terms of the internet.
And I was just always fascinated with technology. So the internet just kind of became a real good fit for me.
Wow. Okay. I mean, it’s amazing that that’s been your journey into the online world. I mentioned WishList Member at the very beginning of this, but for anyone who hasn’t heard of it, I guess it’s time for us to explain more about WishList Member. Could you just give us a bit of background and tell us what the software itself does?
Sure. So WishList Member runs, as you mentioned, as a WordPress plugin. And, way back in 2008 or so, a close friend of mine, Stu McLaren, and I decided that we would become partners and set up a company that would create software to run a membership site. And the backstory of it was, he was trying to set up a membership site of his own online, and was really, really frustrated with the current solutions that were available back then. Really, there wasn’t much around back then. One was really inexpensive and was available to the masses, and it was really complicated to set up. It didn’t have anything to do with WordPress. Then, there was another system that also had nothing to do with WordPress, and it was very, very expensive, but they kind of walked you through everything.
And so, we saw that the majority of the people that we were talking to were tired of building sites with HTML where they had to hire a webmaster. And things were starting to move in the direction of WordPress with plugins and themes.
And, Stu said how frustrated he was. And I said, “Well, why don’t you just build something?” He said, “I don’t think you heard me. I’m having trouble using these other pieces of software that are already created, much less, be able to create one of my own.”
And I said, “Well, why don’t we team up? I have been developing software for quite some time,” at that point, “and I think that we could build something fairly easily.”
And believe it or not, we built this, really in mind, that he could use it to run an idea for a membership site.
And then, we would create a company that was also running as a membership site as well.
And it wasn’t really our intention to create specifically that product the way it is today. We knew that we wanted to sell information.
And back then, way back then, if you’ve been around WordPress at all, you’ve probably heard of a popular plugin for eCommerce called WooCommerce.
Well, back in the day, that was a company called WooThemes. And WooThemes, they were one of the early companies that were building themes for WordPress. And if you know anything about WordPress, themes mean how it looks, and then plugins were how it functions. And so, they were creating all these themes, and they had a membership.
“Hey, you can sign up for our membership, and you’ll get a new theme every month.”
And what we saw was there were two things with WordPress, themes and plugins. And everything was going in the way of themes, and plugins really weren’t quite popular yet. There were a lot of plugins, but most of them were free.
And we said, “Hey, what if we became the first membership that sold plugins. You would get a new plugin every month.” And that was our initial idea.
And in order to create that, we had to create our own system that would run our membership site, and that’s what WishList Member was. And, at the time, we really had no idea how important that first plugin would be, and how many people had the same need for something like that.
Yeah. I mean, it has become the go-to membership site plugin on the internet. And I’m sure that many people who are either reading or listening to this have come across WishList Member. That was back in 2008 that you had the idea. How has it evolved over time, Tracy, and what challenges have you faced along that route?
Oh, wow. I don’t know how much time you have. So, it’s a great question though, because I’d say… First, I want to clarify one thing. When we talk about WishList Member, and we talk about a membership site, there’s typically a little bit of confusion that comes up. And people say, “Well, what exactly does that mean?”
They hear the term membership site, and they immediately think, “Oh, that’s where I pay you something every month to get something.” Well, no, that’s actually a subscription model, a business plan. We charge you something per month. But a membership can come in many shapes or forms. It could be a free membership.
Ultimately, we kind of break it down and we say, a membership plugin controls access to what people have, meaning, they have to log in first with their username and a password, and then they can get access to this, and these people can get access to that. So, that’s kind of the clarification.
Now, if you move on to saying, “Hey, all the way back in 2008, what were the big challenges and roadblocks?” Well, really, when you look at it back then, there was not a clear example of how to structure a plugin business. I mentioned that there were a lot of people selling themes…
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