How to launch a successful online course MVP, generate multiple income streams, and build a team with Divi community leader David Blackmon of Aspen Grove Studios in this episode of LMScast with Chris Badgett of LifterLMS. David shares his journey from learning WordPress in 2013 to running the successful companies he owns today.
David tells of his experience planning to get a course up in about six weeks, and it ended up taking six months. He now puts great emphasis on overestimating the time you think it will take you to launch your course in order to save yourself potential headache. If you end up with your course finished before launch, then you can always do an early launch.
For those unfamiliar with it, Divi is a WordPress page builder theme made by Elegant Themes. It gained a lot of popularity in the WordPress community, because it has an intuitive page building platform, and you don’t need to know any code in order to create a WordPress website using Divi.
WordPress is all about democratizing the ability to build cool things on the internet without having to be a developer or expert designer to get started. David highlights the value Divi can bring to both the novice users and web development professionals in the WordPress space.
David and his team at Aspen Grove Studios give a ton of content out for free, and David recommends that as a strategy for building up your audience. Delivering high quality, free content to your potential customers is a great way to build rapport. You should respect your audience and avoid spamming them with emails and information they don’t need, however.
To connect with David Blackmon you can email him at [email protected]. You can also find him on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Also check out WPthePodcast.com to see the episode David did with Chris over there!
Find out more about how you can use LifterLMS to build your own online courses and membership sites at LifterLMS.com. If you like this episode of LMScast, you can browse more episodes here. Subscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. Thank you for joining us!
Chris Badgett: Hello, and welcome back to another episode of LMScast. My name is Chris Badgett, and I’m joined by a special guest, David Blackmon from Aspen Grove Studios, WP the Podcast, Divi Space, and a bunch of other companies and projects that we’re gonna talk about in this episode. I wanted to get David on the call. I met David in person at a WordPress event. He’s a leader in the Divi community, he’s a course creator, he’s a digital product entrepreneur. There’s gonna be a lot of knowledge and wisdom dropped here today. So what you learn in this episode, I’d encourage you to take action and take notes on some ideas you get from this. ‘Cause we’re gonna be going deep, and I’m gonna mine David for some of the hard one lessons he’s learned along the way. David, welcome to the call.
David Blackmon: Hey, Chris, thanks so much for having me, Man. It’s great to be here.
Chris Badgett: Absolutely, well, it’s good to be with you. You just recently launched a course on your website that was powered bu LifterLMS. It was called Transforming Divi with CSS and jQuery. Can you tell us your story of that course launch and how that course came to be?
David Blackmon: I’ll have to give you a small bit of back story first, because I think it’ll get lost if I don’t. So, last year April first 2017 we acquired Divi Space from S.J. James who is also another leader in the Divi community. And S.J. actually put out probably the first course in the Divi community almost three years ago. It was the CSS course. Last November S.J. came to me, we met. S.J. is working, he’s still a part of Divi Space, we’re still together. He was just overwhelmed with handling a one man show, solopreneur. And he wanted to focus on his genius, which was teaching and showing people how to do things and building products. So, we partnered, he came to me in November and he said, you know David, I have this idea I wanna present to you. I wanna see if you’re open to it.
David Blackmon: And he said I did the CSS course. I’d like to do a second course, a better, because my learning has improved so much from when I put the original course out. I’d like to go deeper with CSS and I’d like to add jQuery. And then we discussed it, we decided to grandfather in the previous students that had enrolled in his CSS course so that they could continue to evolve. And I thought it was a great idea and we said, okay, let’s do it. And he started the process of putting it together. We mapped down an outline, we put a timeline together and stuff. And we launched it on May first of 2018, the first class and we had almost 400 students sign up for the course.
David Blackmon: We’ve been pretty busy for the last six weeks. Without the product side of the business the client side of the business, having 400 new students to manage and support has been a learning experience. So, it’s been awesome.
Chris Badgett: So, did you do like a launch window? It was open for a little bit and then it’s closed. Or is it still open right now?
David Blackmon: We did. Well, we’re testing some things. Since this is our first course, it’s kinda our MVP into the course world so to speak. Minimum viable product. We know that our audience really loves our products. They love the plug-ins, the themes. All of the things that we’ve created around WordPress, around Divi. But we felt like there was a desire for them to learn and go deeper with their own knowledge around WordPress, so we kinda used this one as an MVP, minimum viable product, to test the course. And the overwhelming response that we got was just a massive positive thing. So, we opened it up, we left it open, but we did a couple of different things. We’ve closed it and we’ve left it open, both. So, we’re in the process of shifting and we might change for class three and it may be open the entire time. So, I’m just letting the world know, we’re still trying to figure this stuff out. So, we’ve done both so far.
Chris Badgett: Well, congratulations on 400 person MVP is a great win to sell.
David Blackmon: Oh, yeah, yeah, absolutely.
Chris Badgett: For the other course creators out there thinking about their projects or their projects that they wanna bring in to this world, let me ask you some timeline and detail question. How long was the time period from the idea of let’s make a course to the course launch?
David Blackmon: Ideation to course launch was six months.
Chris Badgett: Six months, nice. And did you get the LMS technology before or after the course content was created or mostly created or started or whatever?
David Blackmon: After.
Chris Badgett: Which is the right way to do it.
David Blackmon: We didn’t build the LMS out until everything was done content wise for the course. So, we kinda had an idea of structure of what we wanted it to look like and stuff.
Chris Badgett: Just from my observation, ’cause I see a lot of projects. It’s always much likelier to have success if you have your … Don’t get the technology first, work on creating the content, creating the course and then go shopping for technology. I just noticed a much higher probability of success when you do it in that order. So, that’s cool. Is there any kind of, just looking for details, whether it’s pricing or marketing tactics or anything, what did you learn … What were some things that you thought you really like, okay, I did a good job there I got a win there? And what are some things, lessons you learned like, I’m gonna do X differently next time with your MVP launch?
David Blackmon: Oh, wow, there were so many good and bad things. I mean, we’ve learned a lot. The first thing that jumps out to me is I guess you would put it in the bad column, but I don’t necessarily know that there’s anything to put there, just lessons learned and stuff. We had a very aggressive initial timeline that we even announced to the world. This course was supposed to launch on January the first. New year, new you. Come up your skills and that was six weeks from ideation to course launch and it takes a lot longer than you think it’s gonna take to get the content ready. Because we were doing video, text, quizzes, assignments and there’s just so much that goes into the creation of the course, it’s gonna take four times what you think it’s gonna take. So, that’s lesson one. If you think it’s gonna take a month, plan six months.
Chris Badgett: So, just to be clear, I wanna make sure I understood that correctly. You thought it would take six weeks, it took six months, right?
David Blackmon: Correct, yeah. And I’m falling on the sword, because I announced black Friday and through the early part of December you will get a course on January the first. And we did not launch it obviously until May the first. So, I was, as we say in South Louisiana where I’m from, I was craw-fishing. Craw fish move backwards, so I was doing a little bit of craw-fishing and begging for forgiveness and they were gracious. I mean our users, our audience, they’re awesome and they were very understanding and forgiving.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. What’s a win that you got? Besides your successful MVP. Like what’s another thing you were like, oh, that worked well?
David Blackmon: Well, for me it was just the process of completing it. That was a huge win. Just taking it from step by step throughout the process of launching the MVP and doing really well. Creating the course content, what that looked like, how much time that was gonna take. Building out the LMS, that was a win, that was a huge win, because you know what, we’ve built a lot of WordPress websites. We’ve done a lot of custom jobs, but we had never built an LMS before. I knew Chris, I met him at a WordPress event. We met personally at PressNomics and I knew that I wanted to go with a Lifter because I wanna support people that I know personally and stuff. It’s just kind of a thing with me. I think it’s awesome that we help each other and grow. So, I didn’t know what to expect.
David Blackmon: We went in, put Lifter on the site and we built it. We did a great job with it. So, that was a big win. Chris referred somebody to us and we hired him to consult. They came in, they gave us the thumbs up and green light ans said you guys did a good job on this. It’s set up properly. So, add that to our resume, LMS, check, no problem, come on over. So, yeah.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome.
David Blackmon: I’m a little long winded Chris, so I’m sorry, my stories tend to have backstories.
Chris Badgett: No, that’s good, that’s the whole point, because I like that you said one of the wins was getting the thing launched. ‘Cause it’s easy to think that information products or coaching programs are easy to launch. Like, oh, I’m just gonna write a simple ebook or make an email auto responder or build an online course. But, well, online course can be massive. It could be a big deal. That is a huge win to get it done and not doing it alone, I notice just from observation, is something that people who are successful, especially at the MVP stage have … The different people are working on different parts of the project and maybe somebody’s selling it, maybe somebody’s making the course content. There’s power in partnerships there.
Chris Badgett: I wanna talk about the course subject matter a little bit. And it’s one of the reasons that you’re successful in your launch is that you’ve spent some time in the community around the Divi product. Can you tell us first what do you love about the Divi product? How’d you get into Divi?
David Blackmon: Oh man. I could tell you a million things I love about Divi Chris. Divi has been, it’s transformed, not only the students at CSS and jQuery, but it’s definitely transformed my life. I discovered Divi very early in my WordPress journey. I picked up WordPress for the first time in September of 2013. I knew nothing about it. Did some research, had agreed to build a couple of blogs for some friends and decided on Genesis and Thesis, those were the two platforms that I was gonna focus on, and because I wasn’t a developer or a designer and I didn’t have that skillset, truthfully, they were caving my head in. It was killing me, ’cause I wanted to do awesome things. I had this vision of what I wanted a website to look like. How I wanted to achieve it and I couldn’t do it, I didn’t know how, ’cause I didn’t have the development chops to do it.
David Blackmon: So, December of 2013 Divi came out and it was a drag and drop page builder and maybe it’s because it was the first drag and drop page builder that I had ever seen, maybe if I saw Beaver Builder first or Elementor wasn’t around at the time, but Visual Composer. I mean maybe Divi was even a predecessor to Beaver Builder, I’m not sure, but my point is that had I seen another page builder, maybe I would have had the same reaction, but I found Divi and I was able to achieve things with that tool that I could not achieve in Genesis or Thesis or some of the other WordPress themes that were custom themes, child themes and themes that people sold, I just couldn’t do it, because my lack of knowledge with CSS and PHP, just it was impossible for me to achieve what I wanted.
David Blackmon: And Divi allowed me to do that. I instantly saw the power of what Divi … I looked at this tool and thought, oh my god, I don’t know anything about coding and I can build a pretty impressive website full on without any coding knowledge. So, that’s what really impressed me the most about it initially. So, I was one of the first ten members of the original Divi Facebook group. I’m lucky, in the right place at the right time I guess. I was reading up on elegant themes as blog posts. Somebody posted in the comments that they had started a Facebook group, hey do you all wanna go learn this thing together? I jumped in there and we all just started helping each other learn this new tool called Divi.
David Blackmon: We didn’t know at the time that it was gonna eventually become the number one WordPress theme in the world. We didn’t know any of what we know now where Divi is. We just saw the power in it. And what I like to tell people today is that Divi is easy enough for a brand new beginner to use and build websites with that knows nothing, but it’s powerful enough to build anything that you wanna build with it if you have the skillset. Because now, not that I have the skillset, because I’m not a developer, that’s not my skillset. My skillset is marketing and business. But I have very talented developers that work for me that we’ve built some amazing things with Divi that just blow people’s minds that you can build it with this. So, if you have the skillset or if you don’t have the skillset, it’s still an awesome tool to use. So, if you wanna jump in here.
Chris Badgett: I think that’s the power of WordPress and what it’s all about, is it’s democratizing the ability to build cool things on the internet without necessarily being a developer or a Photoshop designer or style expert. And tools like Divi came along and I have a ton of respect for Divi. Elegant Themes, the company that makes Divi, before Divi had something like, and maybe they still do, it’s 30 themes, like a theme club.
David Blackmon: 87.
Chris Badgett: 87, okay. And then they took all that learning, all that knowledge … And I remember when Divi came out and it focused on this is the thing. And when a company learns across 87 tries and then they really double down, there’s just a lot of learning that’s happened to get to there. And then once that commitment is there and it stays there, there’s a lot of focus, energy and power. So, I’ve always been impressed with how Elegant Themes has done that and really focused in on the Divi theme and Divi builder.
David Blackmon: I’ll elaborate a little bit on Nick Roach and Elegant Themes’s team, ’cause I know them personally. They’ve become friends over the last few years. They’re amazing, they’re awesome. I mean they’re super supportive of the Divi community. They didn’t take the stance of this is our product trademark, don’t copyright, don’t do any of this. They actually supported the community that grew up around it and tried to help them. I think Divi was their 87th theme if I’m not mistaken. So, if you’re listening to this, it took them 87 tries to get the one that would change the world, so to speak. So, you know, hang in there. Things don’t happen overnight and stuff. They’re phenomenal, they’re awesome and the Divi community is second to none in my opinion, but I’m a little biased ’cause I’m deep in it.
Chris Badgett: That’s my next question for you, has to do with the Divi community. I know you’re involved in it and you hang out with the founders and you’re just really invested in the community. Can you tell us how that happened? ‘Cause it’s one thing to use a tool and love it and be a power user and build a business around it. It’s another thing to invest in the community around the product.
David Blackmon: Yeah, well, I’ll tell you it happened organically. Nobody set out to build this community. Like I said, we started this Facebook group and there was a core group of people who you see, you would consider them to be, what’s the word, Divi famous. Most people know most of these people. Geno Quiroz, myself, S.J. James, Cory Jenkins. A lot of these people-
Chris Badgett: Michelle Nunan.
David Blackmon: Yeah, well, she came later. I’m talking about the very beginning. There’s a lot of people like Michelle Nunan, Tim Strifler that came in a year after and I’m gonna make a really good point to your audience and stuff, ’cause this is important. Those core people, Geno, S.J, myself, Adam Inlay we were there from the beginning. Michelle, Tim several people came a year after the community already had five, ten thousand members in it. They still have succeeded massively because the community is so awesome. They didn’t have the mindset of, oh man, everybody’s already done this already I can’t help out or do anything here. They dove in. They became a part of. They started being helpful and helped the community grow even more to where it is today. If you’re looking at something from the outside looking in don’t have the mindset of, man, it’s already been done there’s no room for me in there. You need to lose that mindset, because I’m telling you, WordPress is awesome, Divi is awesome and even if there’s ten million people in there, there’s still room for you to do your thing.
Chris Badgett: Can you speak to the … Do you have any numbers or anything or just loose idea around the size of the Divi community or how many people use Divi or Elegant Themes?
David Blackmon: Well, yeah, I mean on Facebook alone there’s close to a 100 000 people in Facebook groups. I venture to say it’s probably the largest WordPress community on Facebook. I know that Divi has officially second largest WordPress group behind advanced WordPress users group. I think advanced WordPress is the largest Facebook group. Of course they privatized it, locked it down, made it admin. They moderate the heck out of it now. They may be losing numbers, I don’t know, I haven’t been in there a while. I never considered myself advanced enough to post in there. So, I’ve never done it. I’ve been a member. I love Matt Cromwell, John Brown, all those guys are super fantastic. I don’t feel like, because it’s more of a technical focus that I kinda fit there, because I’m business minded and stuff. But I think a 100 000 users on Facebook. I know that Elegant Themes has on their own website almost a half a million active users.
David Blackmon: That’s a lot of people using Divi and I would venture to say most of those people are developers or they’re building sites for clients or friends or family, so, the multiplier of just that number right there, there’s gotta be millions of websites on the internet that are using Divi. So, it’s big, I don’t know the exact number, but it’s a big audience.
Chris Badgett: There’s something funny we talk about on the show from time to time. It’s just a fact, well, it’s not a fact, it’s an observation I have, which is, I’ve seen it over and over and over again that the company that makes a product like in this case Elegant Themes and Divi, doesn’t necessarily invest in making the training. So, companies like yours are making the training for people using this product. And I just always find that observation interesting. However I do not think it’s impossible for product entrepreneurs to focus on training too. But it seems like there’s often a capacity problem like where all the resources go into the product, there’s not much left over for training. Maybe we sprinkle what we can on documentation, but nobody really doubles down on training. At least in my observation it’s often, it comes from another entrepreneur somewhere else or a series of entrepreneurs.
Chris Badgett: And for those of you who’s listening, a lot of online courses … There’s so much potential out there around how to use and build things with digital product, software tools, physical products. Like building cool stuff and figuring out how to use a tool is … That’s where there’s a huge opportunity in the online education market. And just like the numbers you’re sharing there about if you’re trying to figure out which tool to build training around that you love and enjoy and are passionate about. Maybe it’s helpful to go after a big tool that has a pretty decent sized audience and also a vibrant community around it.
Chris Badgett: So, I guess I wanna get into what I call the stack as an entrepreneur for you. You have a very interesting stack. People can do thing like courses plus coaching plus community plus publishing plus services and you’re kinda across the board. You have a nice, what we would call, a stack as a entrepreneur. You’ve got Aspen Grove Studios and then you’ve got Divi Space potent plug-ins, WP gears, WP the Podcast, Divi Chat. You got all these things going on. Can you take us on a quick tour of your stack and suite of products and partnerships?
David Blackmon: Yeah, well, as an entrepreneur I’ve been an entrepreneur my whole life. I didn’t really know that’s what I was until I was much later in life.
Chris Badgett: How old?
David Blackmon: I was probably in my 30s before I … When I was coming up, Chris, you’re a lot younger than me, but when I was growing up, an entrepreneur was not embraced the way that it was embraced today. Self employment and entrepreneurship was not a thing. If you were an entrepreneur in the 80s in the 90s you were an unemployed bum is what you were. And I just always thought differently than normal people. I always had this in the back of my mind that I should be building something for myself and my family as apposed to throwing all my energy into building something for somebody else, which I was very talented at sales and marketing and stuff. And I succeeded everywhere that I went. But I always just … It just didn’t sit right with me that I was making millions of dollars for these people and I could be doing it for myself.
David Blackmon: So, fast forward to 2013. I had a business that I owned for ten years prior to that. It was in the newspaper industry. Obviously the newspaper industry took a tank because of the internet. And their budgets dried up for what I did for them. So, had to reinvent myself. I went to work for [inaudible 00:25:34] for three years and I hated it. I had to punch a clock at eight o’clock in the morning I had to leave at five. And I did a great job for them, but I just wasn’t happy. So, I found WordPress, decided that I was gonna venture out on my own. I could buy some themes, modify them enough, I’m a tech guy. I could build some websites for small businesses that couldn’t afford full blown web developers. They could pay me a couple of thousand dollars and I could get something up. And because I could sell so easily I had no problem with work. I had clients lined up around the block and I could do-
Chris Badgett: So, it started with services.
David Blackmon: It started with services and my mindset was I wanted, because I have an entrepreneur mind, I wanted five streams of revenue, because I knew that there would be lean times if you had one focus that you are focusing on. So, my second thing that I branched out in or my goal was, was I offered what I call service agreements. I advised every client WordPress is free, it’s open source, it’s a phenomenal platform. You can manage the site yourself, you can add your own blog content. There’s a couple of things I don’t recommend you do. And that is security updates and hosting. And that kinda stuff I told them they needed to leave to a professional. We offer service agreement. So, I would upsell them on a service agreement and then I would have annual recurring revenue from clients. I charged 1500 dollars a year to offer hosting, updates, security and, oh, what’s the third thing, now my brain’s flat.
Chris Badgett: Backups maybe.
David Blackmon: Backups, thank you Chris. Out of the standard WordPress maintenance package. And my goal was to have a 100 of those by year five of my web business so that I could start the year of with a 150 000 dollars in the bank before I ever even touch a client website. So, that kinda was my first model and then I found Divi, got into the Divi community. And here’s where Aspen Grove Studios came from. At that time it was Davcom Digital. I was a solopreneur. Cory Jenkins and I were friends. We met in the Divi community and stuff. And I just saw this opportunity because the Facebook groups were growing so large and there was such a need for third party products to solve problems that were within Divi. You’re right, Nick’s team was smaller at the time, they didn’t have the resources to focus on all the things.
David Blackmon: So, here comes this third party market to solve problems, pain points within Divi that people would buy. So, this kinda blew my mind that this wasn’t even out there. To change the footer credits, which I’m a web developer. I mean I want designed by David Blackmon in the footer with a link back to my website. Well, in order to change that in Divi, you had to go into the footer dot PHP file, find the special code. I couldn’t style it the way that I wanted to style it. I couldn’t move it, right align. I couldn’t do all these things and I thought, man, this is a pain in the butt. I wanna solve this problem. So, my developer, myself and Cory got together and we built the Divi footer editor which was, it basically just used the WordPress Wysiwyg editor to allow you to modify that code.
David Blackmon: We also added a dynamic short code to where it would automatically update every year so you wouldn’t have to go back in and edit it. Allowed you to hyperlink. Anything you could do in a WordPress Wysiwyg editor, you could do with this little plug-in and everybody started asking for it. They were like, man, this is a great … I want that tool. And I found out that people would pay for this thing. So, this was our first product scratching our own itch and that thing has sold over 10 000 copies. So, it’s like, oh man, we might be on to something.
Chris Badgett: Were you ever like scared that Divi would take that functionality and put it into their product? Or if they did, would you even care? Like could you speak that if-
David Blackmon: I would’ve been perfectly okay with it. I had no problem with it. It’s something that’s always been there, I’ve always known it that whatever we built could get incorporated into the parent theme Divi. And you know what, I’m okay with it.
Chris Badgett: You solved a problem while it was there.
David Blackmon: Yeah, while it was there and made a little bit of money. This goes back to the five revenue streams. This wasn’t our only gig. So, I never had the pressure of, oh my god, what if they incorporate this in, my revenue stream is gonna be gone. Because we had a thriving client services business. We had a thriving maintenance business. And now all of a sudden we’ve added these products into the mix to where it was like, oh, this is pretty good. So, I’ve got the three revenue streams working now and I’ve just never worried about it. I mean I’m happy to help if I can help Nick and them solve problems and they incorporate some things, but I will say this about Nick Roach and Elegant Themes, they’re very cognizant and aware of the fact that the Divi community is awesome. And they try to be very respectful. They realize that they have changed lives. They have built a product that has allowed a lot of people feed their families, which is awesome.
David Blackmon: I can’t imagine how many jobs Divi has created, but Nick’s very aware of that. That there are things that are gonna get implemented into core Divi, but for the most part he’s very respectful.
Chris Badgett: That’s cool. What are the other two streams?
David Blackmon: Well, courses obviously is number four. Five isn’t there yet, it’s on the roadmap and it’s planned, it’s Sass. We have some Sass ideas for 2019. I’m gonna finish answering your original question, which was tell you all about all my moving parts and stuff and I’ll speed it up. Aspen Grove Studios was formed May of 2015. The Divi footer editor was our first product. We now have over almost a 100 products that we’ve created in three years. So, a lot of them we give away. Our first learning platform was not a course, it was the demo zone, which was 100 percent free to teach people how to use Divi. Because we would always get these questions, hey, how did you achieve this? How did you do this and this? How did you design that, style that?
David Blackmon: So, we basically put 25 themes and granted people access to the back end of Divi so they could see how it was built. And I also wanted to show the power of Divi and create these themes with no CSS, no coding. Let’s show you what you can do if you truly understand the potential of this tool that you’re using. So, Aspen Grove Studios, Divi Space we acquired April of 2017. Potent plugins was a company that was started by Jonathan hall who is now our lead backend developer. Jonathan has worked with us, Aspen Grove Studios for the last three years. And he’s just a phenomenal backend developer. And I’ve begged him, can you take on more work? Can I hire you full time? Can I pay you triple of what I’m paying you right now? Because to me he had that much value.
David Blackmon: And I ended up having to buy his company in order to get him to come to work for me. So, we acquired Potent Plugins. Jonathan works with us full time now. So, we’ve acquired two companies and I’ve always had the idea of courses that I wanted to do courses. I’ve always wanted to share the knowledge that I have and that I’ve learned throughout my lifetime because I feel like it’s valuable. I feel like it can help some people. So, I knew courses was on the roadmap, but nobody knows who David Blackmon is. In the Divi community, yeah, they know who I am, but in the WordPress community as a whole, they don’t really know who I am.
David Blackmon: So, I felt like I needed to establish a presence in the WordPress community. What better way to establish a presence, build trust, build up an audience by sharing your knowledge for free on a Podcast and WP the Podcast was born. I wanted to just get out there in the WordPress space, Tim and I did. And try to establish ourselves as authorities in the WordPress space by doing the Podcast. Sharing our business, marketing, technical, all the knowledge around. And that with the long term goal of creating a how to build a WordPress business course, which was to launch third quarter of 2018, which WP Gears is kinda where that’s gonna be housed. WP the Podcast dot com will be moved into WP Gears and then courses and the Podcast will be help there along with a lot of awesome WordPress content, blog posts and stuff like that.
David Blackmon: So, that’s how that transition all happened and we’ve shifted our plans a little bit from the WordPress business course third quarter. We decided it was smarter to probably start with our audience and do a how do you build a Divi business course after our MVP of the CSS and jQuery course. Tim and I talked and thought, you know what, we’re probably missing the boat here, let’s take a step back, modify what we’ve already built. Let’s design it for the Divi community, which is where our base is and then do they bigger picture WordPress course. So, that’s kinda how all of that … Divi Chat is not owned by me, Divi Chat is a partnership between nine individuals that are super awesome. Leslie Bernal, Tim Strifler, myself, my partner Cory Jenkins, Tammy Grant, Terry Hale, Sarah Oates. Let me see if I’m missing anybody.
Chris Badgett: Is Geno in there?
David Blackmon: Geno is not. Because we have decided to take … Geno was one of the founders to Divi Chat with us, but Geno has some other things that he … I mean he’s very much a part of Divi Chat. He’s one of the all the time. But as far as a technical partner of it, he had some other goals that he wanted to pursue in his life that meant something to him. His passions, which we support him. Ministry is very important to him and stuff. So, I’m not gonna dive off into his story, but there were some conflicts with time and stuff and he had to make a choice and we tried to … And that’s where his passion is. So, Geno will be a part of Divi Chat forever and he’ll be on Divi Chat as many times in the future as well.
David Blackmon: So, yeah the initial group that started was like about fifteen of us and what we found out was that even once a week Podcasts is a big commitment. And, so the people who really wanted to be there and stuff we just decided to move forward and we’ve got some awesome things planned with Divi Chat. This year we’re gonna continue to produce content and stuff, but we’re gonna livestream to other platforms besides YouTube. We’re gonna go Facebook. We’re gonna do some Instagram. We’re gonna do some other platforms and stuff. So, just to try some things out. So, yeah, that’s kinda the whole economy if you will.
Chris Badgett: That is awesome. That is really cool, that I really cool. Just from the outside looking in, there’s a couple things that I was hoping you could speak on to the education entrepreneur out there. Basically it has to do with getting outside of the building from behind the computer and going out into the real world, going to events, going to people’s houses. And just also, you’re very much into building teams and working together and collaborating and acquisitions and partnerships. So, could you speak to getting out of the building, getting away from the laptop and your approach to teams?
David Blackmon: Okay, yeah. Well, I must admit, I’m an extrovert Chris, so it’s not really hard for me to get out there and go to these big word camps and PressNomics or CampPress or any of these events like this. That feeds my soul because I am an extrovert and even though I do work in an office all day long here, which is my RV by the way. I’m a digital nomad. My wife and I sold our house a little over three years ago and we’ve been full timing in our RV ever since then. But it’s me by myself. So, the opportunity to go out and be with like minded people to hang out with them. To meet the people that I chat with like you online all the time. For me it’s amazing. It’s amazing for everybody I believe when they meet the people that they work with online and stuff for the first time. It’s really life changing.
David Blackmon: I’ll say this, I say this jokingly most of the time, but online friends are real friends. Now, what is the value brought to me by attending these events. The networking, I’m a networker. I love to meet people like Chris who’s got an awesome product. To meet other people in the WordPress community that I look up to that I’ve watched their YouTube videos. I’ve read their blog posts. They’ve taught me things that I’ve used in my business and stuff. John Brown, original digital nomad that I met. And I remember when I found out that he was gonna be speaking at the word camp, my first work camp that I attended, he was the guy I had to talk to, because I was about to go full time RV and John Brown’s a digital nomad. And we just gotta connect, we’re kindred spirits.
David Blackmon: So, it’s been really awesome. I highly encourage you to get out. Get out from behind the laptop. But it’s not just to the events for networking. Get out into nature. Get out, take some walks. Taking care of yourself physically, mentally and emotionally is very, very important. Because we work by ourselves in front of a computer all day long, it’s really important that we find some kind of balance emotionally, spiritually, physically that we’re able to take care of ourselves so that we can be the best person that we’re gonna be for ourselves and the people around us and the clients we do work for.
David Blackmon: So, getting out is huge. What has that allowed me to do? It’s allowed me to meet potential team members for my team. We have probably … Half of our team is here in the US, half of our team is international. And I have been really lucky. Maybe one of my super powers is finding good talent and team members and stuff. Because we have an awesome team. If there was a competition id put them up against anybody in the world. I mean, they’re just that talented and amazing. There is an art to finding and putting a good team together. And I think the first thing for me when you’re trying to do that is you can’t be afraid to try. You can’t be worried about, oh my god, these people are gonna sabotage my business and stuff. ‘Cause you know what, they could, but somebody local that you hire could do that too.
Chris Badgett: You gotta trust people a little bit.
David Blackmon: You gotta trust people a little bit, you gotta put yourself out there, you gotta be smart about it. Protect yourself. Try to limit your potential risks and … But put yourself out there. Try to give people a chance, ’cause look, I’m gonna share one story with you right now. And this is my philosophy. I’m an intuition guy. I trust my gut. I honor and value our team members and if they tell me that somebody’s good then I wanna take a look at him and stuff. So, we recently are … Our lead front end developer came to and said, hey, I have a person who I think might be a good fit for our company and would you be interested? Do you need any more help? And I asked her what her skillsets were and stuff. And she said, well, I really don’t know, but she’s built a few sites in Divi and I think she might be a good fit. And I said sure, I’ll talk with her. Let me talk to her.
David Blackmon: I did a Zoom interview like this call and I asked her to tell me about herself and I mean she was getting her masters in accounting. She was about to graduate and go into accounting. Had nothing to do with web development, creativity, zero. Most people if she would submit a resume to a web development company and they’re looking at it, they’d be like, what, no way, I’m not even gonna entertain talking to this person. So, just in my interview process with her I just knew that I was willing to give it a shot. And I said, you know what, let’s try it out. Let’s see what you can do. She showed me the Divi site she created and they weren’t nowhere near Dominica’s caliber, which is one of the best designers in the world in my opinion, but it was good enough to where it was like, there’s potential there.
David Blackmon: So, let’s see what that potential can be turned into if she has the right mentor and the people teaching her how to do things properly and stuff. We just recently launched this new Child theme. Divi Nonprofit. Phenomenal nonprofit theme for Divi. It’s the best theme that we’ve built so far. The most complex by far. She designed the home page on that, she custom designed, hand drew all the icons, over a 100 of them. Created them digitally and without knowing video editing at all learned after effects in two weeks and put together all the promo videos on YouTube and Facebook. Go take a look at these things. This was from somebody who was in school for accounting, but had a desire to do something creatively on the web and I was willing to give it a shot. She is amazing.
David Blackmon: I mean, so, this is what happens when you’re willing to be open to trying new things, trying different things and being open to not only international, you know, global. Trying people from around the world. Dominica is from Poland. When we met she spoke Polish. Her english was this much, my Polish was less than that and we worked together for three years. The internet is an amazing place. I know I’m kinda all over the place here Chris with the team and stuff, but my story is so big that it’s like, which one do I focus in on and [crosstalk 00:46:39] share it with you.
Chris Badgett: Yeah, that’s great, thank you for sharing. And there’s so much to be said for hiring attitude and training the skills … When you hire people that have what I call batteries included, that’s what it’s all about especially in the remote working environment and the passion’s there and you see that seed. That can be really powerful. I wanted to switch to one of your other specialties. For the course creator out here who’s listening or watching this. One of your things is just selling and marketing and stuff like that. What are some tips you have, just general sales tips, for the education entrepreneur out there who may be an expert, may have successfully built the website, but they’re struggling to figure out selling and marketing. What general advice do you have?
David Blackmon: Don’t be afraid to give something away for free. We do a lot of things, we have a lot of paid products. We have way more free products than we do paid products and what that has done for us is it has built up our audience and our user base. Emails are very powerful. They’re still the number one form of marketing. Our email list is huge, because we started collecting emails day one. We saw the value in that. So, the way that we did that is we created free tools or assets or themes or layouts or whatever it was and gave them away for free. The demo zone was for free. It actually was for user acquisition. It wasn’t share altruism. I wasn’t, hey, Dave is a great guy, let me go spend all this time, energy and money in building this platform so that people can learn Divi. I knew that we had products that we wanted to sell to the Divi marketplace. And you need an audience to sell those products to.
David Blackmon: So, you need to be thinking about what can I do to grow my audience. What can I do to increase that audience size. Typically people aren’t going to, if they don’t know you, they’re not gonna come to you and just wanna sign up for your email list because you’re a great guy. You’re gonna need to coax them in some shape, form or fashion to allow you to come into their home, their living room, their email box and allow you to pitch your wares to them. That’s number one. Number two is, is when they give you that email, don’t send them email blasts about all your great stuff that you wanna sell them. Give them valuable content. Produce valuable content to them and let them come to your website, always drive them back to your website. Because they will see your products, your services that you’re offering. If you put out valuable content, they’re gonna come.
David Blackmon: And that’s what we did, that’s our model. That’s exactly how we took our company … Aspen Grove Studios dot com was launched in January of 2016, that was a little over two years ago. We had this many customers on the website. We had this many dollars going in. We did 387 dollars the first month. We did 843 dollars the second month. Last month we did in excess almost 50 000 dollars. So, our strategy was, well, let’s just keep providing valuable content to our user base. Let’s give them tools for free and let’s see what happens. Maybe they’ll wanna buy our products and services and courses and all of that stuff. And you know what, they have. So, it’s not nothing new. What I’m saying is nothing new. People have been doing this method for thousands of years.
Chris Badgett: And it still works.
David Blackmon: And it still works, that’s right. It still works. I’ll be genuine, don’t be … Put some thought into it. We spend a lot of money and time and effort in our content and our marketing and the tools that we create and give away for free. We just created a kick ass Child theme for Divi called Divi All Purpose that is 100 percent free. Go download it. Divi.Space. Go download, go check the thing out. It’s free. All you gotta do is give me an email for it and you can … And it’s gotta be a legitimate email. And look, here’s the truth, I’m kinda joking about this. We pay for this email list. So, if you don’t want to be on it, we don’t want you on it.
David Blackmon: Because if you wanna receive valuable information about WordPress and Divi, we put out five blog posts a week, minimum. That’s a lot of content. And that takes time and money and effort. And these blog posts aren’t about, hey, come check out how awesome our products are. These blog posts are about how to solve problems with WordPress. Solutions for Divi. So, yeah, that’s kinda a couple of tips. Sorry [crosstalk 00:52:16].
Chris Badgett: No, that’s great, that’s great. Yeah, giving away as much as you can for free and not just having a pitch fest all the time. There’s so many nuggets of wisdom in there. And you’re not giving away more than you think you can. Like five blog posts a week, Podcasts, free products all kinds of stuff. I mean it’s very powerful. That’s the secret to our success too is we give away a ton for free as well. Well I wanna thank you David for coming on the show and sharing your journey with us and your course case study of what happened there. For the listener out there, how can they connect with you? Is AspenGroveStudios.com the best place or where else can they go?
David Blackmon: They will definitely find me there. They’ll find me everywhere if you go to any of those things we’ve talked about today you’ll find me. I’ll get my email as [email protected] That’s probably the easiest way to get me. I’m on Facebook. I’m on Twitter but I don’t tweet, I’m a terrible tweeter. So, if you send me messages, which Brad Williams the founder of WebDevStudios sent me a DM on twitter a few weeks ago and I’m like, dude, I don’t tweet, I’m so sorry. So, I’m on Instagram. I’m a terrible Instagramer too. Facebook is kinda my thing. So, if you’re on Facebook and it’s your thing and you wanna connect, that’s probably the easiest place to connect with me or on my email.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. And if you’re just listening to this Podcast, go ahead and check out WP the Podcast. It’s got like a purple microphone on it I think. An icon, look for that. Go check out an episode over there. David, thank you so much for coming on the show.
David Blackmon: Thanks for having me Chris. It’s been great.