Myself and business partner at the time, Thierry Muller set out to create a WordPress theme shop with a difference. Rather than following the trend of jamming in tons of features and configuration options, we decided to build a framework that takes care of all the important stuff, allowing you to focus on the unique aspects of your project.
After two years of development, we launched our shiny new site to the WordPress community. If I'm completely honest, the launch was rather underwhelming. You can imagine our disappointment after waking up to the sound of crickets.
While it's common knowledge that launching a new product in community is no small task, largely due to how congested the market is. The plain truth is there are more options to choose from than ever before. Combine that with the never ending list of new technologies being launched, it's no wonder WordPress developers and site-builders have a tendency of sticking with what works.
I guess we naively thought that despite how congested the market was, the framework and products we built would stand out and once people actually tried them, they would instantly be hooked. While the feedback we received was extremely positive, we just weren't getting enough traffic to the site. Even after weeks of reaching out to developers, agencies and bloggers, the momentum was slow to say the least. It wasn't long that the reality set in... it would take at least another year of hustling before ThemeButler was making enough to sustain us both.
A few months after the launch, Thierry let me know he had made the tough decision to exit the business. Living month to month, with no income security can take it's toll.
The news of Thierry's moving on meant I needed to reconsider my approach for the site. After a lot of soul-searching, I came to the conclusion that I wasn't ready to give in yet. So instead of going down the paid model, I decided to try something new. Rather than charge for the themes I create, I am trying out funding my efforts through paid advertising and theme sponsorship's.
It's still too early to know whether the model will work, but for now it means I can continue building premium grade themes, while giving something back to the WordPress community.