In 2000 my brother and I had to fly out to Vegas for a software conference. For the first time since it had been built, we'd be checking out Paris – which was supposed to have an incredible buffet and a nice rooftop pool. And of course, there'd be a lot of software geeks to talk to.
In a moment of inspired brilliance brought on by one too many pizza rolls, I looked towards the living room where some local high schoolers were playing the PS2 (something we'd spent all night waiting for outside of a Best Buy so that I could be #2 to get it in my town). In that moment I decided to invite one of them to join us on the trip – under the condition his parents agree.
They agreed and so we booked his flight and took him with us to Vegas. In the back of my mind, the idea was that we'd introduce him to software, computers, geeks and more. And then he'd decide to become a developer.
But Vegas is known more for its casinos than its programmers. And within a few hours, this high schooler looked at me and said, “One day I'd like to run one of these.”
I, of course, had no idea what he was talking about. After all, we were in an elevator. And seriously, those days (of people sitting in the elevator announcing each floor) were long over.
But he meant something different. He wanted to run a hotel.
Our trip inspired him, but to a different end.
He came home, finished high school, started some college and then jumped at the chance to work at a local hotel. From there, every time the hotel chain needed some short term help in an assistant manager role, he volunteered – even if it meant quitting school. And then he moved to take the chance at a temp role of the hotel manager at another hotel (of the same chain).
And then, one day, I got a phone call from the permanent manager of a hotel in South San Francisco.
He'd done everything he needed to do and wanted to do, so that he could get to where he wanted to go. And he was finally in the very spot he wanted to be in.
It makes you wonder
The reason I tell you the story is because it makes me wonder what would have happened if I never took him to such a large and impressive hotel.
But sometimes we need exposure to dream. Don't we?
We can't even imagine a possible world until we experience the slight touch of it. Until we know it's even possible, we don't dream for it.
And maybe that's the real benefit of ThemeForest.
Did I lose you there?
If I jumped too fast, let me slow down a bit. Most people think of ThemeForest as a place where they can buy themes – including WordPress themes.
Some people think of ThemeForest as a place where you can get themes that may look pretty but are bloated and less than well-supported. But they're working on that.
But I have started looking at ThemeForest as something different. I wonder if, at least in the WordPress world, it functions as a kind of incubator.
An incubator, in the software world, is a place where small startups go to get some initial help to flush out their ideas and see if they can turn dreams into realities. Some of the best incubators also provide a way for many startups to meet each other, collaborate, network, and support one another.
But the thing that incubators do best is a lot more simple than all of that.
They provide entrepreneurs with glimpses of companies becoming real. They experience or witness others finding success. And that breath of success blows on the back of their necks and inspires them.
And I wonder if the secret benefit of ThemeForest is simply that – a place to demonstrate to young developers that there's a way to turn this passion you have, and skill you've developed, into something bigger than just a theme or two.
Let me introduce you to Array
As I spent time over the last few years on ThemeForest checking things out, I noticed a particular developer that kept producing themes I really found attractive. Upon purchasing them, I also noticed the code was really clean. And if someone asked a question, I saw that they got an answer quickly.
I told you about Okay Themes – the folks that produced these themes that were far better than just “okay”.
It's a re-launch. It's a re-brand. But it's more than that.
In my mind, it's a bit like that phone call I got from my old friend who suddenly made it.
20,000 clients have told Mike that he made it. And he believed them. And it was possible because ThemeForest brought many of those 40,000 eyeballs to him and his themes.
Mike's not the first (and won't be the last)
I remember the first time I found this little plugin on CodeCanyon (ThemeForest's sister site for plugins). Several years ago some guy named Mordauk created Easy Content Types. I bought it and was surprised by how clean it was.
Then I found out he had created something else. And then something else – and I kept buying these plugins to check out the code and test them out. He too responded to inquiries. He too developed a solid presence on the site and made good sales.
And he too left to move all his plugins on his own site – http://pippinsplugins.com.
And if I recall correctly, when we talked about his transition, it sounded like his business grew even faster once he was on his own.
I hope Mike sees the same success. It's deserved.
What about you?
Do you have a theme or plugin that you've been building? Maybe it's time for you to try out one of Envato's sites. The marketplace is large. Tons of people visit. And there's money to be made.
But most importantly, it's the exposure to the concept of success. The idea that people are actually turning themes and plugins into a business. You know it. But you haven't felt it.
And maybe that's what ThemeForest and CodeCanyon can do for you. Maybe they can help you see that your side gig is for real and could become (with a lot of work) your only gig.
If so, what are you waiting for?