Often, quality products are born from situations where creative people need to find solutions to their own problems.
After all, if you need it, someone else might, too!
Well, WP Tasty is no different.
In this edition of our customer showcase series The EDDge, we talk about the story behind Minnesota-based power couple Bjork and Lindsay Ostrom’s three businesses: Pinch of Yum, Food Blogger Pro, and WP Tasty.
In particular, we discuss WP Tasty, which has been used by a number of high-profile food blogs, including Fit Foodie Finds, Cookies & Cups, Spaceships & Laser Beams, and Host the Toast, among others.
To learn more, we spoke with WP Tasty product manager, web developer, and food blogger Raquel Smith about the whole story – and how one experiment with monetizing a food blog led to a fully-fledged software business.
It all started with one basic thing.
Lindsay Ostrom is a former elementary school teacher turned full-time food blogger that was looking for a way to share her recipes online without inundating her Facebook friends with food photos. She started Pinch of Yum as a side venture while working as an elementary school teacher.
On the Pinch of Yum website, Lindsay says:
“In this space, I am always sharing fresh, flavorful, (mostly) healthy recipes that I love to make and eat in my real, actual, every day life. If I wouldn’t eat it in real life, I won’t put in on the blog. My goal is to inspire you with food that is both approachable AND exciting, whether you’re cooking for yourself, your family, your roommates, or your friends. I want you to be so excited about these recipes that you eagerly await 5pm when you can go home from work and start cooking.”
“What started as a casual hobby for nights and weekends while I was working as a fourth grade teacher has now grown into a full-blown business (!!) that reaches millions of people with fun recipes each month,” she says.
Millions…wow! How did that happen?
In 2011, Lindsay and her husband Bjork Ostrom decided to try and take Pinch of Yum from a hobby to an income-generating business. With Lindsay’s passion for food and Bjork’s digital business and technology savvy, they began monetizing the blog and publishing monthly income reports to document the process and share their insights with others.
Soon enough, their readers were hooked, and they started getting a lot of questions from other food bloggers. With all of the experience and insights they were gaining, the couple decided to create a membership site to help people learn how to start and run a food blog.
With this, Food Blogger Pro was born!
“There’s enough room for everyone in the food blog world, so let’s do this thing together.”Food Blogger Pro
With many videos, an active community forum, a panel of industry experts, live monthly events, and discounts on tools and services made specifically for food bloggers, Food Blogger Pro became a go-to resource for many people in the food blogging space.
Raquel Smith was one of those people.
Creating the dream team
Raquel initially came across the income reports that the Ostroms were publishing – and as a food blogger herself, she got a lot of use out of them. From there, she found Food Blogger Pro, and quickly became an engaged member of the community.
“I would spend about an hour each day just answering questions in the forum. I loved helping people solve the problems that I had just solved for myself on my own blog!”
About a year later, Bjork decided it was time to grow the Food Blogger Pro team and put out a call for applications. Raquel was hired in May 2015 to manage the forums and help with the production of the FBP podcast.
Over time, the growing team began to see some areas where food bloggers were being underserved by the software available to them at the time.
“We had been let down before by a recipe plugin and we ended up having to maintain it ourselves for Pinch of Yum. We knew that other bloggers were in the same boat, so we made some moves to develop our own recipe plugin,” Raquel says.
“WP Tasty is a boutique premium plugin business that creates plugins specifically for food bloggers.”Raquel Smith, WP Tasty
In November of 2016 the team started with a waitlist that offered a modest 15 people per week the opportunity to purchase their very first WP Tasty plugin: Tasty Recipes.
“Tasty Recipes makes it easy to add recipes to a WordPress website,” Raquel says. “It also automatically includes structured data for recipes, which is great for SEO.”
It was clear that there was an audience to support the plugin, and in April of 2017 they went public. One year later, their monthly recurring revenue (MRR) had grown by over 700%!
They were on to something.
Expanding the product catalog
With all signs pointing toward success, Bjork, Lindsay, and Raquel decided to create momentum by developing a second plugin – Tasty Pins – that would enable bloggers to add Pinterest pin descriptions for their images.
“Previously, the most common way to add a Pin description was by using the alt tag, but that isn’t the alt tag’s intended purpose. We wanted to enable bloggers to use the alt tag as it was intended (for accessibility, which helps with SEO) but also provide Pinterest users with an optimized image description.”
The growth continued. By early 2020, WP Tasty had generated close to 1,000 active subscriptions for these two products alone. And recently, they released yet another product: Tasty Links.
But with all of this momentum, it wasn’t just about releasing products to make money:
“WP Tasty’s primary goal is to make our customers’ lives easier. This means that we provide our customers with rock-solid plugins that solve real problems, and we give our customers top-notch support for those plugins,” Raquel says.
This focus on enabling others seems to be magic when it comes to selling digital products, and for good reason! Everyone loves a win-win situation. Plus, when you provide something really helpful to customers, you become more than just a product maker; You become a true authority.
Check out this episode of the Food Blogger Pro podcast to hear Bjork and Raquel talk about the different WP Tasty products, Raquel’s history, Google, Pinterest, and more.
Using Easy Digital Downloads
So, how did the WP Tasty team go about selling their plugins anyway? Well, most importantly, they needed a solution that would be both simple to manage and easy for customers to use.
“We’ve built businesses before where the sales process was fragmented – one service to process payments, one service to create the product, one service to handle the renewals. This fragmented process was a pain, and we wanted something that would be really cohesive,” Raquel says.
Easy Digital Downloads turned out to be the right solution – especially when it came to selling software in particular.
“EDD not only brought the sales process together; It enabled us to easily license our products for our customers, which is critical for our premium plugin business,” she continues.
If you sell software, you probably understand the importance of customer support! From helping customers successfully use the software to providing software updates, software is just one of those digital product types that requires a bit more on the support side.
“We needed to be able to support our customers really well,” Raquel says.
For the WP Tasty team, this meant integrating well with their chosen support software: Intercom.
“While EDD doesn’t have an extension built for Intercom, the great documentation of the available classes and methods allowed us to easily create a function to populate the data we needed. Intercom is now kept up-to-date with all our customer information so that we can provide timely, informative support.”
The most important extensions used at WP Tasty are Software Licensing and Recurring Payments.
“Our plugins are licensed for use on one site only and are billed on a yearly basis. We needed a solution that could keep track of when a license expired, whether or not it was cancelled, and bill the customer based on those (and other) properties. Achieving this with EDD and these two extensions was really painless.”
The WP Tasty extension stack also includes:
- Stripe Payment Gateway
- Advanced Reports
“We really appreciate all of the extensions EDD has available and how they work together to create an all-in-one solution,” Raquel says.
To create a diverse and multi-faceted business, it certainly helps to have a flexible solution with plenty of options for customization and added functionality! Of course, we’re not biased or anything… 🙂
In order to fully comprehend the WP Tasty journey, we wanted to know a bit more about the company structure. Raquel explained that WP Tasty was started under Food Blogger Pro, but to keep the product side of things separate from the educational and community side, the team decided to make WP Tasty its very own company.
Now, WP Tasty, Food Blogger Pro, and Pinch of Yum are all technically separate LLCs owned by Bjork and Lindsay – with each company having its own independent goal to make sure that it’s successful in and of itself.
On a day-to-day basis, Lindsay runs Pinch of Yum, while Bjork runs Food Blogger Pro and WP Tasty. Raquel is primarily the product manager for WP Tasty, but she also does web development for all three brands.
“I’ve headed up [WP Tasty] since it began, with Bjork’s guidance, support, and input. We work with a well-respected developer in the WordPress community, Daniel Bachhuber, who was previously the maintainer for WP-CLI and has had a hand in many other WordPress projects, including the WordPress REST API. Daniel does all our plugin development and I do our web development, as well as manage the customer support and product creation.”
A remote team
“Team Tasty is a tight-knit remote team on a mission to help content creators optimize their content with minimal effort.”WP Tasty
Like many digital businesses, the WP tasty team has fully embraced remote working.
“We’ve found that hiring remotely gives us better access to the right people for the job. It allows us to each live in the environment that is perfect for us while also working for a company we love.”
At EDD, we can relate! Our team is entirely remote as well, and it’s increasingly common among the digital product and WordPress communities.
“While working remotely does have its own set of struggles, we feel that it’s 100% worth it. Case and point: I’m a year-round mountain biker and trail runner,” Raquel says.
“Living on California’s Central Coast allows me to do this, which wouldn’t be possible if I lived in Minnesota, where we’re headquartered,” she continues.
We agree that one of the biggest benefits of having a remote team is this kind of flexibility – to work and live according to individual needs and preferences.
What can we say? Happier employees mean better quality work, better products, a better user experience, and ultimately, happier customers!
The philosophy behind everything
“To us, success means that we are meeting our primary goal of making our customers’ lives easier in a way that allows us to have a profitable business.”Raquel Smith, WP Tasty
The team behind WP Tasty certainly has a history of helping others achieve their goals – and it all stems from their own personal experience.
“We have a very niche audience, which helps us capture their attention. All of us either currently maintain or previously maintained our own food blogs, so we’ve found that personal experience in the field to be really important to serving our customers well,” Raquel says.
This sentiment applies to all types of digital products; The more you understand about the niche you’re in, the better you can create and support products that meet the needs of your customers.
But it’s more than just making cool stuff that people like and find useful. We’ve often talked about the importance of providing stellar customer support. In fact, we wrote a post about it!
“Your support team is the public face of the company, and your customers’ support experience can either send them running or make a lifelong customer. We aim for the latter,” she says.
Food for thought
“It’s been a really fun, exciting journey these past few years. We’re constantly looking for ways in which we can support food bloggers by providing awesome functionality in our plugins, as well as a really superior support experience,” Raquel says.
The rich ecosystem that Bjork, Lindsay, Raquel, and the rest of the team responsible for WP Tasty, Food Blogger Pro, and Pinch of Yum have created gives food enthusiasts and food bloggers plenty of inspiration and guidance when it comes to turning their passions into actual businesses.
At EDD, we are always excited to hear about (and share) stories like these – and we are glad to help to facilitate their success.
Hopefully this post has given you some food for thought!
Do you have your own EDD success story to share? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us how Easy Digital Downloads gives you The EDDge!