Barn2 Plugins is a WordPress company that builds innovative WordPress and WooCommerce plugins. The company is a family-run business by Katie and Andy Keith.
Barn2 Plugins (formerly Barn2 Media) based in South Devon, England, are the UK’s longest established WordPress company. Already in 2009, they started their business.
Since then, they have grown tremendously and now have an entire team of colleagues around the world, including two full-time plugin support engineers, a developer who works on the Barn2 website, and a marketing team.
Barn2 Plugins now sells WordPress and WooCommerce plugins to over 111 countries worldwide.
As the curious soul, I am, I contacted Katie and asked some questions about Barn2 Plugins.
10 Questions to Katie Keith from Barn2 Plugins
Let’s find out more about Barn2 Plugins, Katie and Andy Keith. Shall we?
Q1: Can you please tell us a bit about yourself and Barn2
I’m Katie, the business half of Barn2 Plugins. I run the company with my husband Andy (the technical half!). We’re based in a small town in South West England and have an 8-year-old daughter called Sophia.
Q2: How did you first get involved with WordPress?
I started building WordPress websites for clients back in 2009. While we started as a general web design company, we always chose to build websites with WordPress and ended up being one of the first UK companies to specialize in WordPress. It allowed the business to grow very quickly, as there was a shortage of WordPress experts back then.
We always wanted to sell WordPress products and switched to selling plugins in 2016. We now sell plugins to over 111 countries worldwide.
Q3: Barn2 build plugins for WordPress and WooCommerce; tell us why you choose that niche?
When building a product business, it’s essential to play to your strengths and focus on what you know. Since we already ran a successful WordPress agency, we were deeply immersed in the industry. We knew where the gaps, opportunities, and pain points were, which would allow us to build a successful plugin business.
We were aware of how fast WooCommerce was growing. How people are willing to pay more for plugins that will increase their sales – for obvious reasons! It naturally led us to focus on WooCommerce. This decision has proved to be correct, as the WooCommerce versions of our plugins sell much better than the general WordPress versions. For example:
- We have sold 5x more copies of our WooCommerce Protected Categories plugin than its generic equivalent – Password Protected Categories.
- We have sold 2x more copies of our WooCommerce Product Table plugin than its generic equivalent – Posts Table Pro.
This is particularly interesting given that the generic Password Protected Categories and Posts Table Pro plugins can be used for ANY WordPress post type. Whereas the WooCommerce versions only work with WooCommerce products.
When we launched WooCommerce Product Table and Posts Table Pro, I was convinced that Posts Table Pro would sell more because it has so many more potential use cases such as creating a WordPress document library, blog post index, member directory, audio library, and much more.
I think this shows the size of the market for WooCommerce products and the opportunities it brings.
Q4: What challenges did you face in building your business?
Our three biggest challenges have been time, time, and time!
Our daughter was born shortly after we started the business. As a result, we have grown the company against the backdrop of making sure we had the right work-life balance, and have never worked ridiculous hours. We do work hard, but not at the expense of family.
In many ways, we wish we had started working for ourselves much sooner when we had more free time. Andy and I are both perfectionists, and it has been hard to free up more time by building a team. We’ve never wanted to spend our time managing people, as that’s not what we enjoy.
While we still don’t have any in-staff. We have now built a team of colleagues around the world, including two full-time plugin support engineers, a developer who works on the Barn2 website, and a marketing team. When needed, we also bring in additional skills as required, for example, design work.
We have recently experimented with having other developers build some straightforward plugins for us. We hope to be able to get more help with the plugin development in the future – we’re very careful about this because it’s important that our plugins continue to meet our high standards.
Q5: You recently rebuilt and rebranded Barn2 – Can you tell us why, how the process went and what difficulties you experienced?
When we started selling plugins in 2016, we sold them on our existing website, which was previously used to promote our web design services. We added Easy Digital Downloads to the site, but never actually rebranded as a plugin company.
We had known for a long time that we would need to rebrand and launch a new website to take the plugin business to the next level. However, given the challenges I mentioned in the previous question, it took us a long time to prioritize this. We knew it would be a huge project which would distract us from building more plugins and improving our existing ones!
In the end, we started the project. It took us a long time to find a designer we were happy with because while we’re not designers ourselves, we know what we like – not an easy combination!
We weren’t happy with the work of the first designer we hired for the project and ended up using 99Designs for our new logo and website design.
The logo design went well. We were very pleased with one of the competition entries to design our new website. But, unfortunately, their work got worse and worse as we commissioned them to produce additional designs.
We later discovered that the original designer left the designer part-way through the project, which explains why the later designs weren’t as good as the original ones. We only got them to the standard we wanted by providing long lists of feedback and doing some of the work ourselves, which was the last thing we wanted to spend time on.
While the design part of the project was a struggle, we got there in the end and are delighted with our new branding. We were lucky to find a fantastic developer to build our new website. As we now work with on an ongoing basis.
You can read the full story of our rebrand in a transparency post I wrote – The Story Behind Barn2’s Rebrand & New Website.
Q6: What is your typical working day like at Barn2?
Andy and I work partly from our home office, and partly from an office. We rent at an ex-factory, which has been converted into a work hub.
After walking my daughter to school. I typically spend about half an hour cleaning the house and tidying up, before starting work in the home office.
Mid-morning, we will often drive to the work hub and work there. Since I work with my husband, we usually take time out to go for lunch or a walk in Dartmoor National Park. Which is right behind the office. We then return to the office and work until it’s time to collect Sophia.
While we rarely have face-to-face meetings with anyone other than each other. We work closely with the other members of the Barn2 team via email, Slack, and Helpscout. Due to time zone differences, the support team start work first and finish at about the same time as us. Our developer continues working after we have finished. There’s always some overlap, which is great.
Q7: What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working with WordPress?
Since being desk-based isn’t very healthy, I try to find the time to do some exercise each day. The only exercise I particularly enjoy is walking. We’re lucky to live in a beautiful part of the English countryside with the coast and a national park very close by.
I also use the treadmill in the garage (while watching Netflix) a couple of times a week and do yoga sessions on YouTube.
Q8: What does the WordPress Community mean to you?
The WordPress Community is hugely important to me. Like most home workers, it’s easy to become isolated and work in a silo. The WordPress community provides a broader perspective, lots of ideas
I’m proud to be quite active in the WordPress Community, particular in relation to other plugin companies.
I’m an active member of several Facebook groups relating to selling WordPress products, WordPress product support, WooCommerce, and Easy Digital Downloads. It has been a fabulous opportunity to get to know other people who run similar plugin companies. I often exchange messages and ideas with people who do similar work to me.
This morning I was invited to join a new group of people who run similar plugin companies so that we can learn from each other.
WordCamps are my favorite part of the WordPress community because they’re the only time that I meet other WordPress people face-to-face. I don’t have the opportunity to attend many WordCamps. But I make the effort to go to WordCamp London and WordCamp Europe where possible.
Now I know more and more members of the WordPress Community. I try to contact people who I know will be attending and arrange to meet them in person.
For example, for WCEU in Berlin this year. I helped to arrange a meetup with the owners of several WordPress plugin companies. It makes networking opportunities more relevant, although it’s fun meeting random people at WordCamps too.
Q9: What are your plans for Barn2 in the future?
I love selling plugins and plan to continue doing this for the foreseeable future. More specifically, we plan to continue growing the business by improving our existing plugins and launching more new ones.
We need to continue focusing on expanding our development capacity. Recruiting some highly experienced WordPress developers who we can trust to add new features, build new plugins, etc. – while being very careful not to sacrifice on quality. This will involve continuing to fine-tune and formalize our processes so that less is dependent on Andy as the sole developer.
Right now, we’re building what will be the best plugin on the market for adding EU VAT support to Easy Digital Downloads. This has always been a significant pain point for EDD stores, such as ourselves.
There are no high quality, well-maintained plugins available, so we’ve decided to “scratch our own itch” by building our own. As well as using it on our website. We will be releasing the plugin to the wider WordPress community, and we hope it will be useful to other Easy Digital Downloads store owners.
Q10: Whom should we interview next & why?
James Kemp from IconicWP. His company is quite similar to Barn2 as he is building a small team and specializes in selling WooCommerce plugins. I’m always impressed by his professional and business-like approach to building a plugin company, so he’s a good person to interview.
I thank Katie from Barn2 Plugins for taking the time to attend and answer all the questions for this interview.