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Agency Spotlight: How wpXPRESS Grew Despite the Challenging Times

Updated on November 1, 2022

6 Min Read
wpXPRESS

wpXPRESS is a website development agency that offers WordPress development and maintenance services. It’s a Utah-based agency founded by Tevya Washburn in 2008. The agency had steady growth over the years and delivered stellar results to the clients.

In 2019, Tevya needed help with agency operations, and that’s how he met Pat Dumond, founder of another WP-focused development agency: Site Geeks. They collaborated to refine workflows, policies, and other operations for wpXPRESS.

In May 2020, Tevya passed away due to a pulmonary embolism after having flu-like symptoms for several weeks. PE is known to be a fatal side effect of COVID.

The news shocked everyone, and wpXPRESS needed someone to lead the agency. Tevya’s widow, Jill, offered Pat to acquire wpXPRESS, and she took the offer. Since 1st August 2020, wpXPRESS has been operating under Pat’s leadership.

wpXPRESS Services

wpXPRESS provides WordPress maintenance, support, hosting, and development to small businesses and non-profit agencies.

Pat jokes that Site Geeks’ niche was tiny businesses and non-profits run by people over 60.

“While we might be larger if we tightened our niche to dentists or pet stores, we wouldn’t have nearly as much fun. Our member sites range from sites run by doulas to dog breeders and ecommerce sites for jewelry makers, bookstores, and girl campers. We host accountants, lawyers, architects, and beekeepers.” 

wpXPRESS takes pride in working closely with its clients and calls them “members.”

“Working for an enterprise-level non-profit like the World Wildlife Fund would be awesome, but we know our members and their websites. We celebrate their new babies and mourn the loss of their parents, and that’s how we like it.”

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Challenges Faced by wpXPRESS and How They Overcame Them

wpXPRESS struggled during the COVID pandemic. However, the way they kept the business afloat by cutting costs and helping their members continue with them is their biggest achievement.

Plus, Tevya’s sudden death was also quite challenging for Pat.

“We had to help a few members out by cutting back our prices slightly. A few put their sites on pause for a few months, but some had to leave entirely over a year ago. Now, they have reached out recently about getting their sites back online with us. 

That’s a good feeling.”

And that wasn’t all. The new agency owner, Pat, lost almost all her physical possessions to Hurricane Ida. She then got cellulitis in her leg from walking in dirty water and didn’t fully recover for months.

When Pat got sick, her team stepped up. She was transparent and honest with the members. And almost all members who made it through COVID stuck with the agency and are still with them.

wpXPRESS survived all these challenges as a team. They worked together to keep the company going by taking care of the members’ websites after Tevya passed away.

wpXPRESS’ Success Recipe for Agency Growth

Pat believes that having the right balance of personal and professional relationships with the members is the key to success.

“3 of my first 5 clients at Site Geeks are wpXPRESS members today. It would be all 5, but sadly, 2 of them have died. 

As I mentioned earlier, 49% of our members have been with either wpXPRESS or Site Geeks for over 6 years. This member loyalty helps grow the business through referrals and testimonials as well.”

According to Pat, other fruitful success strategies include:

  • Standardization of practices
  • Ongoing training and development
  • Documenting the workflow

wpXPRESS is also working on a member portal which will be a one-stop spot for technical support, secure file sharing, messaging, and account management for the members.

The Most Challenging Project for wpXPRESS and Their Learnings

The most challenging project for wpXPRESS was from the Utah Doula Association, which required them to merge 2 websites.

“They wanted to merge their 2 websites, the main WordPress database and an ASP.net membership site powered by an SQL Server database. It was harder than I thought”

The project was challenging, but Pat’s experience with databases and her work with the Department of the Army Information Technology came in handy, resulting in success.

UDA now has an active WordPress membership site powered by Restrict Content Pro featuring membership directories presented by ProfilePress.

3 Tools/Apps wpXPRESS Uses at Their Agency

wpXPRESS is proficient with tools and applications. They also use several WP plugins to ensure a smooth workflow and excellent website experience for the members. Some of them include:

  • Stripe as a payment gateway
  • ShortPixel or wpCompress image compression
  • BlogVault for site management, security, and client reporting
  • Akismet spam prevention
  • Gravity Forms
  • Updraft+ backups

They also use 1Password for efficient password management.

“Another tool we can’t live without is 1Password. When you are dealing with sharing authentication credentials for so many websites (both member sites and vendors) as well as tracking software licenses and other information, a password management app is essential.

It’s a personal preference, and your mileage may vary, but if you are not using password management, stop right now and start checking them out.”

How Has Cloudways Contributed to wpXPRESS’ Growth?

Cloudways has been crucial for the success of wpXPRESS. In the words of Pat, Cloudways is the best decision she’s ever made.

“I have said many times to many people that Cloudways is the best business decision I’ve ever made. I’ve been working with web servers for many, many years. I’ve worked with probably a dozen or more hosting providers over the years, including using Bitnami and Vultr directly to launch servers.”

When Pat joined wpXPRESS as a consultant they were using Flywheel. Flywheel had a great legacy price, but wpXPRESS didn’t use all of the sites on the plan. And they were paying almost $10/site.

“Then I noticed, as often happens as a hosting provider “ages” that both the sites and the support were getting slower. Both are still excellent, but they were not what they were in 2019 when 2021 rolled around. So, I was looking to save money on my hosting.”

Pat also had a white-label partner who was looking to switch their hosting provider.

“One of my white-label partners, an SEO agency, was looking to do the same. Somehow she ended up providing hosting to many of her clients and she came to me for a recommendation when she was ready to leave SiteGround early last year. Their pricing policy (low buy-in and then WHAM, when it is time to renew) really sent her into sticker shock.

She had asked around, and many of her SEO colleagues were recommending Cloudways.”

Upon her partner’s recommendation, she decided to give Cloudways a try. The ease of migrating her existing websites at half of what she was paying to Flywheel influenced her decision.

“The first thing I saw was that I could move all of my wpXPRESS and personal websites, all of the member sites we had on Flywheel, and the sites Audrey, the partner mentioned above, needed to Cloudways for half what I was paying Flywheel and Audrey would pay me for her server!”

After using Cloudways, she loved the platform and the services. And her member’s websites started performing well instantly.

“95% of the sites I migrated from Flywheel to Cloudways increased their GTmetrix performance scores by at least 2 letter grades based just on the server move. The platform is intuitive and easy to use, and as an agency partner, I have “enhanced support”. I’m not sure how much of the support I ask for in chat falls in the “enhanced support” arena, but I know that Cloudways support engineers are hands-down the best I’ve ever worked with.

They put up with me even when it is close to midnight my time, and we’ve been trying to figure out a problem (usually caused by something I’ve done) for hours. That doesn’t happen often, but when it does, I know we’ll figure it out together and I won’t get the GoDaddy run-around or be told that it isn’t their problem.”

Pat was also delighted by Cloudways’ recent offering, i.e., SafeUpdates for updating the WordPress sites’ core, plugins, and themes with ease.

“The recent addition of Safe Updates has made life with a few problem WordPress sites a lot easier to handle. I’m looking forward to a long relationship with Cloudways.”

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wpXPRESS’ Tips for New Agency Owners

Pat’s believes that niching down and narrowing the options isn’t the best way for new agency owners.

“All the gurus say you should pick a narrower niche, and I won’t argue with them, but for me, it is all about the people I help. By not restricting wpXPRESS to a certain type of business, we get to work with people from all walks of life.”

Also, she suggests that you should work closely with your clients.

“I’m trying to say is know what you want: if you want to grow as quickly as possible, sell your agency, and move on to the next project listen to the gurus. If you want to get up in the morning knowing that you are helping real people with real problems, not just updating websites, maybe an approach more like ours would fit you.”

A Quote That Represents wpXPRESS

wpXPRESS believes that their mission statement is the perfect quote for their business.

We take care of your website so you can take care of business.”

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Raza Aslam Lakhani

I'm a digital content producer at Cloudways. I'm also a hodophile- always ready to explore new places and cultures. Other than that, I play guitar and love to indulge myself in deep, meaningful conversations. Always looking for opportunities to learn new things.

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