“Start small. Worry about the right issues at the right time.” Interview with Kimberly Coleman (Featured WP-Professional)

  • Interviews

We are excited to introduce Kimberly Coleman as the guest in our WP-Professional of the Month series. She is the co-founder of Stranger Studios, well known for their products Paid Memberships Pro (PMPro), a powerful WordPress membership plugin and LifterLMS, another WordPress plugin for e-learning.

Kim Coleman wears multiple hats as a frontend designer, web developer and entrepreneur. With a keen eye for innovative solutions and a passion for empowering entrepreneurs, Coleman has played a pivotal role in revolutionizing how individuals and businesses monetize their online content and services.

Her leadership and strategic insights have been instrumental in Stranger Studios’ growth and success. Her journey inspires others, and her impact reverberates far beyond lines of code.

She can be reached on X and her website.

You are well known in the WordPress circles. How did you get introduced to WordPress?

In the early 2000s, I was making side money as a freelance website designer and developer. This was around the same time WordPress was launched. Over time, I moved from custom-coded website builds to using WordPress as the CMS for our clients.

Where are you based? Does your location influence your work?

I’m based in Reading, Pennsylvania about 1 hour from Philadelphia. It’s great that I’m close to several major East Coast US metro areas (Philly, Washington, DC, and New York). I wouldn’t say that this location has influenced my work at all, but we do have two local PA team members that I wouldn’t have otherwise known without living in this area, so that piece is very important.

Please share some projects you are currently involved with.

My major projects right now are two well known and trusted, 100% open source platforms: Paid Memberships Pro and LifterLMS.

Screenshot of lifterlms.com

I’m also developing a personal project – a course on doing a content audit and content refresh. The course is aimed primarily at creators and businesses with a large backlog of content (I’m talking many years of content) that is in varying states of accuracy and usefulness.

Aside from this, I’m also developing a couple of new FSE / Block themes for membership site/subscription site creators: Cashflow and Member Block

As a co-founder, how do you balance your responsibilities between PMPro and other projects like LifterLMS?

Right now I’m reevaluating every quarter what time commitment I can give to each team. I won’t lie and say this isn’t a major challenge. It’s hard for me to be split between so many projects, professional and personal, and not want to give my best effort to everyone.

Evaluating and being honest with what each product team needs and how I can be there for the top priorities is key. I want to always provide value and do purposeful work so that my limited time on every project makes the highest impact. 

What is your favorite a) Plugin b) Theme c) Hosting and why?

Screenshot of www.paidmembershipspro.com

Can they be my own plugins? I would definitely say my favorite plugin is our Paid Memberships Pro plugin. Each time I start a fresh build, whether for a personal project or a new demo, I’m floored at how fast I can get the membership features up and running.

I just did a BuddyBoss Theme demo and I’m really loving it so far — especially the tight integration for PMPro and LifterLMS. That theme is a game-changer for anyone that wants to start a community on a platform they own and manage.

Screenshot of pressable.com

The WordPress hosting game is complex, but I always hear great things about Pressable and the newer player, Rapyd. We currently host and manage our own servers on Digital Ocean, which works well for us (albeit very technical for a DIY creator).

Several people have shared the discrimination they face for being a woman in tech space. What are your thoughts? How can we make WordPress more inclusive?

For myself, one of the biggest barriers I face is my own hesitation to be public with my comments, issues, needs, challenges, etc.

So my own personal goal is to push through these feelings that “no one will care”, “I’ll be judged” or “trolls will jump on me.”

I’ve found I hold back, not because I don’t bring value to conversations, but because I literally have zero extra time and care to give to the public. I don’t speak because I like the sound of my own voice, I do it when I know I can give value or share experiences that help others.

The women-focused communities I’m in are calm, conversational, and more focused on who we are as whole people—not just our work or how we WordPress. These communities are much more natural for me to be a part of.

I don’t know how this answers your question here. I’m sure there are men in tech that share these same feelings.

It’s always going to be a challenge and it takes work on all sides. I’d like to be a part of the side that mentors, boosts, and appreciates the voices of women in tech. I don’t want to be a part of the side that complains about “the way things seem that they are”.

What would you like to see implemented in WordPress as a Core feature?

Frontend login and password reset. Too many platforms are tackling this and it creates endless user confusion.

We had so many acquisitions in WordPress in recent times. What are your thoughts on it?

I personally love to see a competitor get acquired. History has shown that even if temporarily, the process slows down how fast they can iterate and release.

People will argue that isn’t the case.

But when I talk to my customers who’ve left competitors’ products, it’s often when the acquisition process has lowered support quality, made the product less usable/more sales and marketing focused, or just stalled innovation.

Keep the acquisitions coming. I’m here and independent for the long haul.

What advice would you give to entrepreneurs about to start their own businesses?

Start small. Worry about the right issues at the right time. Find mentors or experts who talk about just getting started; don’t follow people who are three years into their product or service journey. Their problems are future problems.

Also, own your platform. Sacrifice more upfront time building, maybe a little less feature rich or “beautiful” products, for the security of owning your data. You must have direct access to your customers. This also future-proofs your business if third-party platforms close or their pricing changes.

Life has both success and failure. Please share one mistake that you made early in your career.

I’ve always known that design is important, and as the frontend developer on our PMPro team, I think I made the mistake of not focusing on design. We always thought the themes would style for PMPro. That was wrong.

In 2024 and in the years ahead, I’m going to be more opinionated about the frontend design of our products. I think that’s how products like Ultimate Member or BuddyBoss got popular so fast. Even if their functionality is built on top of another OSS codebase, in the case of BuddyBoss, or just way less powerful than PMPro, in the case of Ultimate Member.

What is Kimberly like away from WordPress? What are your ways of chilling?

Most people would say I don’t chill – I’m a very busy person in my work and home life. I enjoy being outdoors, taking care of my kids and dogs, beautiful charcuterie platters, listening to and playing music, drinking fun and interesting wine.

For me, a perfect night of chilling is a big dinner party at home with friends, their kids, all the dogs, and lots of laughter.

The WP-Content team wishes Kimberly all the very best in her future endeavors and hopes to see her make more contributions to WordPress.

Meet our previous WP-Professionals of the Month – Birgit Pauli-Haack, Hari ShankerWinstina Hughes, Vikas Singhal, JB Audras, Michelle Frechette

The WP Week Newsletter

A weekly newsletter covering updates from the WordPress ecosystem that are relevant and helpful for WordPress agencies, developers, and enthusiasts

Leave your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *