096: Lesley Sim’s Journey from Free Diving to Craft Brewing to WordPress Plugin Owner


About Lesley Sim:

Lesley Sim was a government employee, ad agency suit, freediving instructor… And then she found WordPress. She built sites on WordPress as part of her digital marketing agency before switching to building plugins. Now, she focuses on Newsletter Glue and MailerGlue – both are email plugins for WordPress.

Find Lesley Sim: | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn


Video clip of Angela and Lesley

Episode 96 Lesley Sim
Women in WP | WordPress Podcast
096: Lesley Sim's Journey from Free Diving to Craft Brewing to WordPress Plugin Owner
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Show Notes

Lesley’s craft brewing beer bottle labels:

Transcript

Angela Bowman:

Welcome to Women in WP, a bi-monthly podcast about women who blog, design, develop, and more in the WordPress community. Hi, welcome to Women in WP. I’m Angela Bowman. Our guest today is Lesley Sim, joining us from Singapore. She is co-founder of Newsletter Glue, a WordPress newsletter plugin that allows you to build beautiful email newsletters in WordPress in half the time you’d normally build a newsletter, and without code. I’m going to totally check this out. In her past life, she co-owned a Craft brewery and taught free diving professionally. Wow. Welcome Lesley.

Lesley Sim:

Hey, Angela. So glad to be here.

Angela Bowman:

I’m so glad to have you finally, and our time difference is huge. And so just coming up with a time that we can meet is like a miracle. We’d like to start off each episode asking our guests how they got into WordPress, but I just really want to ask you how you got into free diving. Maybe we’ll have to-

Lesley Sim:

We can talk about both.

Angela Bowman:

We’ll talk about both those things. That sounds good. So how did you get started?

Lesley Sim:

In WordPress?

Angela Bowman:

Yes. Well, tell me how you got started in free diving then. Let’s talk about WordPress.

Lesley Sim:

Okay. The medium length story is that I kind of wanted to quit my job and do something, and I was looking for excuses and places to go. And a friend had been sharing her free diving photos on Facebook back when we all used Facebook, and it looked really, really beautiful. She was in the Philippines, and so I went to join her for a couple of days and then free diving there. And fast-forward a year later and I was still kind of looking for things to do. And I remembered that the free diving instructor in the Philippines, he had said that he had learned free diving for the first time in Honduras.

And I was in the States at the time traveling and I didn’t want to go back home. And I was like, “Oh, what can I do? Maybe I’ll go to Honduras and do free diving there.” And so I got in touch with the school there, went over there. This all happened within the span of three days.

Angela Bowman:

Wow.

Lesley Sim:

Oh, I was actually in Colorado. I was in Evergreen visiting a friend.

Angela Bowman:

Wow. Wow. Near me. Yeah.

Lesley Sim:

Yeah. So I was there and trying to figure out what I wanted to do next because I wasn’t ready to go home. And I was like, “Oh, maybe I’ll just do this free diving thing in Honduras.” And I wasn’t super committed to free diving at that point or anything, but I was looking for something to do. And so I went over there and I ended up really, really liking it. And so I was actually intending to just stay for three weeks and I ended up staying for eight months.

Angela Bowman:

Wow.

Lesley Sim:

Yeah. And so, one thing led to another. I did the first course, the second course. And yeah, over time I became an instructor and ended up teaching free diving.

Angela Bowman:

So for those who don’t know what free diving is, is basically holding your breath while going underwater. So without a tank or anything, right?

Lesley Sim:

Yeah. It’s like very enthusiastic snorkeling.

Angela Bowman:

Very enthusiastic. I love that. So when I was a little girl, I grew up in Southern California and we just have swimming pools. You spend the entire summer in the swimming pool. And my favorite thing was, I mean, I like six, seven, eight years old, swimming from one end of the pool to the other. And I could make it about halfway back underwater holding my breath. And I used to just think I was a mermaid.

Lesley Sim:

The length of the pool?

Angela Bowman:

The length of the pool.

Lesley Sim:

Wow.

Angela Bowman:

I was just very into showing my skill to do this. And then also getting quarters off in the bottom of the deep end, the eight-foot deep end. I was really into holding my breath underwater. And we’d have tea parties, you sit underwater with a friend and you kind of pretend like you’re there’s tea. Or we’d have these games where we’d swim between each, be in a corner and swim through each other’s arms and legs without touching. So I was into being in the water. But I don’t think I could do that today so much, but I do love swimming underwater. So how many minutes are you under when you’re doing that?

Lesley Sim:

So people always really concerned with the length of time in breath holding, but that’s actually not the most difficult part about free diving. So I can say that my longest dive was, this is a while ago now, it’s like almost eight years ago. Oh no, 10 years ago. This was 10 years ago that I was in Honduras. Four minutes I think was my-

Angela Bowman:

Wow.

Lesley Sim:

… yeah, longest dive. Either three minutes or four minutes. I’m going to go with three minutes. And my longest breath hold was 4:45. So breath hold, just kind of like on the surface, not actually moving, just holding my breath was 4:45.

Angela Bowman:

Wow. Just thinking about it makes me dizzy.

Lesley Sim:

No. So the interesting thing about free diving is that the breath holding is the part that everyone’s kind of concerned about before they start, but then once they actually get into it, they realize that’s not the hardest part. So the hardest part is actually equalizing. So you know when you go on planes or even to the bottom of the pool and ears hurt, you have to equalize. So the thing about free diving is you’re actually going quite quickly. You’re going through the depths quite quickly, so you have to equalize quite quickly. And you only have the air that you have with you at the surface, so that’s different from scuba diving.

So in scuba diving, you don’t want to go down quickly, firstly. And secondly, you have air at every different depth because you’re constantly breathing. So with free diving, you kind of, because air compresses… Sorry, this has turned into this technical on how to free dive.

Angela Bowman:

No, I love it. Technical. We’re technical people, we can handle it.

Lesley Sim:

So air compresses as you go down under pressure. And so by the time you’re, let’s say 20 meters deep, you have three times, two times, I’m forgetting, but this was 10 years ago, two to three times less pressure than you did at the surface. And so you have two to three times less air to equalize with. And then you go down further and you have less air again and less air again. Every 10 meters you have one bar less of air. And so I don’t dive to 100 meters, but if theoretically you dive to 100 meters, there are lots of people who can, you have really very, very little air to equalize with and that makes it really hard.

Yeah. So actually the difficulty is in equalizing and not with holding your breath, because even 100-meter dive takes about four minutes. And at that level, most of them can hold their breath for that no problem. And it’s like, more the effort of… It’s 100 meters, so it’s like 100 meters down and then another 100 meters up, right, back to the surface. And so it’s like the effort and all of that. Yeah.

Angela Bowman:

What do you have to do to equalize? What is it? Is there any action after that?

Lesley Sim:

Just stuff like hold your nose and then blow out. So yeah, blowing out through your nose while holding it, and then that equalizes the air pressure.

Angela Bowman:

Okay, that makes a lot of sense. Yeah.

Lesley Sim:

Yeah.

Angela Bowman:

Yeah. It’s kind of like a sack of potato chips when it goes on an airplane and it fills up with…

Lesley Sim:

Yeah.

Angela Bowman:

When we get things in Colorado, they’re often very puffed up because we’re coming up into a high altitude.

Lesley Sim:

Oh, interesting.

Angela Bowman:

Yeah. And then it goes down. When you go down to sea level it kind of gets all smashed up. That is amazing. So from free diver, did you do the beer before or after that?

Lesley Sim:

I did the beer after that. So when I came back home, I was all ready to just continue this life of free diving and my mom sat me down and she had this really serious talk with me, and she’s not the kind that ever really interferes. So the fact that she sat me down and had a talk, capital A, capital T, was an indication that she was really concerned. I was ready to pack up, go to Bali next, do this thing next, do that thing next, and just kind of be a professional free diving instructor. And she felt that I should not do that. And so I tried to get a regular job at an agency. So before I did all of this, I used to work at an ad agency and before that at the airport.

And I didn’t really like having a full-time job, but I was like, “Okay, mom, I’ll go get a full-time job again.” And I realized that after doing the free diving thing, it was really, really hard and the change was too big. And so I quickly left that new job and I started an agency and was working with a friend and he had a friend who was doing a Craft beer thing. And so I kind of got more involved in the Craft beer thing because it was really interesting. I didn’t super like being in the alcohol industry just because it was a lot of late nights, a lot of talking to people in bars, half drunk and all of that. But I liked the Craft-ness of it, being able to make cool beers and the design, making the labels and things like that.

Angela Bowman:

Oh, yeah.

Lesley Sim:

I don’t know if this is being, are we going to show the video as well?

Angela Bowman:

What I do is I’ll grab some video clips. So yes, but I have to see the label.

Lesley Sim:

Yeah. So this is one of them.

Angela Bowman:

Oh my gosh. Innocence Brewery. Innocence Brewing. I love it. So what kind of beers did you make? Did you do lagers? IPAs?

Lesley Sim:

So, this is a wheat beer.

Angela Bowman:

Nice. Love the label. Did you design the label?

Lesley Sim:

No, I hired someone, but I came up with-

Angela Bowman:

You came up with the concept and everything?

Lesley Sim:

Yeah, exactly. And this was an IPA.

Angela Bowman:

I love IPAs.

Lesley Sim:

Yeah. I like IPAs.

Angela Bowman:

Oh, I love the… So for those of you listening, you have this IPA label. I will take a screenshot and post it in the show notes is a girl. She has long red hair, she’s a kind of cartoonish character, she has a cool skirt, blue skirt, light blue blouse with a cat, black cat on the shirt, and she has a tail. And then she’s got this cool long hatchet-like thing that she carries. She’s a real character from a role playing game or something. She’s awesome. I want to be her. These are awesome labels.

Lesley Sim:

This is the last one. This was a coffee beer.

Angela Bowman:

Oh, they’re just the most fun labels. See, here’s a guy, he’s had a hard time in life. He has no neck, and he’s got this white shirt with it seems like blood pouring out of it.

Lesley Sim:

It’s coffee he spilled.

Angela Bowman:

And then [inaudible 00:12:31] his shoulder.

Lesley Sim:

He spilled coffee on his shirt.

Angela Bowman:

He spilled coffee on his shirt. Oh my gosh. And he’s kind of turning. Yeah, he’s turning. Oh, I see. He’s got a coffee cup that’s spilled and he’s turning… He’s like a creature that’s had to put on work clothes. And now it’s almost like a werewolf, this is kind of… He’s like a little porcupine guy. So cute. They’re so fun. So I don’t know if you know where I live. It’s all breweries everywhere. We’re breweries all in our city, neighboring cities. That was part of going on a bicycle ride, go on a 50-mile ride and halfway through stop at the brewery. Nothing like an nice cold beer to get you through the rest of your bike ride.

Lesley Sim:

I wish that these beers still existed and that you could try them.

Angela Bowman:

I do too.

Lesley Sim:

Yeah. So the idea was the brewery was called Innocence Brewing, and our tagline was Wicked Good Beer. And so we were trying to play with that juxtaposition for all our labels. So yeah.

Angela Bowman:

Oh, that sounds like so much fun. And then somehow you became a tech nerd.

Lesley Sim:

So in order to do our brewery, we needed to have a website.

Angela Bowman:

Yep, that’s how it happens.

Lesley Sim:

Yeah, that’s how it happens.

Angela Bowman:

That’s how WordPress sucks you in. It’s like joining the cult. It’s like, you need a website, don’t you?

Lesley Sim:

Yeah. Yeah. So we actually started with Shopify, and then it was a typical thing like, “Oh, we needed it to be cheaper.” I heard WordPress, it’s open source, it’s free, cheap. And then, yeah, that’s how I got sucked in.

Angela Bowman:

That sounds amazing. So many of us got sucked in just by having a job or something else we were doing entirely different. I was a communications director for an arts organization and they needed a website. And at the time I did it in Microsoft Front Page, so at least you got to be introduced with WordPress, which we were just doing table based HTML CSS, which I’m curious with Newsletter Glue. Tell me a bit more about how you got involved with that and then also how it works. Because I think that I get so many questions from people about what email newsletter service should I use? And then I’m curious about the sending, the SMTP part of that, how that works. So lay it on us.

Lesley Sim:

So Newsletter Glue is kind of that. That’s why we are called Glue. So we sit in that middle layer between WordPress and your email service provider. So if you’re using Mailchimp or ActiveCampaign or something like that and you’re sending regular newsletters, a lot of them, maybe once a day, multiple a week, it quickly gets very painful to have to log onto Mailchimp and mess around with their editor and manually upload all the images that you’ve already manually uploaded once in WordPress and on and on and on. And so what we do is bring all of that into WordPress while you get to keep all of your audiences, segments, lists inside of your email service provider.

So that way you kind of get the best of both worlds. So you have everything set up. You don’t have to migrate because especially for larger organizations, which we work with, putting in a request to migrate from Mailchimp to something else is like a three to six month project. And instead when you use us, you can keep all of that. You don’t have to get do all of the migration and you just put us in that middle layer and now your entire team or your editorial team or your marketing team works inside of WordPress where they already spend all of their time because they’re creating content, writing articles, doing editorial, and they can continue spending their time there and building their newsletters as well.

Angela Bowman:

I love it. So it becomes what page builders are for WordPress, you become a newsletter builder. That’s because working with Mailchimp in those builders in those tools are not, it’s not fun. And how are you compatible with latest email standards? I used to do some corporate email newsletters back in the day, and the challenge I had is I still had to do table-based design, and if I really wanted a consistent look across all email applications, I was pretty limited, even could not do an ordered list with bullet points. I think Outlook or still didn’t support basic HTML and CSS and it was so painful-

Lesley Sim:

You had to save it.

Angela Bowman:

… and I hated doing it. And so I’m curious, do you worry about that part or how does your HTML come out at the other side?

Lesley Sim:

I think that was the most difficult thing of the first two years, what we spent most of our time on, learning how email formatting works, learning how to build an email builder that would output lots of great HTML and markup. Yeah. So I think now it’s not as huge a deal for us anymore. We are a lot more familiar with how all of that works and when things break, we have a good idea of where to look. But yeah, we are still in the Middle Ages when it comes to emails.

Angela Bowman:

Yeah.

Lesley Sim:

We still use tables.

Angela Bowman:

Okay.

Lesley Sim:

And yep, we hope that it changes, but we’re still using tables.

Angela Bowman:

So basically the people in WordPress have to play within a certain… They can’t go all crazy with their emails. They still have certain boxes they have to work within to make sure that those look okay on the other side?

Lesley Sim:

Yeah.

Angela Bowman:

But you feel like it’s an easier tool to work with than the Mailchimp builder?

Lesley Sim:

Yeah, significantly. So I think one of the things is that email is a lot closer to blog posts than we think. And so especially if you’re trying to write more Newslettery emails rather than build a marketing email that’s full of images for e-commerce. If you’re trying to write a newsletter, that experience of using the blog editor to type is still a lot nicer than in Mailchimp, for example, where you would have to, you’ve got the, I guess the-

Angela Bowman:

The design.

Lesley Sim:

… view.

Angela Bowman:

View.

Lesley Sim:

Yeah. The design view on one side, and then you’ve got the input panel on the other, and trying to type that way is really painful. And then just on top of that, there are so many tiny synergies that you have when you’re doing everything inside of WordPress when your articles and your content already lives there. So we have a bunch of blocks that automatically pull your articles from your existing WordPress site into the newsletter. So all your latest posts are automatically populated based on filters, and because it’s WordPress, it’s extensible, so you’ve got custom post types, you can filter all of that in as well. And so there are a million different combinations and ways to play with it in a way that you can’t do with Mailchimp or ActiveCampaign or any other editor just because they’re not in WordPress and it’s not as extensible.

Angela Bowman:

Oh, I love this. So I set up a lot of RSS feeds with Mailchimp, and that’s how the newsletter is generated. But you can only imagine how painful it was to customize my RSS feed to pull in the little featured image and have it all format correctly.

Lesley Sim:

Exactly.

Angela Bowman:

And yeah, my feed URL looks a bit of a mess, but no one’s really using feed readers in the same way they used to. But there’s all this HTML in my feed. I went for the image and everything so that when it comes into Mailchimp, it looks great, but it kind of was the only way to get it to look nice in Mailchimp because otherwise Mailchimp brings those things in kind of ugly.

Lesley Sim:

Yeah.

Angela Bowman:

Yeah.

Lesley Sim:

Also, I think with RSS, you never really know what’s going to come out-

Angela Bowman:

Right.

Lesley Sim:

… and you don’t really have any control over that. So yeah, those are examples of things that we fix pretty well with Newsletter Glue.

Angela Bowman:

Yeah. I’m going to get started with it. You’ve just sold me on it. It took me a while because I kind of followed you on Twitter for a long time and what does she do? What is this? I don’t get it. And I didn’t know if it was a sending service and I’m like subscribed to, there have been plugins in the past that kind of also acted as the subscription and sending service and those kind of would blow up your WordPress hosting or with all the sending and stuff. But yours is really different, yours is more of a design tool that leverages your content that already exists that should exist

And that’s a problem I see with a lot of groups I work with is that they create newsletters in Mailchimp and that content never makes it onto their website. And so they have this whole archive of this incredible news pieces that 100% only lives in… No one’s ever going to see this great content ever again. It’s going to go out to the email and then it’s gone. I’ve been really trying to work with all my nonprofits and say, “Put it on. Make WordPress the source of the content and then feed it out from there, right?”

Lesley Sim:

Yeah.

Angela Bowman:

Instead, I’m doing things like silly constant contact archive lists in WordPress, and then you still have to click a link and go view this email on Constant Contact. So who do you do Newsletter Glue with and how did you get involved?

Lesley Sim:

Yeah, so that’s kind of a unusual story as well. So this was in 2019 before the pandemic, I was looking for something. All my stories seem to start with me looking for something else to do it. I’m not wanting to do the thing that I’m currently doing.

Angela Bowman:

Yeah, you talked about going back to full-time work and you couldn’t handle it, and I thought that’s because you couldn’t equalize it. It was too deep a dive and you couldn’t, like you need something that you can kind of float it up and down and have this flexibility to be in and out and not so sucked in.

Lesley Sim:

That’s exactly right. I love that metaphor. So as a result, coming back, I did the Craft brewery thing and I also started my own agency and I’d been marketing, building websites, doing design work, that kind of stuff. And I kind of got sick of it a little bit just managing with clients all the time, and I wanted to try software. I’d never done it before, but I was always interested in tech and I figured, why not? Let’s try. And I wanted to build a WordPress plugin because I thought that it would be easier than doing a SaaS. I don’t like coding and don’t really want to learn. I can do basic HTML, but I don’t ever want to be the main developer on a plugin or anything like that.

And so I had to look for a co-founder and I looked on the Indie Hackers job board and I found someone looking for a business and marketing co-founder and that someone had built a membership plugin. And so I got in touch with him, I emailed him and he was interested, and we started working together on the membership plugin. And that didn’t go anywhere, unfortunately. It was kind of both of our first times building a plugin business. And so I think we did a bunch of things wrongly. We didn’t really know how to market, we didn’t know how to prioritize product. He had lots of experience building plugins. So he was the lead developer on Ultimate Member, which is a pretty big plugin.

I think it had hundreds of thousands of users by the time he left to build his own membership plugin. I guess what I’m trying to say is the big thing was me and not him. Unfortunately, despite his experience, the membership plugin didn’t work out, but we built a newsletter add-on to the membership plugin that I was using that I felt sad about if we shut down because we were planning on shutting down and going our separate ways. And I figured, let’s give this another go. We can turn that newsletter piece that we had built into a full plugin. And that was the genesis of Newsletter Glue.

Angela Bowman:

I love this story. It gives me goosebumps. It’s just very good feel good story. So that was just before the pandemic?

Lesley Sim:

Yeah.

Angela Bowman:

So this is all happened in the last four years, four or five years?

Lesley Sim:

Yeah.

Angela Bowman:

Yeah. Amazing.

Lesley Sim:

I think that the Glue was built maybe at the start of the pandemic, I want to say August 2020. Yeah.

Angela Bowman:

Well, and I think that’s when I started to maybe see you on Twitter. I mean there was this whole, yeah, it was like, wow, what is this thing? I was just so curious and seeing all your posts and everything, and I think your presence on social media really helps with promoting that plugin. I think you do a really good job with that. I imagine it’s successful, but it’s still catching on. Do you know what I mean? It hasn’t been become as ubiquitous as some form plugins or different-

Lesley Sim:

Yeah.

Angela Bowman:

But I’m sure you want it to be. I’m sure you would like it to be.

Lesley Sim:

I think the what I-

Angela Bowman:

Is there… Yeah.

Lesley Sim:

What I realized was exactly kind of what you described earlier on, which was are we SMTP plugin? Do we do the whole thing? Where do we sit in the stack? And I think that confusion has been the reason we haven’t become as widely known or widely used as I would like. And just to see quickly into something new that we are building. So to solve that problem, we’ve built a new plugin called Mailer Glue, and that plugin aims to do the whole stack. So you don’t have to have a Mailchimp subscription and a Newsletter Glue subscription anymore. You can just have a Mailer Glue subscription and it’ll do everything for you. So that’s kind of what the new plugin is going to be, and hopefully it’s clearer and yeah, I have good feelings and lots of optimism for the new plugin.

Angela Bowman:

How will the Mailer Glue handle the SMTP then?

Lesley Sim:

So we will use Elastic email in the background, but as a customer you wouldn’t see that you would just kind of have a Mailer Glue account. So you would sign up on MailerGlue.com and you would sign up for us, and then you would have the Mailer Glue plugin, and then on the plugin site, you just log in to your Mailer Glue account, and then we’ll just connect via API in the background for you. And it would just feel like a more cohesive, consistent experience.

Angela Bowman:

Right. And then would it be kind of a SaaS-like environment then for that part of it, where you would manage your users, which I think is better. I definitely approve of this not doing all of that part in WordPress.

Lesley Sim:

Yeah.

Angela Bowman:

That would be… I wouldn’t recommend. Keep the content in WordPress, the users and all of that separate, because then also if your site blows up or you do something, you know what I mean, you still have all of your people segregated into this other environment.

Lesley Sim:

Yeah.

Angela Bowman:

I think that’s the right way to do it. That’s brilliant. Yeah. Why not get a piece of the action Lesley? Why give these other providers all of the-

Lesley Sim:

Yeah.

Angela Bowman:

Do you know what I mean? This could be a market. You could really make a huge… We have Sendinblue, which is now, it has that weird name.

Lesley Sim:

Brevo.

Angela Bowman:

Brevo. Yeah, Breva, Brevo. I can’t even say the name. It’s a simple word, but it’s like I like SendinBlue. That was in Mailer Lite is kind of a new group on this, relatively new, I should say, that’s been several years, but it’s relatively new compared to the ancient, ancient constant contact in Mailchimp. And I think your target audience would probably… I don’t know, ActiveCampaign acts like a real CRM, but a lot of people don’t need a sophisticated CRM kind of experience. They need a list for their email.

Lesley Sim:

I think that’s the main thing. It’s been occupying all of my bandwidth, my brain space, but it’s been really fun. So I think I guess every time you do something, you learn from it and you improve. And so we’ve learned a lot from running Newsletter Glue all this time, which is still running. Nothing’s going to happen to it. And it’s been cool to take all the things that we’ve learned there and put it into Mailer Glue and improve on it. And I’ve been having a lot of fun designing the new Mailer Glue dashboards and lists and UI, I guess. Yeah, so it’s going to look really different from Newsletter Glue, which used a lot of the default core WordPress components.

And so this one is going to be completely different. And we’ve decided to do that because it’s providing a lot more features, and we wanted there to be a unified cohesive look. Whereas with Newsletter Glue, we wanted it to look more like WordPress because it was like you’re writing a newsletter the way you would write blog posts. And so we wanted it to feel like you’re just in WordPress doing something already familiar. Yeah. So we’re excited. I’m excited to see how that goes. And I’ve been having a lot of fun.

Angela Bowman:

Has there been any challenges in working with the new WordPress score with blocks or with any particular coding challenges? I mean, that might be more of a question for Mahmed, but do you hear him say, “Wow, this changed, these hooks are changed.”

Lesley Sim:

Yes.

Angela Bowman:

Getting his head around new stuff?

Lesley Sim:

I think it’s been a massive learning curve for him. He’s built stuff with the old WordPress that has been really popular and he’s had to learn everything from scratch. So Newsletter Glue was built in the block editor. And so even building blocks for the first time has been completely new for him. He’s had to learn React, JavaScript, all of that from scratch for the first time. And I think he’s done an amazing job. We spent most of last year rebuilding all of our blocks just to improve on all of them because for some, we built them in 2020 when the block editor was still fairly new and we were certainly new to it.

And so last year we rebuilt all of our blocks, made them more powerful, made them better, faster, snappier. Yeah. So now we’ve spent a lot of this year trying to migrate people to our new blocks, which has also been a whole thing.

Angela Bowman:

Right. Right.

Lesley Sim:

But yeah, so it’s been really impressive to see how much he’s done and how much he’s learned and how far he’s come.

Angela Bowman:

Yeah, and that’s a huge, I mean, that is just a testament in itself because that’s such a huge learning curve and everyone’s just kind of like, “I can’t do it. This is too challenging.” And to be able to just dive in there and just take that on, I can imagine was just massive. I wonder if he got any sleep. He seems like he’s probably a very tenacious person, but I’m really excited about that. What kind of advice do you have for… We’ve interviewed various women plugin developers. So we interviewed Stephanie with PermittableForms and just so many women who’ve done plugin development.

But that when people think about the plugin repository and the number of women who founded their own plugin company basically, which is what you’ve done. And Stephanie’s like, “We need more women just to go for it.” I mean, she was doing child… She had a baby. She was taking care of her baby and was helping a brother with some HTML project, and then she was just like, “Oh, I kind of like this coding thing.” And she got more into the coding and development and built PermittableForms from that. But that’s something that I think is unique about your story in some ways is that you were like, “I don’t want to code. I want to design.” But that shouldn’t hold you back from becoming a plugin developer, right?

Lesley Sim:

Plugin owner, yes.

Angela Bowman:

Or plugin owner.

Lesley Sim:

Yeah.

Angela Bowman:

But I mean, you’ve developed it. You have developed it in the sense of creating UI, UX, the-

Lesley Sim:

The production you mean.

Angela Bowman:

… vision. I’m sure you’ve done a lot of specifications for, this needs to work this way. I’m sure you’ve had a lot of input on the data flow and how things should work. So what would you say to other women to embrace their dream I guess?

Lesley Sim:

I like thinking of myself as a technical person that doesn’t like to code and doesn’t know how to code. I can talk through all the technical stuff. I just can’t do the actual coding thing. I don’t know. I mean, I think that there are only trite truisms when it comes to this sort of thing. Go for it, do it, be courageous, all of those kinds of things. But I guess one thing that I’ve also come to appreciate is having the resources to fail, I guess. So I think with me, I knew that if the plugin didn’t work, I could still do the agency thing. I come from a decent family background, so I think I can, if everything goes horribly, I can get a full-time job.

I can depend on my parents. There are all these things that come into play as well. So if I lived in my car and had five kids or something… Oh, I also don’t have kids. So yeah, if I lived in my car and I had five kids, then maybe I wouldn’t be in the right position to be starting something new where it could fail and everything could go horribly wrong. So I think that’s something that I think is a pretty big prerequisite that people don’t really talk about enough. So assuming that you have the resources to fail, I think you should definitely 1000% go for it, just because I think even a lousy services’ agency business would still earn you more money than a full-time job, even if you half-assed, as long as you have some skill. You need to…

Also, the other difficult thing that I realized with myself was that I had a lot of managerial kind of soft skills, but I didn’t really have a hard skill. So I can’t code, for example. Really good at writing emails, but can’t actually sell a service, which is why I needed a co-founder. So yeah, assuming that you have a hard skill, whether it’s design or copywriting or coding, as long as you have that, even if you half-ass it and work part-time, you could probably still earn more money than you could at a full-time job. It’ll take some time to get up and running maybe a year or two, also, assuming that you have some of the soft skills, which you need to liaise with clients and things like that.

But assuming you have the willingness to learn the soft skills or you have them and you already have the hard skills and you have the resources to fail, then there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t go for it because you’ll earn more money and have less stress from employers, and you have a lot more free time.

Angela Bowman:

Yeah, I love that. And I feel like I made a note having the resources to fail. This can be the quote of the episode because it is certainly a true thing when you’re up against the gun to pay the rent or the food or whatever, you have to do it. And so in that case, you might be able to try something nights, weekends, as long as you have that day job to support you. And that would count as the resources to fail.

Lesley Sim:

Yeah.

Angela Bowman:

I’m starting to make art, and I might, I’ve spent a little chunk of change doing little, getting little supplies and things like that.

Lesley Sim:

And it adds up.

Angela Bowman:

It adds up. And I’m like, “How do artists make any money?” I’m trying to come up with some formulas for how you might do it, but it’s like I still build websites for a good hourly rate and I’m bringing in the money there and on the nights, weekends, and I can take a Friday morning off for art class, I’m doing it and I have the resources to epically fail at making my hobby some sort of business. But I thought, “Well, I’ll give it a try as long as I’m stuck at home right now,” at the time of this episode. I think this episode will air after I’ve had my fourth ankle surgery.

Lesley Sim:

So what number are you on now?

Angela Bowman:

I’ve had three ankle surgeries in the past year, and so that’ll be the fourth one in June. And then this episode will come out right after that. So I have a few episodes queued, and then yours will come out, and then we’ll see how much art I’ve sold by the time this is published.

Lesley Sim:

Okay.

Angela Bowman:

But having the resources to fail at anything. And in some ways, I think.

Lesley Sim:

Where can I go to… where can I go to see your art?

Angela Bowman:

It’s at Every Day Borbs, B as in boy, O-R-B as in boy S.com.

Lesley Sim:

Yeah?

Angela Bowman:

Serious.

Lesley Sim:

What’s a borb? Oh, yeah, I just saw this yesterday. Like a borb is a fat bird-

Angela Bowman:

A borb is fat bird.

Lesley Sim:

… or something like.

Angela Bowman:

A borb is just a fat bird.

Lesley Sim:

I literally saw this yesterday.

Angela Bowman:

There’s a whole sub Reddit, if anyone’s into Reddit, there’s a sub Reddit called Borbs.

Lesley Sim:

Oh, I love this.

Angela Bowman:

And I put a link, if you go to the page that says, “What is a Borb?” You’ll find the sub Reddit on groups. And people posts all the time, these adorable, chubby little birds. And so facing this fourth surgery, I had a lot of anxiety and it’s taking a while to get scheduled. And I thought, what can I do to stay positive? And I’m like, I’m just going to paint birds.

Lesley Sim:

That’s nice.

Angela Bowman:

And then when I started doing them, people were like, “Those are cool.” And I’m like, “I’m going to sell these birds. I’m going to create an art business while I’m sitting around waiting to get my foot fixed.”

Lesley Sim:

Nice.

Angela Bowman:

So this is my having the resources to fail project, and I just hope maybe I make enough money to pay for all the art supplies I’ve bought. But no, I think it’s fun. It’s something different and not techie and I’m kind of like you, it’s my free diving adventure. I think I’ve been in the opposite spectrum with my career of having to… I had a child when I was 15, so I’ve had to always be winning-

Lesley Sim:

Right.

Angela Bowman:

… and not failing. And so having the permission to fail is a new thing for me. And it’s a luxury.

Lesley Sim:

Yeah, it is.

Angela Bowman:

I am willing to fail epically as an artist if it makes me feel delight.

Lesley Sim:

So I actually have another opinionated thing about that. When you have the luxury and the privilege to fail, I feel like you owe it to yourself and to everyone else who doesn’t have that luxury to go do it, because there’s so much of life that sucks, and it’s so easy for life to suck. And if your life doesn’t have to suck, you are doing it to yourself to make it continue to suck. And so you really, people owe it to themselves to if they have the resources to fail to go try. Yeah, imagine having a luxury boat or a luxury house and you’re just not using it.

That’s basically what’s happening if you’re still in your full-time job and hating it and hating yourself and making everyone else’s life miserable. It’s there. Take it.

Angela Bowman:

That’s profound wisdom. And I think recognizing that too, that you have that. And sometimes we don’t recognize our own opportunities and we hold ourselves back in a way, like you’re saying, from things that could be a new path or whatever, because we’re kind of stuck in something and thinking, “oh, I can’t do it,” for this or that reason. So what are you doing now for fun? We’re going to wrap up here in a minute, but what do you do now for fun if you’re not holding your breath under water and drinking beer late at night?

Lesley Sim:

Before I free dive… So I’ve actually played Ultimate Frisbee for almost two decades now. And so I want to say I retired. So when I started free diving, which was 10 years ago, I retired from Frisbee thinking I would never play again because I was kind of all beat up from it, and it’s just 10 years ago. But even back then, there wasn’t as much educational information easily available online on how to fix yourself, I guess. And that’s all changed now. And so over COVID, I built a home gym, and that gave me a lot of… Again, a privilege to build a home gym, but that gave me a lot of freedom to experiment. So if you’re going to a gym somewhere else, you don’t want to look stupid, or-

Angela Bowman:

Yes.

Lesley Sim:

By the time you’ve made the effort to go there, you want to have a program and you’re following the program and doing the thing. Whereas because I have a home gym, I’m able to mess around or I’ll just spend 10 minutes doing something stupid and I don’t feel bad because it’s right there and I’m just kind of playing and experimenting. And because I did all of that, I fixed myself, I guess, I fixed my knees, and that’s allowed me to start playing again, which has been amazing because you would not think that.

So I retired in my late 20s, and then now 10 years later in my late 30s, I’m healthier than I was in my late 20s. My knees are healthier. That’s not a sentence anyone says. And so that’s been really liberating and cool and exciting. So yeah, that’s kind of how I’ve been spending my time.

Angela Bowman:

I believe it. I believe it. I felt like, let’s see, I ran my first half-marathon when I was 40, and I was definitely in better shape in my 40s than I was in my 20s. It’s been lovely chatting with you. Can you tell listeners how they can find you online?

Lesley Sim:

I am on Twitter at Lesley underscore Pizza, L-E-S-L-E-Y, underscore, P-I-Z-Z-A. That’s also my personal website, lesley.pizza. Yeah. Just look it up, it’s everywhere is kind of how you’ll find me.

Angela Bowman:

Well, thank you so much. I will put all those links in our show notes. I really appreciate having you today.

Lesley Sim:

Thanks, Angela. I really, really enjoyed myself.

Angela Bowman:

Thanks for listening. Follow us on Instagram and Twitter or join our Facebook group. We would be honored if you subscribe to the show. You can find us on Spotify, Stitcher, Google Play, and iTunes. Finally, if you want to be on the show or know someone who would visit our website at WomeninWP.com. Until next time.

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