Home Personal Touch Yields Startup Success for Husband & Wife Team

Personal Touch Yields Startup Success for Husband & Wife Team

In the heart of downtown Chandler, Arizona – a city at the south-eastern edge of Phoenix’s low and flat suburban desert sprawl – sits Gangplank, a collaborative co-working facility of designers, engineers and other Web professionals. Tucked away in a back office, two L-shaped desks cluttered with papers, stickers and computer monitors sit in opposite corners of the small room.

The desks are those of Joshua and Sally Strebel, the husband and wife founders (and only employees) of Page.ly – a premium WordPress hosting service celebrating its first birthday this month. The young company has quickly made a name for itself offering quality products backed by friendly customer service. Today I sat down with the duo to discuss how they got to where they are today, and what they learned along the way.

Discovering the Underserved Market

Page.ly actually isn’t the first venture the couple has launched together since meeting in college ten years ago. In 2003, the Northern Arizona University grads launched Obü, a Web design and development shop that eventually grew to include a handful of employees and some office space in Scottsdale. They later realized by turning away jobs not $25-50,000 or higher that an important segment of the Web development market was being underserved and needed a solution.

“People were calling all the time and I would have to ask them what their budget was. I knew how much we wanted to give to people, and here I am the dream squasher having to tell them we can’t work on their budget,” explains Sally. “I was telling Josh, ‘You just said no to $10,000 today,’ and we saw that there was a stack of money being left on the table everyday.”

“Our entire first year, besides sponsorships, we probably spent $1,000 on advertising. We didn’t see it as a necessity because we relied on word-of-mouth.”
– Joshua Strebel

But Page.ly wasn’t the first stab at solving this problem for smaller clients. Joshua and Sally aimed their first business, Flare9, at development agencies like Obu that wanted to act as resellers for WordPress hosting solutions. The timing, however, was not right for Flare9, explains Joshua, as WordPress’s popularity and mainstream adoption was just beginning to blossom, and national economic downturn made times tough.

Launching and Spreading the Word

In 2009 as the couple re-evaluated their businesses, they decided that while Flare9 had failed to take off the way they had hoped, the idea “still had legs” and perhaps needed a new touch. In the 3 years since starting Flare9, social media innovations like Twitter made it far easier to market and get word out about your products – and thus Page.ly was born with these principals in mind.

One year later, Page.ly has slowly built a strong following of users that turn to the company for both its quality hosting products and its highly personalized and friendly customer service.

“Page.ly was totally bootstrapped, and we thought about how we could launch it on the minimum amount of advertising,” says Joshua. “Our entire first year, besides sponsorships, we probably spent $1,000 on advertising. We didn’t see it as a necessity because we relied on word-of-mouth.”

The Personal Touch

“We never thought of it as customer service. We just treat people how we would want to be treated.”
– Sally Strebel

The couple credits Twitter for playing a large role in the company’s ability to give customers the personal touch – a concept they consider a fundamental cornerstone in the success of their business.

“We never thought of it as customer service,” adds Sally. “We just treat people how we would want to be treated.”

Joshua recommends that startups use a tool like Zendesk – web-based customer support software – to manage support tickets, because he says emails are easy to loose track of. A lot of the support load can be cut down, he adds, by simply designing your product well and providing clear instructions to the user. And then, of course, there’s social media.

“Being available and transparent on Twitter helps,” says Joshua, who manages both his personal account and the official Page.ly account. He also believes that as the company grows, it will still be able to provide the same level of personalizes customer service so not just hundreds, but thousands and maybe millions of users.

“We’re not going to hire a $9 an hour call center guy, but I think we can scale that kind of relationship,” he adds.

Advice to Aspiring Entrepreneurs

Sally points out that one of the biggest things she learned since college is that startups need to be sure they are building products for their users, not for themselves.

“I wish I had known that your dreams of what you want to have happen aren’t always what is going to happen. You have to build for the public, and take the ego completely out of it,” she says. “If you wrap yourself into it too much, and it’s entirely your idea, then maybe no one else wants to use it. Put something out there, wait for the feedback, and build on what they want and not so much on what you want.”

Joshua stresses the importance of not underestimating the amount of time, money and resources launching a product takes.

“With Twitter and word-of-mouth, marketing budgets are a lot lower, but there is no way Page.ly would exist if I was working a nine-to-five job for a salary,” he says.

A year after launching Page.ly, and knowing each of their first 100 clients by name, Joshua and Sally are now closing in on their 1,000th customer. While their product both meets the needs of underserved users and is well built to be flexible and strong, the success of their small piece of the WordPress market can be attributed in no small part to the couple’s service-with-a-smile philosophy.

Photo courtesy of Phoenix photographer Adam Nollmeyer.

About ReadWrite’s Editorial Process

The ReadWrite Editorial policy involves closely monitoring the tech industry for major developments, new product launches, AI breakthroughs, video game releases and other newsworthy events. Editors assign relevant stories to staff writers or freelance contributors with expertise in each particular topic area. Before publication, articles go through a rigorous round of editing for accuracy, clarity, and to ensure adherence to ReadWrite's style guidelines.

Get the biggest tech headlines of the day delivered to your inbox

    By signing up, you agree to our Terms and Privacy Policy. Unsubscribe anytime.

    Tech News

    Explore the latest in tech with our Tech News. We cut through the noise for concise, relevant updates, keeping you informed about the rapidly evolving tech landscape with curated content that separates signal from noise.

    In-Depth Tech Stories

    Explore tech impact in In-Depth Stories. Narrative data journalism offers comprehensive analyses, revealing stories behind data. Understand industry trends for a deeper perspective on tech's intricate relationships with society.

    Expert Reviews

    Empower decisions with Expert Reviews, merging industry expertise and insightful analysis. Delve into tech intricacies, get the best deals, and stay ahead with our trustworthy guide to navigating the ever-changing tech market.