Five years of MyWikis: how I successfully founded and managed a business
On February 22, 2017, my company MyWikis will celebrate its fifth anniversary. While it is a small business, it has been a one-in-a-million experience that has positively changed my life immensely and forever. Part of its success lies behind passion, uniqueness, and quality that we give our customers. But the last element of success? Luck. This blog post reminisces what I did to get my company where it is today.
Ok, let’s go back to 2009. I can thank a good chunk of my passionately-accrued knowledge to Wikipedia. I read articles like they were movies, storing their information as either trivia or useful knowledge. It helped me find some of my passions.
But if you go on Wikipedia and scroll all the way to the bottom, you’ll see a small image that says “Powered by MediaWiki.” Try clicking on it. One fateful day 6-7 years ago, I too clicked on that link. What I saw excited me: the ability to run my own wiki using the same software that powers Wikipedia. I love the concept of wikis.
At the same time, I liked to use the wikis on a website called Wikia. In 2010-2011, I contributed to quite a few of them, but their management made decisions that caused its entire community to go into an uproar. A few other wiki hosts popped up, and I started visiting them, but none satisfied me. I loathed all of them, especially Wikia. (Actually, I did help with one wiki host, but things went sour within months of their advent, so I was quite disappointed.)
I had been messing around with MediaWiki for a year now, and I was excited to implement real ones online. So I decided to create a wiki host based on these premises. Don’t be like Wikia (don’t screw over the community and make them hate you), host a safe haven for wikis, and don’t shut down like the others.
One night, I went on a walk with my dad and pitched this to him. He agreed to pay for the hosting costs and that was the day that MyWikis was born. (February 22, 2012. I was 11.)
I originally planned to have a wiki farm-style community. The wiki farm would have to be supported somehow, so I decided to go with donations. Then, I decided that donations didn’t make enough money, so we’d go with advertising. Turns out that didn’t work either. Those plans slowly faded from reality.
A year went by. The company was approached by another wiki farm and offered to merge with us. On principle, that sounded great. They were going to start a wiki farm-style community and had the wiki set up to accommodate it. I originally accepted, but I found they were in fact jerks and I couldn’t bear to work with them any further. (I sound like a child, but remember, I was 12 when this happened.) The experience left me scarred and distrustful of the wiki hosting industry. I did later approach another wiki host to collaborate business-wise, but they also had unbearable staff members that I refuse to collaborate with. It turns out that most people who manage things related to wikis are antisocial, heartless jerks. I might be included, in which case I apologize profusely 🙁 really sowwy, but I certainly can’t work with others like that.
(Digression: the one thing I did envy was that they had a team that worked on the wiki farm. I have been solo since day one.)
I was at rock bottom. I owed about $150 to my dad and we had to pay $130 for next year’s hosting again. The situation was dire. There were several corrections that I made so my business would turn around from our money-bleeding:
- start charging for plans. While I never intended for MyWikis to be this way, it wouldn’t have worked any other way. It turns out this is the secret behind our business.
- bought MyWikis.com. We started out with MyWikis.org but MyWikis.com was someone else’s. On August 19, 2013, I had finally been able to buy the .com domain. Since it boosted SEO, I immediately moved operations there.
- distinguish ourselves from other wiki hosts. There are many free wiki hosts out there, so why would anybody pay for wiki hosting? I had to convince others why, and today, it’s pretty much a given that my company’s target audience will shell out money for their wiki hosting.
- advertise and increase marketing. We had no money for buying ads, but there is a place to spread the word on MediaWiki.org. (it has a specific page dedicated to listing wiki hosting services) I also made efforts to increase the website’s SEO.
Adding explanations of our service and what it included has since attracted many clients. MyWikis now provides premium support to all of our clients. I use my MediaWiki experience to cater wikis to the client’s needs. Furthermore, there are two things free wiki farms do not offer:
- privacy – companies need this. Many of our clients are companies needing a wiki for internal purposes. Other wiki hosts simply don’t offer the level of privacy we have. Furthermore, other wiki hosts don’t tailor wikis for our clients like we do.
- VisualEditor – this is a big boon for our business. Our clients want it and so do we. MediaWiki is edited by wiki markup, by default. However, VisualEditor is a WYSIWYG editor that helps our clients edit their wikis effortlessly.
We adapted to what was needed. I still think it all worked out in the end because everything fit together perfectly, thanks to luck. The company’s focus wasn’t what I expected, but the unique combination of all of these traits makes MyWikis what it is today: successful.
Note that my age wasn’t really a big barrier. Just because it was unheard of for an 11 year old to create a wiki host didn’t stop me. I had the skills and that’s really all that matters. I’m 16, so I’m still a minor, and I’m celebrating my business’s 5th anniversary. That doesn’t sound normal, but it’s life and it is how it is.
I would like to thank everybody who helped my business and me these past five years. It has been a lovely experience that I wish to continue. I look forward to more years of success and serving customers, helping them with their every need and wish.
The next chapter involves getting involved with the law: incorporation. Oh boy. And I would love to hire some staff members to help me out. I’m still lonely and I appreciate the company. (Pun not intended.)
I don’t have any multi-person business experience yet, so I’ll get back to you when I have learned that stuff.
Someone once heard me introduce MyWikis and remarked “sometimes you wonder what you’re doing with your life when you see people like this.”
I just wanted to say that their job pays more than this company does, in any given time frame. This is a side job for me. Thank goodness I am financially supported.
I do wish to stress that this blog post is not a stereotypical generalized guide intended for you to follow along so you can create your business. While I want to help you, this isn’t the guide. I have helped one person with their business to, objectively speaking, little success.
Here’s some tips you might want to follow, but don’t blame me if this doesn’t work. And please don’t treat the below as a panacea. Unless it works really well, in which case I take back what I said and I want a cut of your profits.
Only start a business if you:
- are motivated by passion (not to pay tuition but passionate about what your business does)
- are very capable of managing money
- know your job well
- have principal capital to start it off with (covering initial expenditures)
- can devote lots of time to it
- know how you stack up against competitors
- have an idea on how to attract and keep customers
- know how to market your business’s products/services well (advertise and upsell)
- have problem solving skills and can adapt to new developments that your business may encounter
- are lucky and are ready to put everything you’ve got into it
Also, I wish to point out that I didn’t read any wikiHow articles about creating a business or take an MIT Launch course on edX. I let my natural intuition and skills do all of the work. Forcing the skills won’t get you anywhere; they have to become second nature to you. Every single item on the list above must be second nature to you in order to have a successful business, and even then, success is not guaranteed. On the contrary, you don’t have to be perfect. There are many people more qualified than me to create a business, but they fail or don’t try because they either don’t want to or they don’t have that innate motivation needed to run a business. I learn as I go and that’s perfectly fine.
Oh, and one more thing. If you want to make your business to get rich or to earn money mundanely, then don’t try, because it’s fake effort, and that won’t cut it. Do what you love and do it well. That’s the mantra of successful business founders everywhere.