Ed Ellingham of Cloud Nine Web Design Sharing His Success Story
Ed Ellingham of Cloud Nine Web Design

Ed Ellingham – Founder of Cloud Nine Web Design

I am Edman, kookookachu (Beatles joke), the founder of Cloud Nine Web Design. I grew up in Manteno, IL, a suburb of Chicago. There, I attended the traditional Elementary, Junior High, and High school, as well as KCHA for Computer Repair and Networking.

As a 90s kid, technology was changing excitingly, and I was instantly attracted to it. What cemented my passion for technology was, as silly as it sounds, the movie ‘Hackers’. It led me into a whole world of mischief and creativity.

At 13, I started working for a locksmith, and he taught me a lot about business, management, and working with people. As I got more involved in the business I worked for, I was inspired to start my first Web Design business called ‘Creative Designs’.

My education consists of working for talented people that passed their knowledge onto me. I’ve been very fortunate to have the work history I’ve had, and somehow always manage to crawl to leadership positions.

The Journey Began

I initially started developing websites using Notepad, eventually finding the amazing world of Microsoft Frontpage. Thinking Microsoft Frontpage is amazing today sounds ridiculous, but at the time, it was pretty slick.

At this same time, I was very interested in Linux and tinkering with it. My friends and I even presented the Linux Desktop to a packed room at a High School Technology Summit, where schools all over Illinois presented on the topic of technology. Little did I know that playing around with Linux as a hobby for so many years would become so valuable later when managing web servers.

Once I started my business and evaluated the different web development platform options, WordPress became a clear path to go down. With a vast amount of development support, available tools, and overall popularity, we decided to focus purely on it and never looked back.

The Need for Cloud Nine Web Design

Cloud Nine Web Design Logo

Cloud Nine Web Design Logo

As I mentioned before, being fortunate enough to work with so many talented small business owners drove a strong entrepreneurial spirit in me. This itch was typically scratched because of the freedoms I was often given in my management positions to help grow the businesses in new areas and bring in new services.

I eventually decided that I need to just go out on my own and see what I could do. Although I was initially focused on IT services, the same goal was applied when our gears shifted focus to Web Design.

We wanted to provide creative and effective technology services to small businesses and non-profit organizations. We do this by really listening to the clients’ needs and building systems and automation around those needs, then applying our IT background.

The biggest issue we’ve run into, and still do, is often undercharging and not being selective enough of the people we work with. The first brochure we printed was websites starting at $199. Yeah, we did that. There are so many things you learn that need to be considered when building, such as the number of client interactions.

Last year we launched a new company called ThinkJelly, LLC which was established by myself and Matthew O’Sullivan of Lineage to focus on SaaS and WaaS products. The first product we launched was COVID Cleared, which is a product built solely on WordPress to allow small businesses and schools to self-certify their staff and students for COVID symptoms.

Myself with my Brilliant Team

Team Cloud Nine Web Design

Team Cloud Nine Web Design

Advice for Business Owners

Be prepared to struggle and don’t give up on it. It takes time to establish yourself, grow your portfolio, and get to that point. We’ve almost lost our home, cars, but kept going because we anticipated the struggle.

It’s going to be hard and you’re going to struggle and one day the struggling stops and it was all worth it. Regardless of what the talking heads say, you are not one course away from a fortune. The courses help, I’ve benefited from taking “some” of them, but don’t give away your last $1k for one.

Keep networking and communicating with potential clients. If you’re going to give away services, find a local non-profit, because they’ll appreciate it more.

Invest in the right tools and don’t undercharge your clients. The cheaper the client the more hours you’ll put into the project. A client that doesn’t value you enough to pay fairly well also does not value your time while you work on the project.

Over the years, we’ve found quite a few tools that help us build amazing websites that also do amazing things…

  • Beaver Builder (and Themer)
  • Gravity Forms (the Swiss Army Knife of WordPress)
  • Advanced Custom Fields
  • Astra Theme
  • ManageWP
  • SpinupWP
  • RunCloud
  • Webdock
  • WebTotem
  • Cloudflare
  • BetterUptime

These are powerful platforms by themselves, but when paired with the 3rd party tools designed for them, they’re outstanding and can do almost anything.

 

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    WordPress & Beyond

    We intend to keep focusing more on ThinkJelly and putting out more products that are focused on solving niche needs. The plan is to keep developing products, as we did with COVID Cleared, and focus on that.

    In the next five years, we’d like to be focused solely on recurring revenue streams built around the different SaaS and WaaS tools we develop, as well as maintaining our existing clients.

    WordPress has established itself as the majority CMS for a reason. I believe it comes down to flexibility and the availability of resources. I see new website builders arriving all of the time, trying to claim they’re the new easy way to build a website. At the end of the day, can that platform grow with the clients growing needs? Because, WordPress can, and that’s why we use it.

    My Love for the WordPress Community

    A couple of years ago I was pretty active. I engaged in conversations on Social Media, I made videos to help people. I was very much a part of the community.

    After some political happenings in the US started to unravel, Social Media became a hateful place and I started spending less and less time on it. When I do wander on Social Media, I’m wandering over to Agency Trailblazer & The Admin Bar 🙂

    How I Keep Myself Updated

    This sounds crazy, but it’s mostly newsletters & mailing lists. I rely on the lists to help keep me up to date. They drop in my inbox, they’ve already sorted out the best of the best, and it saves me time and keeps me in the loop.

    I Have a Life Other Than the Work

    I enjoy music and working with my hands. I have a room dedicated to my guitars and record collection. I have well over 300 records that I’ve collected, typically 90% or more is 80s Rock and Metal. Yeah, I’d happily jump in a time machine and go back to acid-washed jeans and big hair!

    Ed Ellingham Music Room

    Ed Ellingham Music Room

    If I’m not enjoying my music, I’m often working on the car or the house. For some reason, the older I get, the more I can’t sit still.

    I Reward Myself by 

    Buying tools, guitars, and records. Probably wanted a longer answer, but that’s it.

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