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Starting Your Own Tech Business: A Conversation with Stephen Burge about Founding OSTraining.com

In this series, InformIT sits down with authors who have founded or co-founded their own companies to discuss the challenges and triumphs of creating a technology-centered business. Today, we talk with Stephen Burge, who founded OSTraining.com.
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InformIT: What's the name of your business, and what do you do?

Stephen Burge: Our business is OSTraining.com and we do training for open source software. We mainly cover WordPress, Joomla and Drupal.

InformIT: Why did you decide to start your own business?

Stephen Burge: Probably for three reasons:

  1. I needed to make more money than I was making as a teacher.
  2. A desire to see what I was made of and test myself in business.
  3. Stubbornness. I wanted to be in control of my own path.

InformIT: How long have you owned your own business?

Stephen Burge: I've owned my own businesses since 2004 and have been full-time since 2006.

InformIT: What are the best things about working for yourself? And the worst?

Stephen Burge: Those two answers are inextricably linked. We're a company where everyone works from home. I love working with our team. We all work on different schedules, based around our time zones and family. It's wonderful to have flexibility and to have my kids around as I work. On the other hand, there are some days when I'd love to go into an office and have all of the traditional social aspects of a brick-and-mortar business. As we grow, I'm definitely open to establishing a real office.

InformIT: What advice would you have for someone who wants to create their own business?

Stephen Burge: Scratch your itch and do it. If you have the desire to start a business, go ahead and give it a go. Even if you go back and work for someone else at a later date, at least you tested yourself and scratched that itch.

InformIT: How has your industry changed since you started?

Stephen Burge: It's changed from nothing to everything. Ten years ago, open source was a small industry. When I started, Drupal had just been created, and both WordPress and Joomla were still in their early months. Now they dominate the web. We've moved from projects and businesses that were a glint in their creators eyes, to multi-million dollar businesses.

InformIT: Where do you look for inspiration?

Stephen Burge: Rival companies. I don't think there's anything better than having strong competitors to push you and keep you innovating. I've been in businesses before where you're the only company doing something and with experience I learned that was a sign we were in a very small market.

InformIT: What has been the greatest challenge you've faced in owning your own business?

Stephen Burge: Still being here. We're entering our seventh year and we've had at least one different business model each year. We've had to constantly keep moving with new revenue streams and new product lines. I see no reason for that pace to slow down in the years to come.

InformIT: What are your favorite applications or web products?

Stephen Burge: WordPress, Joomla and Drupal of course!

InformIT: What do you think is the most exciting thing happening in tech right now?

Stephen Burge: I still think that it's open source. It's so unusual for enormous industries to be created via collaboration and community. Anyone can join regardless of their skill set, budget or location. In terms of ideas and possibilities, that is still exciting to me.

InformIT: Did your business help you write the book, or did the book help you start your business?

Stephen Burge: Books are a natural offshoot of our training. We do a lot of training and that always comes first. The interaction with students and the improvement of our training material takes time. We slowly develop our ways of explaining things, based on how students react. It's only when we're happy with the quality of the material that we write it up as a book.

InformIT: Thank you Stephen for giving us insight into your business!

If you are interested in reading more from Stephen, you should take a look at Drupal 7 Explained: Your Step-by-Step Guide or Joomla 3 Explained Video.

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