Growth Starts with Vision, WordPress, and Elegant Themes – by Matthew Russo

Last Updated on August 27, 2014 by 19 Comments

Growth Starts with Vision, WordPress, and Elegant Themes – by Matthew Russo
Blog / Customer Spotlight / Growth Starts with Vision, WordPress, and Elegant Themes – by Matthew Russo

This is a post by Matthew Russo as part of our Customer Showcase series. If you have an interesting story to tell and would like to share your experience with WordPress and Elegant Themes on our blog, please contact us!

Not Your Typical WordPress Guy

I have a random background. Maybe not random, but unconventional in how I ended up working with WordPress on a near daily basis.

Today, I help businesses grow through the ideas on my blog at (one of the sites recently nominated as a Customer Showcase Finalist for my adaption of the Nimble theme). I am also the Creative Director for a digital agency in Columbus, Ohio.

But I haven’t always worked in the digital world.

My background is actually in product design. I attended school for Industrial Design and was convinced that I was going to be a famous car designer, the kind that sketched up crazy concepts for the movies or created the next Mercedes 300 SL.


I knew that’s what I was going to do for the rest of my life – until I tried it. By the time I graduated, I was totally burnt out by the concept of designing products that people didn’t need and couldn’t afford.

So I tried my hand at real estate investing. It was OK. I made some money and helped some people. But I knew it wasn’t my true calling.

From there, I designed and implemented a handful of indoor water parks across the United States, taught myself marketing and social media, and eventually landed a gig as the Director of Social Media and Online Marketing for a startup that was successfully acquired nine months after its formation.

It really wasn’t until after that role in 2011 that I started working with WordPress.

Like most beginners, I dabbled with modifying existing themes. Over time, I slowly learned more about the content management system and the vibrant community of helpful people that were already using it.

Today, I build about 95% of my projects in WordPress. With the help of my talented team, we have gone on to build some beautiful themes from scratch.

But because I’m not a developer by trade (and I haven’t taken the time to properly learn PHP), I still prefer to start with a framework and customize it to fit the needs of whatever project I’m working on.


Because it’s the best use of my time. It allows me to make a huge impact – spread great stories online – quickly, without digging around in code. The faster I can work, the sooner I can see results and the more people/companies I’m able to help.

Coming from a design background, I love using Elegant Themes as a base for my projects.

Elegant Themes look incredible, function well, and have a personality of their own straight out of the box. And that allows me to focus on telling stories, creating clear calls to action for visitors, and linking the website with other online systems (like social media and email) to increase exposure.

Elegant Themes as a Catalyst

At WordCamp Columbus this past August, I explained how I used an Elegant Theme to raise a lot of money for a very worthy cause in a short period of time.


In the summer of 2012 – as I trained for my first full marathon – I decided to help a friend by raising awareness for Lindsay, a breast cancer survivor and hopeful mother. You can watch her full story at

Thanks in large part to the Webly theme that served as a foundation for the campaign, I was able to drive over 14,000 visitors to the site and raise $27,781 in donations in just three months leading up to the race.

Without a great looking theme to start from, I am convinced her story never would have spread across the world like it did, and I never would have been able to achieve my goal.

What’s Next

I am currently sharing a lot of useful business ideas on my blog, Systems for Growth. Our team is building an incredible number of new sites each month which continue to impress our clients and generate a ton of traffic – and revenue – for them.


What will my next big project be? I’m not sure yet. I’m kicking around a few ideas at the moment. But there’s a great chance it will include an Elegant Theme as the starting point.

Parting Words

If what you did yesterday seems big, you haven’t done anything today. -Lou Holtz

Commit to learning, growing, and pushing yourself. What seems foreign now will eventually become second nature – and that’s when the fun begins. But you must start somewhere.

Why not here?

I did.


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  1. Awesome story, Matthew!

    Love to see people from different backgrounds land inside the WordPress community. Look forward to hearing about that ‘next big project’ 🙂

  2. Great article Nick. Nice increment of WordPress use in Webdesign and web development. An you guys create an amazing WordPress themes. Thanks to Matt for WordPress and Nick for Elegant Designs.

  3. Hi Nick/Matt,

    I’ve no doubt the site looks nice and is easily navigated but you need to look at the onsite optimisation of it. Just as a heads-up. There is no Meta Description or heading.

    • Thanks for the heads up, George. Looks like my third-party SEO plugin isn’t doing its job. I’ll be sure to look into it.

      • No problem Matt. Glad to help.


  4. Good Luck to be a customer of Elegant Themes Matthew.

  5. Great post Nick! As a wannabe Elegant Themes customer, am setting up a new site with WordPress and Elegant Themes. Will be posting my story soon, so watch this space.

    • Amba – I love your dedication and drive. Looking forward to seeing what you build!

  6. Great post! It’s wonderful to hear from other happy Elegant Theme customers. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks so much David, you’re very welcome! Now get out there and build a killer concept of your own! We expect big things from you. 😉

    • Thanks David, I agree! I love reading these stories, and I look forward to posting many more 🙂

  7. I purchased a theme call ‘VERTEX”. Now my question is how can I change the Footer Credential section where it is saying “Copyright and Designed by”. I looked everywhere there is now where any information about it nor I can change it on the admin Panel. can anyone tell me how can I do that? If I can not change it then everything will be meaning less and I have to ask for the refund.

    Please let me now ASAP.
    AccessBit, Inc
    Tel: 404 946 8430

    • There always has to be one 😉
      Just one weird concept related to the article….
      Matt got into real estate investing, he made money & helped some people? I am rather perplexed … I didn’t think real estate investing & helping people went together in any context. lol

      • Chris – there are WAY too many people out there giving real estate investing a bad name. I was the guy in town who was really there to help homeowners keep their homes if possible. And even when selling was the best option, I always felt like I hadn’t done enough for them. Alas, it was a great learning experience.

    • Mark, if you need some help please open a ticket in our Support Forums so that our team can assist you.

  8. Great post. I love the fact that you are allowing guest posts on the blog as well and hope to be a guest at some point as well. Matt – wondered what y8ou will be using to develop your PodCasts (microphone, software, final processing, etc…) as I will be doing some of that soon from my Greenhouse. I am a life long learner and with the help of Elegant Themes hope to do more and more with WordPress.

    • Charlie, I’d be happy to share what I plan on using for the podcast. Shoot me a line at systemsforgrowth [at] gmail [dot] com and I’ll send you what you’re looking for. Cheers.

  9. I have never met Matt, but we only live 45 miles apart. I follow Matt across multiple social medias and participated in donating to #forlindsy.

    Congrats Matt on all of your success from one happy Elegant Themes customer to another.

    • Thanks Ryan. We do need to meet up at some point! Hit me up the next time you’re in Columbus and we’ll grab a coffee.

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