Welcome to Trading Places, a small-business series which takes a look at entrepreneurs who have successfully transitioned from working in the corporate world to founding their own business. If you have such a story you'd like to share, please email me.
When Richard Estevez was six years old, he started an enterprise named the Lucky Duck Club. His business rented pens and pencils to forgetful grade-school students and the going rate, he says, was five cents per day, paid up front.
Looking back, he says his first start-up taught him a lot about the basics of business, such as keeping up with demand vs. inventory, dealing with depreciation of assets and maintaining customer satisfaction. It also instilled an entrepreneurial passion which, years later, he decided to fulfill on a higher level.
Estevez was working as the executive vice president of telecommunications start-up
Sky Online in 2003 when he thought of his own business idea.
Before Sky Online, Estevez had worked as a lawyer for Washington, D.C.-based Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, where he managed translation outsourcing for the firm's international group. "I used to buy tons of Spanish translations for my clients," he says. "I remember specifically that the prices were crazy, like 25 to 50 cents per word, and the quality of the translations was mediocre at best."
Being bilingual, understanding the translation market and having significant experience in telecommunications, the Internet and security of data, Estevez was confident he could offer a high-quality Spanish translation product at competitive prices.
"I had every element I thought I needed to make this business successful," he says. Shortly after, he took the plunge and launched his own company.
: Executive vice president of a telecommunications firm
: CEO, founder and owner of
: The difficulty, Estevez says, arose some time after he started his company, when he was trying to find additional people to help him run the business. "While I had a great core set of people, you realize quickly that you need more people to sustain growth," he says. "The faster you grow, the more you tend to hire people quickly without considering all the potential candidates ... and as any business owner knows, the people you hire can make all the difference, especially in a growth company."
: The initial costs for starting his company were around $1,000, which mostly went to building the Web site, Estevez says. "The costs were low because we were fortunate to sign a contract with a Fortune 500 client within a month of launching operations, allowing the company to grow with its own cash flow," he explains. "We could not have asked for a better scenario."
His company's edge
: The biggest advantage, Estevez says, is his company's proficiency in Spanish translations. "We have some of the top Spanish linguists and Ph.D.s in the world on our staff," he says.
Also, because the company runs "a very tight and cost-conscious ship," Estevez says it is able to offer prices that are 30% to 40% below the market. "As we actually produce the translations in-house, we cut out the middleman, so to speak," he says. "The large or small companies that find us really appreciate the personalized and specialized service. They also appreciate our prices and the impact we make on their budget."
What he wishes he knew before
: "The art of selling and offline marketing," Estevez says. "We are so specialized in Spanish translation, people find us. While this is a good problem to have, you tend to get lazy when it comes to marketing your company and its capabilities."
: "People with large volumes of translation who are looking for both high-quality Spanish translations and reasonable prices," Estevez says. Some bigger clients have included NASA,
"We are starting to do more Spanish subtitling and dubbing services," he adds. And with Trusted Translations, the business is able to help government and nonprofit organizations, as well as media companies and corporations "communicate more effectively with the growing Spanish-speaking population around the world."
Some product favorites
: Out of the 37 languages the company offers, the top three clients need translated are Spanish, Portuguese and French, Estevez says.
: "The biggest mistake made by entrepreneurs today is that they are too critical on the day-to-day operations," Estevez says. "Without them involved, the company would die. A business has to be able to survive on its own. A business is not a business if it cannot run without you. You need to put the right people and processes in place so you can focus on improving your business and not
just running it."