Question: Where is your business located (city & state)? Who are the customers you serve? What products or services does you company provide?
Your Answer: Our company is based out of St. Louis, MO, but the clients we serve are worldwide. We provide realtime captioning for special populations, such as individuals or senior citizens with hearing loss, or ESL learners. We work in sports venues, classrooms, and public events, transferring the spoken word into text, on large scoreboards or handheld devices.
Question: When did you start your business? Why did you decide to start your own business?
Your Answer: I started the company in 2004 because I wanted to spend more time at home. I watched Busch Stadium II be built from the 16th floor of the U.S. Courthouse, where I worked as a court stenographer. Since there are many hearing-impaired sports fans who attend Cardinals games, I thought they should fully participate in the events surrounding a sporting event, so I approached the St. Louis Cardinals about stadium captioning and they liked the idea. They were our first client to install captioning on their video boards in Busch Stadium, which opened in 2006, and concluding with a World Series victory.
Question: Did you quit your "day job" to start your business? How did you initially fund your business?
Your Answer: I started part time in the industry in 1993, reaching special populations with closed captioning for television. I used my job-share as an official court reporter to start working in the field of television captioning and CART captioning. I used the capital investments in hardware and software from my previous job to grow into the captioning field. Personally, we were able to reduce daycare and commuting costs, which helped fund my business startup.
Question: What has been the biggest challenge in running your company?
Your Answer: It is difficult to find individuals who want to work in this field, as it takes a lot of skill and expertise to transition from court reporting into captioning. Careers in court reporting are generally lucrative, and taking a pay cut to transition into an unknown field requires guts and family support.
Also, being the boss is a 24/7 deal, and sometimes our children don't understand why I'm stressed or won't put the phone down.
Question: What’s been the biggest opportunity that came from owning your business?
Your Answer: Being able to get to our children's schools for their activities and performances is priceless. I wouldn't have missed it for anything. Working in a 40-hour week job, it was always difficult to get away.
Question: What has surprised you most about being your own boss?
Your Answer: I really like being my own boss, and I didn't realize that I had such a knack for marketing. I enjoy meeting with clients and explaining business opportunities to new clients. However, there are odds and ends, like filing, that I despise, but I'm teaching my teenage daughter to file and she's very organized, which has helped me immensely in opening a new office.
Question: Is there a success tactic you’d like to share that could help other business owners (i.e. implementing new software, tactic to grow sales, etc.)?
Your Answer: I always have an answer that will solve the customers' problems. If I don't know the answer, I will find out and always get back to them.
Question: What’s the best piece of advice you could give to other small business owners?
Your Answer: Always keep learning within your industry. Attend trade shows and educational seminars to keep abreast of the technology. Others in your industry can help you spot trends and seek new opportunities.