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Bootstrapping an Evergreen Business From Oregon: Kirstin Quinlan, CEO of Certified Languages International (Part 2)

Posted on Tuesday, Jun 9th 2015

Sramana Mitra: We’re doing an Entrepreneur Journey story. We’ve got to focus on a bit more chronological telling of the story of how you put one foot before the other. I realized that you didn’t become the CEO of the company until 2006 but I do need to capture some of the beginning story of the company to get to 2006.

Kristin Quinlan: I understand. I was hoping to give a blanket overview of what our company does. We’re not a very common service. A lot of people don’t have an understanding of what an interpreting company is.

Sramana Mitra: When you got involved, that was in 2000?

Kristin Quinlan: Yes.

Sramana Mitra: At that time, your father had started this company to do interpretation for hospitals?

Kristin Quinlan: Right.

Sramana Mitra: Was interpretation done was on the phone or in-person?

Kristin Quinlan: Back then, it was done in both modes. The company was founded with the concept that interpreters should be accessible anywhere and anytime regardless of language. You obviously needed to leverage technology to be able to communicate via the telephone, share calls, and conferencing calls. There was a huge technology component. It has increased exponentially with the increase in the breadth of technological development.

Back then, what brought in the initial dollars to keep it afloat was face-to-face interpreting. The company was founded with the concept of becoming a largely over-the-phone interpreting provider, but the initial bulk of the business was done face-to-face. Back at that time, that was how interpreting encounters were handled.

Sramana Mitra: When you came on board, you were basically providing physical interpreters to go into hospitals to provide interpretation services?

Kristin Quinlan: The company was founded and we started with both on-site and the very basics of telephone interpreting. It was a very small component of our company but the vision was this was where the company would grow.

My father’s background is not in languages. It’s in technology and communications. He’s a serial entrepreneur. He built companies but is a terrible operator of companies. This one is, by far, the most successful and the most long-lived. He doesn’t run it and he hadn’t after the first four years. One of the companies that he developed was a company called 1-800 Dentist. People moving to new areas would call this toll-free number and be matched up with a dentist. There were a bunch of parameters that would frame what the dentist provided and what the client needed. It was essentially a match-making service for patients and dentists.

That was the concept behind Certified Languages. The telephone interpreting component was, “If I could match dentists and patients, why couldn’t I match up interpreters with companies that need to provide language services.” That’s how the concept of Certified Languages came about.

This segment is part 2 in the series : Bootstrapping an Evergreen Business From Oregon: Kirstin Quinlan, CEO of Certified Languages International
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