Posted on Thursday, Feb 25th 2021
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There is a trend among entrepreneurs wanting to keep running companies without seeking an exit. Kirstin Quinlan, CEO of Certified Languages International (CLI), tells us about one such evergreen company.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your story. Where are you from? Where you born, raised, and in what kind of background? Kristin Quinlan: I was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. I went to school at the University of Oregon. My children are also there. One is graduating from there now and my daughter is currently enrolled. They are fourth-generation University of Oregon attendees. I spent a year of my education in Amherst, Massachusetts. Other than that, it’s all been here.
Following graduation, I was floundering for a bit. I taught skiing and worked in a ski shop. I did that for about nine months. After that, I was hired by a distributor for Pioneer Electronics. I didn’t know a thing about consumer electronics, but I dove in. I worked in sales for that organization for about five or six years. Then, I went to Aero Electronics, which was the world’s largest distributor of semiconductors. I didn’t know much about semiconductors at that time. I went to school and learned. I worked with electrical engineers in designing electrical components. This was in the late 90s when everything was starting to embed some sort of diode or component into designs.
It was a brow-beating job and ruled by corporate heavy-handedness. It was rough. I stayed there for about two and a half years. I ended up leaving because I had zero time with my children. I stayed home until my youngest got off to kindergarten. That was about three years. While I started looking for a job, my father who had started Certified Languages International, asked me to come on board. It was a very small company at that time. I was an English Literature major and a good writer. I was helping write proposals and manage the translation end of the business.
The rest is history. I never left. I became full-time ultimately. There was not a department in the company that I didn’t either develop or work in. There was a series of events over the course of the next six years in which I climbed through the company and ascended to the CEO role in 2006.
Sramana Mitra: What year did you start at the company? Kristin Quinlan: 2000. Sramana Mitra: The company was three years old at that time, you said? Kristin Quinlan: Yes. The company was founded in 1996. Sramana Mitra: What did it do? Kristin Quinlan: In 2001, those are the most recent figures I can come up with, we were about $1.9 million. Sramana Mitra: What does the company do? Kristin Quinlan: Our company is on-demand or over the phone interpreting services. When a facility is communicated with a limited English proficient consumer or patient, they need an interpreter to be able to communicate. We do a large portion of our business in the hospital healthcare system. It equates to about almost 60% of our business. We’re also in the financials market – banks, credit card companies, and insurance. About 20% of our population here in the United States speaks a language other than English. It’s a huge portion of consumers. Our company handles currently 211 languages and is always expanding on demand.
Our conversation continues
here. This segment is a part in the series : Best of Bootstrapping . Bootstrapping to an Exit . Why is Bootstrapping Important? . How Can You Play this Low-Probability Game Intelligently? . Do NOT Go to VCs as Beggars - Go as Kings . Excess is NOT Required for Success . Bootstrap First and Raise Money Later . Some Bootstrapping to Exit Case Studies . The Buy Side of Bootstrapping to an Exit . Blitzscaling vs. Bootstrapping . Bootstrapping to Unicorns More »» . Cinedigm Acquires Bootstrapped 1Mby1M Company Future Today for $60 Million . Mailchimp Bootstraps to $600M Revenue . Bootstrapping from Arizona to $10 Million . Bootstrapped Basecamp Executes a No Nonsense Strategy . How Under30Experiences Bootstrapped to $5 Million . Bootstrapping with a Paycheck . How Algo.ai CEO Amjad Hussain Bootstrapped using Services from Michigan . Seed Investors Who Like Bootstrapped Businesses . How iHeartRaves CEO Bootstrapped a Niche e-Commerce Company to $20 Million . Bootstrapping with Services . 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