By Kate Madley
Anna Bastek, co-founder of multi-award winning company, Wolfestone Translation, is at the forefront of supporting exports in Wales and the UK.
Founded in 2006, Wolfestone has enjoyed rapid growth as more and more businesses require translation services to penetrate international markets.
Anna, now an inspirational speaker and Entrepreneurial Dynamo Role Model for the Welsh Government, has also been rewarded with numerous high-profile accolades since launching the business.
Anna was named the first ever ‘UK Director of the Year 2012’ at the National Institute of Directors Awards and ‘Welsh Director of the Year 2012’, along with ‘Swansea Bay Woman of the Year’ in both 2009 and 2012.
Wales World Wide discussed growth opportunities and the importance of translation when exporting with one of Wales’s leading entrepreneurs.
Do you think Wales is a good place to start a successful business? Why did you choose to start your business in Wales? What are the benefits of being based in Wales?
“There are a lot of benefits of being based in Wales.
“I started the business here because that’s where I lived, but I also saw opportunities here. The Welsh Government is very supportive; there is a lot of help with investing in infrastructure. Also our overheads are a lot lower than our competitors’ who are mainly based in London and South East England. This gives us a competitive advantage because we can offer excellent quality services at more competitive rates.
“We also have access to quality graduates from Swansea and Cardiff University. Swansea University translation department is one of the best in the country. We’ve built strong links with the local universities; we work very closely with them and we have employed graduates who have done internships at Wolfestone.”
Is your company solely based in Wales or have you got offices elsewhere?
“We have two offices in Swansea but we have a network of sales agents and translators all over the world.”
How did your current business venture come about?
“I was working for an electronics company as sales and marketing manager at the time, but I always aspired to have my own business. I wanted to be my own boss and I had experience in sales and marketing which is essential to make any business successful.
“I started researching different markets and sectors, and because I didn’t have a lot of money to invest, I decided to go into the service industry.
“The business model was very scalable. I didn’t actually have to do the work myself – I hired professional linguists to carry out the translation work – and I could focus on the business itself rather than working in the business.”
In your opinion, how important is language translation when businesses are looking to export their products or services?
“It’s really important, according to the latest survey by Common Sense Advisory 72% of consumers are more likely to buy a product if the information is in their own language. There are many benefits, but the main ones are that consumers can see a company’s commitment to the market, respect to their culture and language.
“The exporters we work with are very successful. According to the survey, companies that export are also a lot more profitable than companies that don’t, they spread the risk by not relying on one market. And that’s certainly reflected in the experiences of our clients.
“It’s usually assumed every country speaks English, but even in the Scandinavian countries where English is widely spoken – Sweden for example – 80% of people prefer to buy products and services in their native language. We can’t expect everybody to speak English, even though it is the business language, and evidence shows you can convert a lot more sales if you communicate in the customer’s language.”
Does Wolfestone export its services? If so, how important are international markets to you in helping you grow your business?
“It’s very important to us – approximately 30% of our turnover comes from exporting.
“The UK market is not growing, but opportunities have arisen in international markets. It would be really difficult to grow the business and our market share if we solely focused on Wales and the UK. We’ve got a lot of clients across the world, but we’ve seen a big growth in the Middle East.
“There are massive opportunities out there, and exporting is crucial for our sales and marketing strategy.”
Where do you think are the biggest opportunities for business (sector or countries)?
“If we look at our customers, there are a number of sectors which appear to be doing very well. High-value manufacturing is a really strong sector in Wales, the life-sciences sector is growing, and we also have a lot of customers in the renewable energy sector. Business services and marketing and branding are also big sector in the UK for exports.
“With regards to countries, obviously the European market is big, but we have noticed a huge increase in Chinese, Arabic and Russian languages because of the growth in those countries.”
From your experience, are there particular sectors which require translation skills more than others?
“We work with companies in all sectors, some of them export directly, some work with distributors all over the world, some of them source materials from other countries, and some organisations have workers from other countries and require translation of health and safety materials and legal contracts.
“We also find that a lot of Welsh-based businesses are bilingual, so we translate websites and other materials into Welsh.”
What language is the most common request for translation amongst Welsh businesses?
“At the moment our highest demand is for French, Italian, German and Spanish, but we’ve noticed a big rise in the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) languages. They are the growing markets at the moment, and Welsh businesses realise there are export opportunities outside of the UK and Europe.”
What advice would you give to somebody who was looking to start-up their own business?
“I would advise them to consider starting their business part-time and really focus on sales and marketing. Initially, I started working in the evenings and at weekends because that way I didn’t have to quit my job straight away. I wasn’t sure if the venture would pay my salary, so I had to test the market.
“I would also advise to consider a scalable business model so the business can still run without the owner physically being there.”