INGCO International was featured in the Saint Paul Pioneer Press Sunday July 22, 2015
She Built a Business by Understanding the Common Language
By Lee George James J. Hill Center
Posted: 06/21/2015 12:01:00 AM CDT TwinCities.com
Startups pitch weekly at 1 Million Cups St. Paul at the James J. Hill Center. These companies range from
companies with no customers to those with angel and venture capital funding. Some will be successful, but
not all. Ultimately, our goal is to help these startups grow and survive, thereby creating success for
themselves and their communities. We salute these brave entrepreneurs who are risking their time and
talent each day, and whose successful companies will also add long-term economic value to our
The James J. Hill Center is a nonprofit in downtown Saint Paul that provides access to business research,
educational programming and a place to work. Visit us Monday through Thursday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Founder: Ingrid Christensen
City: St. Paul
City of birth: Minnetonka
High school attended: Minnetonka High School
College attended: University of Minnesota, B.A. Spanish & Legal Studies, Minor Danish; University of
Minnesota, Certificate, Translation and Interpreting; M.B.A., Hamline University
Ingrid was born and raised in Minnetonka. As a Rotary Exchange Student she travelled to Denmark right
after high school and said, “it was a life-changing year in many ways and set the stage for global presence
for the rest of my life.” Ingrid began at the University of Minnesota and completed a minor in Danish and
decided she needed to learn Spanish too, so she did a study abroad in Mexico.
After taking a year to look at law schools and study for the LSAT’s, but never taking the exam, Ingrid was
sitting in Espresso Royale in Dinkytown reading the Minnesota Daily. An ad for an office job at an
interpreting company caught her attention and she decided to apply.
There came a point where Ingrid wasn’t challenged by this part-time job and grew tired of the running
around and knowing she would never be able to increase her salary. This was the beginning of her
Business Start Date: February 2006
Number of Employees: 7
Number of Customers: 50+
“INGCO was born Feb. 6, 2006. I wanted the company to be based on excellent language skills and
working in complex situations. I had no plan other than that, and decided to start a company. Nine years
have passed and so much has changed.
“The business today looks completely different as well. We started with 90 percent on-site interpreting and
10 percent document translation, and we are now about 60 percent document translation and 40 percent
on-site interpreting. We started with community, medical and some legal interpreting. Now our interpreting
jobs take us to Shanghai for large corporate meetings between high-level executives, and Milwaukee for
huge quarterly sales meetings. The more complex and complicated, the better we are at creating a
“We will continue to evolve and become more innovative in our approach to languages. We are growing in
the area of machine translation and highly technical projects. Our global network is ever expanding and we
are reaching into larger, more complex projects. We will continue to thrive and grow and carve out the
niche that we excel in.”
Q & A
In your opinion, what does it take to be a great entrepreneur?
IC: “The willingness to take a risk and the ability to just put yourself out there.”
What problems does your business solve?
IC: “When our clients need to speak to the world, we are their voice. We provide translation, interpreting
and global marketing services in 200+ languages across the globe.”
What obstacles must you overcome to be wildly successful?
IC: “Number one, you just have to do it. Not to copy Nike, but if you don’t walk through an open door of
opportunity then you only have yourself to blame. When pondering a risky decision, I ask myself the worst
thing that could possible happen. If it won’t put me in jail or leave me dead, usually I’ll do it.”
How are you funding your business–organically, angel or VC investments?
IC: “100 percent bootstrapped. We have a line of credit that we pull occasionally.”
What is your business model and how do you make money?
IC: “We specialize in the complex and urgent language needs of our clients. We have developed a deep
and vast network of linguists all over the globe who can quickly and cost-effectively meet our clients’
needs. We make a percentage of what we charge our clients and the remainder is paid to our linguists.”
Where do you go for help when you need it?
IC: “Business mentors, other small business owners, friends, family.”
What personal strengths or skill sets do you bring to the business?
IC: “I was/am a linguist so I understand the business, and the frustrations that come from the industry.”
What are you most proud of?
IC: “I am most proud of the fact that I can support my child as a business owner. The fact that he knows
that his mom is the president of a company is really powerful to me.”
What haven’t I asked you that we should understand about your business?
IC: “I think that people are surprised about the language service industry. It’s very innovative and evolving
every day. There is more technology, but it hasn’t changed the fact that it requires real people to do the
work. We are a global company, and work on every continent. I have staff all over the world because:
1) We need to take advantage of time zones on urgent projects. 2) The skills we require from our linguists mean that we need to work with in-country specialists for certain projects. 3) Often times it is most cost-effective to work outside of the U.S.”
How did 1 Million Cups St. Paul help you? Did you get valuable feedback? Did you get
connected to resources? Did you pivot because of the experience?
IC: “Yes. The candid and honest feedback made me think critically about my strategic planning for the next
six months. I would say we pivoted because of the presentation. We became more focused on our target
With a belief that “language is a living, breathing entity” and a mission to preserve the art of language
INGCO is looking to grow based upon the investments they have made in the last 12 to 18 months. INGCO
is also considering acquiring another small translation company in a few years.
You can hear from startups like this one each Wednesday, 9 AM — 10 AM at the James J. Hill Center
during 1 Million Cups St. Paul. The James J. Hill Center has weekly free and low-cost programming and
education for startups, entrepreneurs and businesses of all types. You can also work with our Business
Librarians to do research for your venture or just come and work in a beautiful space. The Hill is open to
the public, Monday — Thursday, 10 AM — 5 PM. To keep updated on what startup is presenting next or to
apply to present visit www.JJHill.org/go/1MCSPL.