As we celebrate our Sweet Sixteen at INGCO International, I have been thinking a lot about my decision to create this company and each step we took to get to where we are now. It hasn’t always been easy, but each challenge and success has made me who I am today. I couldn’t be happier that I took that leap or prouder of what we have achieved at INGCO International.
How it Started
I’ll never forget the day I was sitting in a coffee shop, reading my local newspaper. I was days away from graduating from the University of Minnesota, and yet, I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. A “help wanted” ad caught my eye – they were looking for someone to help with administrative work for a language services company in the Twin Cities. It sounded like a good fit for me, so I applied and was offered the job.
A few weeks into my new gig, my employer learned I was fluent in Spanish and encouraged me to become a Spanish interpreter. I quickly fell in love with the profession – it was challenging and allowed me to pursue my passion for helping people get the information they needed in some of life’s most critical moments.
In the beginning, I primarily focused on interpreting for worker’s compensation cases. I worked with claimants, medical providers, financial professionals, and other social service entities to review and reconcile claims for workplace injuries. I saw firsthand how these catastrophic injuries could have lasting effects on people’s physical, mental, social, financial, and professional wellbeing.
In some cases, I worked closely with inmates who needed assistance. I’ll never forget sitting alone in a jail cell with a man who had been convicted of murder – something I certainly didn’t forsee doing when I first started down this path! That person needed interpreting as much as anyone, which lit a fire in me to ensure everyone, regardless of their actions or circumstances, has access to the information they need.
After interpreting for other agencies, I decided it was time to make it on my own, so I launched INGCO International in February of 2006. One of my first clients, Titan Machinery, said they chose me for a large translation project because there was “just something” about me that would help them be successful. I believe that “something” was my work ethic and tenacity. As a single mom, I was trying to do it all – building relationships, managing the (many) responsibilities of starting a business, and acclimating to life with a newborn – but I still managed to deliver consistently. All that juggling paid off: Titan Machinery continues to be an INGCO International client today!
Growing the Business
In the early days of INGCO International, my son, Oscar, was just a few months old, and he came with me everywhere. I carted him with me to client meetings and graduate classes for my master’s degree. I had so little margin in my life that I spent hours working in my car while I was hooked up to my breast pump and Oscar napped in the back seat. I’m certain Oscar attended more meetings in the first year of his life than any other kid I know. The chaos of those days came with a lot of criticism from friends and family for “always working,” and I felt my fair share of mom guilt. But I know that, even then, Oscar was learning about grit, purpose and following your dreams, and I’ve been proud to see him finding his own purpose in the world.
Back then, it was just me working from my car, couch, or small office. I had so much to learn about owning a business and the language services industry. Like many entrepreneurs, I learned as I went and kept at it until I gained traction with my clients. Sometimes it felt like every time I solved a problem, I uncovered 25 more!
Thankfully, I have built a network of business owners that I can lean on and talk to about running my business. I have learned a lot from my fellow entrepreneurs and I’m grateful for the advice they have given me along the way.
Despite those early challenges, my journey with INGCO International has been incredibly rewarding. I didn’t set out to build a big business. I just focused on doing the next right thing for my clients and the people they serve. And 16 years later, I’m proud of the impacts we’ve had on people’s lives in the moments that matter most.
In this work, I often meet people in incredibly vulnerable circumstances – yearning for a new life as an American citizen, anticipating the birth of a child, navigating health challenges, pursuing legal action, and more. These people and their stories have had a profound impact on me, shaping my experience as an entrepreneur, linguist, and human being.
I met one couple when they were in the early days of their infertility journey. They so badly wanted to add a child to their family, and the arduous process to become parents was taking its toll. I sat by their side through every medical appointment (of which there were many!) and helped them understand their options. I delivered the devastating news about multiple pregnancy losses, and then a wonderful moment came: I got to call them and share that they had a healthy and viable pregnancy – with twins! Their experience was hard, as is the case for many battling infertility, but it would have been nearly impossible without the translation services provided by their fertility clinic.
I’ve also been fortunate to provide translation and interpreting services for some influential people, such as Bill and Hilary Clinton and George W. Bush, as well as celebrity chef Jose Andreas. I’ve been at countless immigration hearings to provide interpreting for those gaining U.S. citizenship and I’ve interpreted at many wedding ceremonies. These are special moments in people’s lives, and I’ve felt privileged to play a small part in their big days.
Along with the happy occasions, I’ve been there for some of the darkest days of people’s lives, delivering compassionate support through it all. I explained to weary parents that their brand-new baby had hydrocephalus, a hole in the spine, and would never walk. And I sat by a grieving mother and wife, as we told her children their father had passed away from AIDS. These moments are never easy, but the work matters. We’re helping people understand their world in crucial moments.
After all this time, I’m still deeply passionate about language services. I have always cared about giving people access to information they need to live better, healthier, more productive and more purposeful lives. In particular, I’m passionate about equity in education, health care, legal proceedings, and employment, key aspects of the human experience that must be delivered in a person’s preferred language to drive understanding and engagement. The nature of my work has allowed me to provide thoughtful, compassionate support for those dealing with challenging circumstances.
I also want to see my clients succeed, and I’m invested in their ability to reach new markets and target audiences. I particularly love that I get to help them connect with their customers—both new and existing—and help them deliver quality products and services in a way that will resonate with people personally.
INGCO International’s story is not only about me. Our team is made up of highly skilled linguists and support staff who bring our mission to life every day. Like me, they have experienced life-changing moments, and they continue to make a difference in the moments that matter.
From the time I hired my first employee, I wanted to create a workplace where people felt empowered to do their jobs well, care for others, and do what is right. I maintain that mindset today, and I’m proud of the inclusive, flexible work environment that allows our team members to be themselves, while giving a voice to those who need it most.
As I look to the future, I’m excited about the opportunities ahead to continue boosting inclusion and cultural understanding through expanded use of language services. If your organization is ready to take on this challenge, let us join you. Our INGCO International team is staffed with expert linguists who have invested in their chosen field and are ready to take your communications to the next level.