#LLAInterview – “We have not been limited in any way in our business because we are women.” The Addison sisters, CEO of Enlaza Global
The Addison sisters almost turned down a university degree because the course they were offered wasn’t one that was considered to be prestigious. Convinced by their high school teacher to accept the offer, studying Linguistics was the best thing that happened to the Addison sisters as they discovered their true passion through the course.
Who are the Addison sisters and what do they do?
The Addison sisters are Ghanaian twins named Charlotte and Sheilla. Charlotte is the Founder and C.E.O of Enlaza Global and Translator at The Jeli. Sheilla is a Translator at The Jeli, Co-founder and Executive Director of Enlaza Global, a language translation service provider which focuses on high quality translation services by catering for the language needs of businesses and individuals with the objective of strengthening inter-business relationships within Africa.
You almost rejected a university admission because of the course you were offered. Can you tell us more about this?
Yes, we almost rejected admission to the University because we were offered Linguistics, French and Spanish. At first, we were discouraged because we initially applied to study Law and Business Administration. In our part of the world, studying Law, Medicine, Architecture or Business Administration is prestigious and thus, you have parents pushing their wards towards that course of study. That day, we called our English Teacher from senior high school, Kenneth Adevu, who was very excited and he advised us to accept the admission by telling us about opportunities that comes along with knowing an international language. Upon our interaction with the language, we fell in love with it and we ended up being passionate about languages.
You seem to have carved a niche with your business. Why did you choose to go this route?
We will not say we have carved a niche yet; we still have some stairs to climb in that direction as a start-up. Our inspiration for starting this business came from working with the Jeli, a London-based publishing firm and our occasional stint as interpreters for some tourist friends which made us understand the power and potential of language. In our research, we also realised that there are untapped markets for a lot of businesses, which are left untouched because of the language barrier. We have created Enlaza Global as a solution to breaking the barrier, bridging the language gap and reaching more business markets and also be an agent of change and make an impact in Africa and beyond.
Where did your passion for language come from?
Our passion for language came from studying the language. We had a very good start from our department and very good teaching assistants who put together good systems and structures which helped in awakening love and passion for the language. Also, meeting a very good friend of ours, Evans Odoi, who was a student then speaking fluent Spanish without having lived in a Spanish country was fascinating!
How do you deal with people who question the path you have chosen?
Actually, we have experienced the reverse of that. We have people encouraging us and supporting us.
Can you tell us the importance of language skills for a business?
The importance of language skills to a business cannot be overemphasised. For instance in our research, we realized that the world’s population is about 7.4 billion, and approximately 1,500 million are English speakers. The question we asked ourselves was, “What about the rest?” They are untapped business markets ready for products and services by businesses looking at expanding and growing their market base. Having international clients and business partners call for some level of communication in an international language as it is expedient for legal documents, contracts and even jokes to be shared in a language the client or partner speaks so as to strengthen business relationships and create an environment of cultural sensitivity and having a deeper understanding of the client needs.
How many languages do you speak?
At the moment, we speak two international Languages – English and Spanish with basic French and we have a team with Portuguese, Arabic, Chinese and French background.
Are there any plans to learn more?
Yes there are plans of studying more with time, mainly Chinese and Portuguese.
What impact has your language skills had on your business since you started?
Language is the main core of the business. Without languages, there will be no business.
How have you been able to source for clients for your business?
We source for clients through partnerships with other companies and putting together a start-up package which we will be rolling out soon. We also take advantage of our wide network base and use that power to leverage and get referrals. Also, we believe in the power of relationships. We continue to build and strengthen our partnerships with start-up companies like PEDSOLUTION, our I.T service provider and SENTREP, a community of start-up businesses.
Have you been limited in any way in your business because you are women?
No, we have not had that experience and it will not be insurmountable when it comes.
Being sisters, how have you been able to separate your personal lives from your work?
We are able to separate our personal lives from work by defining our roles and responsibilities, outlining clearly our tasks and most importantly giving each other space to work.
How do you handle decision making as partners?
Decision making is critical to any business and as such we tend to look at different angles of a situation, assess it and pray about it before finally making a decision.
Can you tell us what a woman who has a passion for language can do to begin a career or business in that field?
Be bold and take the first step. Keep the focus, fuel the passion, build relationships and surge on!
Where do you see yourselves in five years?
We see ourselves connecting businesses to their target markets and helping them expand their client base, strengthening inter-business relationships through partnerships within Africa and developing our client’s corporate brand and communication identity to non-English speaking markets.
Do you have any mentors or people in the field that you look up to?
Yes, we have mentors not necessarily in this field but in diverse fields whose wealth of experience has been such a valuable tool in shaping and building us.
What do you do to relax?
We go salsa dancing. We read fiction. We spend time with friends and family and have a good laugh. Charlotte writes poetry and short stories.
The Leading Ladies Africa Series is a weekly interview series that focuses on women of African descent, showcases their experiences across all socio-economic sectors, highlights their personal and professional achievements and offers useful advice on how to make life more satisfying for women.
It is an off-shoot of Leading Ladies Africa, a non-profit that promotes women empowerment and gender inclusion for women of African descent.
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