Alina Mugford's recession struggles are plastered with a thick coat of perspective.
Mugford, after all, was born in Cuba and lived in Venezuela for more than half her life. So a drop in sales and clients, like her Bradenton-based translation business suffered in 2009, might not seem too bad when placed against the backdrop of communist and totalitarianism regimes.
“The thing about the United States is if you really want to make it, you can do it,” says Mugford. “There really is an American dream.”
Mugford's dream, she hopes, will get even better in 2011, when she continues to refine her company, The Translation Link. Revenues have been down the past year, but in 2011 Mugford hopes to grow again by adding consulting services to the translation offerings.
Firms that offer American companies consulting services on how to reach Hispanic communities, of course, aren't a rarity on the Gulf Coast. Still, few competitors seem to have the background and gravitas Mugford brings to her company.
In fact, Mugford, 57, recently received a national award from SCORE, the nationwide small business consulting organization. SCORE named The Translation Link its Outstanding Small Business Launch by a 50-plus Entrepreneur.
Mugford moved to the U.S. from Venezuela in 2003 with her American-born husband. She taught Spanish at Manatee High School for a few years, but longed to run her own business. “Many times I dreamed about having my own company,” says Mugford, whose family moved from Cuba to Mexico when she was a young girl, at the cusp of the Fidel Castro-led revolution. She later moved to Venezuela, where she attended college.
Through a friend at the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, Mugford met a SCORE counselor in 2007 who told her about a need for legal translation services in Manatee County. Mugford then met an attorney who hired her to translate an outreach letter for the local Spanish community from English to Spanish.
Mugford worked in marketing for cosmetic companies in Venezuela, so she had experience getting the word out for a new product or service. But in the U.S., she was pleasantly overwhelmed with all the options: She joined a few local chambers, went to several networking groups frequented by attorneys and started a direct mail campaign.
The networking paid off.
Mugford built up a diverse client list her first two years, in addition to the legal community. Jobs included translating contract documents for Pittsburgh Pirates players during spring training; translating packaging and marketing materials for Sarasota-based Biolife, which makes a powder to stop bleeding; and translating materials for patients at Manatee Memorial Hospital.
And while Mugford built her client list, she also realized there was a need for translation of other languages. So she began to offer French, Russian and Brazilian translation services. She used freelance employees for the work.
In addition to the national SCORE recognition, Mugford has won awards for the company from the local SCORE chapter and the Longboat Key Chamber of Commerce.
But Mugford's proudest day in America came in 2008, when she received her U.S. Citizenship. The memories of the day, she says, still give her goose bumps two years later. Says Mugford: “I always wanted to live in America.”