Growing Small Businesses Globally - Export Entrepreneur Spotlight on Virginia Joplin, owner of Verbio

Virginia Joplin started working as a freelance translator before she graduated from Linfield College. Fluent in both Spanish and French, demand for her translation skills was high. Throughout college and in the few years after graduation, Joplin worked in settings that maximized her bilingual and technology skills and navigated a world that increasingly demanded fluency in different languages and cultures.

Ultimately, she spent one year at a translation company armed with a list of five things she wanted to learn and apply to her own freelance venture. These five things included learning how to use translation software and understanding the qualities sought-after in a translator. In August of 2001, Joplin started her own translation services agency.

Verbio has grown from a one-woman operation to a robust language-services firm that brings in about $750,000 a year, employs nine professionals at its Beaverton office, as well as several hundred contract linguists. Verbio offers services in 200 languages, including translation of marketing or technical documents, real-time interpreting at international conferences and audio-video recording. The company also offers web localization, which enables companies to adapt their websites’ language, currency, imagery, payments and website layout to suit target cultures throughout the world.

Now Joplin is pursuing international sales with a support network of export advisors and an export plan to guide her effort. Joplin is one of nine entrepreneurs currently enrolled in Greater Portland Inc’s Growing Small Businesses Globally scholarship program, which covers half the cost of six key export-focused training, counseling and advising sessions.

The sessions came at the perfect time for Joplin, who is expanding overseas in the form of a sales office in Germany.
“Usually when I had these conversations (about exporting) before, it was at networking events or in passing,” she said.

Her conversations with Greater Portland Inc’s export partners (including the U.S. Commercial Service and the Small Business Development Center) allowed Joplin to talk specifics, and helped her understand how different export programs and international sales approaches apply in the real world.

“Overall the sessions were an opportunity to sit down and have a deeper conversation,” she said. “This is what we’re trying to do. Are we on the right track? Are there programs we should be taking advantage of that we don’t know exist?”

One program was an SBA export loan guarantee specifically for new exporters that Joplin hopes to apply for. “That program could provide useful working capital as we expand our European sales and domestic production,” she said.

Lloyd Purdy, Vice President of Competitiveness at Greater Portland Inc, commended Joplin for taking thoughtful steps to expand her business overseas. “Virginia is a great example of an entrepreneur who knows she can grow her business through international sales and is taking the initiative to develop the skills and network she needs to succeed,” he said. “The Growing Small Businesses Globally training and travel scholarship was the incentive she needed to make a commitment to expanding her business through international sales.”

Upon completion of each training, Growing Small Businesses Globally entrepreneurs also receive a travel stipend for their first international sales experience. Success in international sales requires a plan. The goal of this program is to prepare entrepreneurs for international sales in advance of their first international deal.

Greater Portland Inc is working with the region’s export partners — including the U.S. Commercial Service, the Small Business Administration, the Small Business Development Center and Business Oregon — to deliver the essential education business owners need before they embark upon their first international sales experience.

Through an export advising passport, created for this program, each participating entrepreneur advances through a self-guided curriculum using this array of export advising services to prepare for international sales. Click here for a scholarship application.