Hitchin-based Zebra Translations wins national industry award

Jill Wright and Lisa Kelly of Hitchin-based Zebra Translations. Picture: Sharon Cooper

Jill Wright and Lisa Kelly of Hitchin-based Zebra Translations. Picture: Sharon Cooper - Credit: Archant

A Hitchin translation firm that started on a shoestring in its founders’ spare bedrooms has been named company of the year by industry peers.

The team at Zebra Translations, of Paynes Park, are celebrating after their win at the Association of Translation Companies Language Industry Awards in Cardiff on Thursday night.

Zebra was founded in 1999 and provides translation services to the life sciences sector, specialising in medical and pharmaceutical translations. After almost two decades, the firm has an annual turnover of more than £1 million.

Founding directors Jill Wright and Lisa Kelly are over the moon with the industry recognition.

Jill, who lives in Meppershall, said: “Lisa and I are thrilled to win the ATC’s company of the year award. All our staff work so hard and equally deserve this accolade.”

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Zebra was established after the company that previously employed Jill and Lisa went into liquidation.

Jill said: “When the rug is pulled from beneath one’s feet, the brain goes into overdrive, adrenaline pumps and we were brimming with ideas.

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“Working from our spare bedrooms with two ancient computers, no company name, no office, no staff or money, we started telephoning potential clients.”

Their tenacity and leap of faith paid off, as they won their first contract – worth £8,000 – and were off the starting blocks. They made it their business to understand the complex rules and regulations of the European Medicines Agency, which so many in the life sciences industry were then grappling with.

The duo’s sector-specific expertise won new business and their attention to detail in medical and pharmaceutical translation kept the work coming.

In 1999, only eight European languages were required. Nineteen years on, it’s 25.

Zebra now employs a team of nine, including in-house linguists, and work with in-country native speakers as well.

Lisa, who lives in Letchworth, said: “It may read like an easy journey but Jill and I have encountered many challenges along the way.

“We have come to believe that success is not about the good times but how you deal with the bad.”

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