Earn Entrepreneurship

Creating A Billion-Dollar Business From Scratch With Liz Elting

Haley Paskalides  |  October 9, 2023

When Liz Elting was living out of a dorm room in her 20s, she saw a big gap in the translation business. She decided to fill it herself.

It’s the time of year when we put on our cozy sweaters, watch the leaves change, and grab a warm chai latte with a friend… It’s also when millions of college students have stepped onto campus for the first time. Those first jittery months of college are often the moment when we first start to dream up how we want to make our mark on the world. While some of us changed majors many times as we decided what path we wanted to take, others were laser-focused on their futures from day one. We’ve all heard stories of successful entrepreneurs who got their start in their college dorm rooms — Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Liz Elting. 

Liz Elting is the founder of TransPerfect — now the world’s largest language translation company — which she launched in an NYU dorm room in 1992 without any outside funding. Her mission was simple: to provide the highest quality language services to leading organizations worldwide. 

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The company now has over $1 billion in revenue and offices in more than 100 cities worldwide. Liz shares what she learned about creating a company from nothing in her new book: “Dream Big and Win: Translating Power Into Purpose and Creating a Billion-Dollar Business.” 

Liz loved learning new languages from an early age, and grew up studying Portuguese, French, Spanish, and Latin. After college, she moved to New York and immediately got a job at a translation company — but quickly started to notice that things could be done better. “A client would call up and say, ‘I need this five-page document translated, how long will it take?’ And I would say a week but I knew it could be done in one or two days if that’s what they really needed,” she says, “And I also thought we needed a local presence because our clients were around the world and I could envision a company with offices around the world.”

She went to business school and after a short stint on Wall Street, decided to create the translation business of her dreams. The only problem was funding. “I thought, we are not in a position to work on getting funding. We don’t have time to create this complicated business plan. We just need to sell,” Liz said. So that’s precisely what she focused on from day one – making 300 phone calls in a day, and working 120-hour weeks until her company was able to move into an office space and hire its first employees. 

Listen to the episode to hear the qualities Liz Elting was looking for when hiring her core team of employees, why she decided not to take venture capital money, and what lessons she learned from eventually selling the business to her ex-fiancé.

How She Does It is bringing you stories like these, that celebrate female risk-taking in business and beyond, every Monday. Listen and subscribe on Apple Podcasts! And don’t forget to share with a friend if you’re loving the show! 


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