In yet another chapter of their success story, leading Swansea entrepreneurs Anna Bastek and Roy Allkin of Wolfestone Translation have been chosen to take part in the LEAD Wales project. This is an event limited to 25 of the most successful owner-managers of small or medium sized businesses, initially in the Swansea area, but eventually to cover all of Wales. It has received recognition and £8m of funding from the Welsh Assembly Government and the European Social Fund. The co-founders of Wolfestone were chosen as a result of the great potential of Wolfestone Translation and for creating employment in Wales.
It is hoped that the scheme, which is being run through Swansea University School of Business and Economics, will help some 700 businesses over the next 7 years, with the first cohort completing the scheme within 10 months. It is intended that the scheme, which provides each participant with £10,000 worth of training, will enable these businesses to "increase profitability, enable diversification and encourage business growth." Pilot schemes trialled in the North West led to increased turnover, employment, productivity and profits.
The scheme itself involves two days study per month, which started in February with an overnight weekend experiential team-building event. Mr Allkin said about the first session "The weekend was about ice breaking and leadership training and I think the event was a great success. It really brought to light the diversity of businesses in Swansea and the real entrepreneurial talent that exists here". Following on from this each participant is supported by the expertise of academics, mentors, coaching professionals and, of course, each other. LEAD Wales is unique in that it is a programme which attempts to meet the needs of growing companies as opposed to traditional business management courses which are aimed at start-ups or public sector managers seeking to enhance their career prospects.
When asked how she felt about the honour of being chosen for such an elite scheme, Miss Bastek said "I was delighted to be approached by LEAD Wales. It will be very beneficial to team up with so many successful businesses and share experiences and ideas. I’m sure it will also create new business opportunities. I also believe that encouraging collaboration between higher education and the private sector will help to drive forward the Welsh economy."
As well as its 15 strong team in its Welsh HQ, Wolfestone has additional staff working from its US and German offices plus a network of 4,000 translators across the globe.
They have also been astute enough to recognise complimentary business opportunities which are fast becoming substantial money-spinners independent of the main company.One example of this is Bluestone Systems, which came into existence when Bastek and Allkin realised that there were unrealised possibilities not just in translating company websites, an area fast developing, but also construction and maintenance of these sites as a precursor to the translation project.
So, which of her many achievements is she most proud of and what does Anna Bastek see as her future?
“I am extremely proud of how I have built a successful international and award winning business from scratch, in the worst recession since 1930s” she said. “I have only been in Great Britain for a few years, and there have been significant challenges to overcome, but I now have a young, dynamic and successful team. We have offices in Germany and the US, purchased our own premises and more than doubled our turnover year on year. I am currently focussing on developing the Wolfestone brand still further, as there is still a huge opportunity for growth in the translation industry, and I want to make sure that we take full advantage of this.”
“In the longer term, we want to expand our overseas operations. Our office in the US has just opened, again with phenomenal potential, our German office is growing and I view it as imperative that we have a presence in all regions of the world as quickly as we can sensibly accomplish this. We are currently looking at India, the Middle East, China and Russia, but those will be the starting points, not the end.”
“On a personal level, I am looking to gain complete financial freedom, which would help me travel more and, possibly, write a book. I am also looking at venture capitalism in order to support innovative new ideas and help other people to achieve their potential. There are so many women out there who could help grow the economy faster, so if I can act as an ambassador for female businesspeople; that would be a dream come true. At some point I also wish to further develop my photography skills, a hobby which is also great for helping me relax. I just need to find more time to do all this!”
So, if she was asked what her life’s motto is, what her ethos is, and what she is trying to do? She is succinct and to the point. The Swansea Woman of the Year quotes Sarah Tremellen of Bravissimo.
“I never saw a ceiling for it, I just thought it would be fun, setting up from scratch and making something from nothing.”