Where compassion knows no boundaries, a business thrives
What started when Colombian-born Claudia Mirza volunteered to translate at a horse racetrack morphed into a global language services business, with help from a woman-led banking team.
After the dot-com crash in 2002, Claudia Mirza found herself looking for a job in a very challenging job market. Laid off as a business analyst at a large telecom company, she went to work with her father, Hector, who trained horses at a racetrack in San Antonio.
“It is amazing. You can always find an opportunity, even in the most unexpected places,” said Mirza. She is now CEO of Akorbi, a global company that provides multilingual business solutions and was recognized as one of the fastest-growing woman-owned and led companies at the 2020 Women Presidents’ Organization Annual Conference.
While working at the racetrack, where people spoke little, if any, English, Mirza, originally from Colombia, experienced some breakthroughs.
First, she started noticing the importance of well-translated documents.
“There are many situations in which people must be able to fully comprehend materials related to their jobs,” she said. “Some of the people at the racetrack could not read in their native languages very well. They needed to understand critical information for their own safety, such as how to mix chemicals to take care of the animals, or even how to find the emergency exits.”
People started taking notice of Mirza and her compassion for the agricultural workers at the track. When a translator for the nonprofit organization that supported racetrack employees had to cancel at the last minute, the translator recommended that Mirza take her place.
“There are many situations in which people must be able to fully comprehend materials related to their jobs. Some of the people at the racetrack could not read in their native languages very well. They needed to understand critical information for their own safety, such as how to mix chemicals to take care of the animals, or even how to find the emergency exits.” — Claudia Mirza
With two business degrees, Mirza volunteered for more and more translation assignments from other local nonprofits and began to develop a portfolio of clients. Driven by her passion for helping and her keen understanding of the market, she and her then-husband, Azam Mirza, founded Akorbi.
They started the business in their Dallas home. Within months, Akorbi had earned $13,000 in sales.
“In terms of where I was professionally, starting a business was the best option for me,” Mirza said. “Suddenly I was doing something I believed was greater than the jobs that I was being offered.”
Contracts soon started flowing. One with Dallas Area Rapid Transit allowed Akorbi to lease its first official office space. The business that started by focusing on translating into Spanish now offers customizable enterprise solutions — including localization, interpretation in any method, workforce solutions, and multilingual contact centers with business process outsourcing capabilities — in 170 languages. Akorbi has also been named the largest woman-owned language service provider in the United States for two consecutive years.
Akorbi linguists can support interpretation sessions for customer service, technical help desks, accounting, project management, and more from offices located in the U.S. — including in Dallas and Tucson, Arizona — as well internationally in Latin America, including in Colombia, and in Europe, India, and Africa. The company provides a wide range of multilingual and integrated business solutions for the health care industry, for which they create customizable, enterprise-level services that meet stringent compliance requirements.
“In terms of where I was professionally, starting a business was the best option for me. Suddenly I was doing something I believed was greater than the jobs that I was being offered.” — Claudia Mirza
Support from Wells Fargo has been particularly helpful as the business experienced its rapid growth, Mirza added. She is also a member of the Women Presidents’ Organization, sponsored by Wells Fargo, which offers advanced business training for leaders like Mirza.
As Akorbi continued its growth trajectory, the relationship that started with Wells Fargo’s legacy business banking group moved to Commercial Banking. The group partnered closely with Capital Finance Relationship Manager Jacquelyn P. Morgan to ensure the bank provided the right balance of flexibility and funding capacity to fund the company’s continued growth.
“It has been so inspiring to work with the Mirzas as Akorbi expands its global reach, while consistently offering such high-quality, high-demand services to meet the needs of its many corporate clients,” said Cynthia Nwaubani, the Mirzas’ relationship manager within Commercial Banking.
Morgan added, “Cynthia and I represent Wells Fargo as a women-driven client relationship team, and it’s great to watch this woman-led business expand globally, and thoughtfully. Whether it’s through conversations, or business decisions they make, it is clear how deeply they care about their clients and employees alike.”
Akorbi’s leadership team is multicultural and gender-balanced, reflecting Mirza’s appreciation for all cultures and people in many stages of their lives and careers. As a mother of two sons, Mirza has always been passionate about creating jobs for fellow working mothers..
“It has been a remarkable journey,” said Mirza, reflecting on her humble beginnings in a poor neighborhood in Colombia, and now co-leading a global company. “But it’s kind of just an American story. And one of the most beautiful things about America is the whole idea of an inclusive society, where we demonstrate empathy and want to help each other.”
“It has been a remarkable journey. But it’s kind of just an American story. And one of the most beautiful things about America is the whole idea of an inclusive society, where we demonstrate empathy and want to help each other.” — Claudia Mirza