Behind the business is the series where we bring you a different founder to share their experience of starting and running a business. At Juno, we’re committed to representing diverse businesses, so if you would like to be featured, get in touch via [email protected] or Twitter.
This week I spoke with Mariona and Robert Bolohan, founders of Lotuly, an ethical translation agency ran by people for people. They are on a mission to help people understand each other through human translation and localisation services. Let’s get started!
What inspired you to set up your own business?
In the beginning, it was just us but we don’t know all the languages spoken in the world. Our clients liked the way we work so they started asking for more languages and fields we didn’t have experience with. So, we started our own team of freelancers to help those clients reach new customers through translation.
How did you come up with the name Lotuly?
We wanted to have something catchy and after three months of thinking, we landed on Lotuly, which is the combination of two Latin words: LO comes from Logos, which means ‘words’ and TULY comes from Tratuli, which means ‘translation’. Lotuly: translation of words.
What have been your biggest challenges so far?
Putting everything we make back into the business is hard. We are bootstrapping because we didn’t want to get into debt by getting loans.
In the beginning, we got ripped off by several clients and they still owe us money. In the translation industry, people get paid 60 to 90 days after they’ve done the work but we are determined to change that. Now we are paid upfront but also pay our translators upfront so that they are motivated to do the work and take good care of our clients. It’s a win-win situation.
How has the pandemic impacted Lotuly?
In March 2020 we’d done our biggest month in revenue and it was surprising because that’s when everything started to go crazy. Throughout the year we saw a decrease, especially in the travel industry. We also had to fire our biggest client because their values didn’t align with ours. As a small business making that decision was really hard.
How have things changed since being your own boss?
We set different boundaries with clients and respect plays a big part. Because they know we don’t do the work ourselves, we find that meetings are easier for us – there is more trust.
But there are also some negatives. Being your own boss dictates your routine so it’s hard to switch off. To maintain some work-life balance we try to go out of the house for at least one hour a day. Sometimes it’s very hard to relax because we get inspiration from everything we see and think of ways to apply even Instagram Reels to our business.
Do you have any advice for people wanting to set up their own business?
Always create content that is engaging and attractive for your customers to read. Never sound salesy. Some people will message you on LinkedIn to sell you something, we try focusing on building relationships first. It’s hard to do, but it’s worth it.
Also, if you create a website ask yourself “how are people finding me on Google?”. If you can’t answer that, it’s likely that your site is not properly optimised and you need to work more on it.
What’s next for Lotuly?
We want to help as many people as we can to understand each other. Our next step is to niche down and onboard more clients that have similar values to us. We care deeply about the environment and even plant a tree for every 500 words we translate, so we want to work with other businesses that care as much as we do.
Watch the full interview:
Listen to Robert and Mariona Bolohan tell us all about creating and running Lotuly.