Martina Eco, language expert and MSc student turned entrepreneur
LSBU is helping student entrepreneur and multilinguist Martina Eco to ensure that, when it comes to her business plan, nothing is lost in translation
From an early age, Martina Eco has always been fascinated by language. “I knew I wanted to study foreign languages since I was 13,” she says, “but the idea of becoming a translator only occurred to me when I began binge-watching Desperate Housewives and my dissertation tutor at the University of Pisa suggested a dissertation on the Italian subtitles of Friends!”
Although Martina always wanted to work in audiovisual translation, the course she initially wanted to study in Italy was cancelled. After applying to two EU-funded translation courses in Turin, Martina was accepted onto one of them. However, it was a straight interpretation course rather than the audiovisual translation she had been hoping for.
Taking business to the next level
“I decided to go for it anyway, and it turned out to be one of the best choices I have ever made,” says Martina. “Within two months we started doing real work for real clients, and I absolutely loved it. I got my first paid job through one of my professors before I had even graduated, and things slowly but surely grew to the point where I was doing well for myself as a freelancer, but wanted to take my business to the next level. That’s where LSBU came in.”
Determined to learn more about business and marketing so that she could grow her interpretation business, Martina enrolled on LSBU’s MSc Marketing degree. “I wanted to learn more about marketing because I felt it was absolutely crucial for my business and my development,” she says. “While some students come to university because they want a business, I wanted to come to LSBU because I had a business.”
Go for it … try, fail, and try again. Learn as much as you can from other people. Never stop reading. Build a network. Make plans. Trust yourself and your skills … never lose sight of the big plan.
Unsurprisingly for a woman who had already shown entrepreneurial flair, Martina found herself drawn to some of the workshops put on by the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Institute at the Clarence Centre. “I attended three Start & Evolve talks, about PR, freelancing and networking, and I’ve been checking their activities ever since,” she says. “I got involved with the Business Solutions Centre, a student-led advice clinic for small businesses, and I’m loving every minute.”
Business Solutions Centre
The Business Solutions Centre gives advice to SMEs in areas including marketing, business development, financial planning, accounting, IT, forecasting and more. In her role, Martina was responsible for advising local businesses on their marketing strategies, which gave her an added perspective on the challenges faced by small businesses in a variety of fields. The advice of the students is always checked by academics from the Business School, so the students are learning both from the clients they work with and the academics who check their work.
Make It Happen competition
It was while working at the Business Solutions Centre that Martina found herself talking to a member of staff from the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Institute about the Make It Happen competition held by the institute each year. “They suggested I enter in the freelance category,” Martina says. “I’d heard about it, but didn’t think I had enough time to put together a strong enough application. The fact that the staff told me about it and took an interest in me was enough to push me to enter.”
It was a decision Martina would not regret. She finished as a runner-up in the freelance category and, like many of the competitors, found the process to be an incredibly valuable experience. “I think the main benefit is not the prize itself, but the experience that comes from pitching as part of the competition,” Martina says. “It’s something I had never done before, so it made me understand how I could improve for the future. The coaching I had about how to pitch really helped me understand a lot more about my business and the possibilities I have for the future.”
Martina’s advice to students hoping to follow in her entrepreneurial footsteps is to make the most of LSBU’s focus on enterprise skills, and the services offered by the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Institute. “I wish I’d had all the help LSBU has given me when I started out!” says Martina. “Italian universities are not employment-focused like LSBU, so all the things I had to learn about the ‘non-translation’ side of my business, I’ve had to learn by myself.
“All the skills I’ve developed with the Start & Evolve/Develop & Grow talks, such as networking and communication skills, have helped get me out of my comfort zone. Now I’m developing even more skills, and still feel I have so much to learn. The Make It Happen competition has also been really helpful, not just for the prize but for the experience.”
Martina credits LSBU with giving her the confidence to trust herself and her skills, and is proud of the progress she has made. “I’d never presented in front of an audience before coming to LSBU, and now I’ve presented at one of the biggest language events in Europe – the Language Show in London,” she says. “I’m confident enough to share my experiences with others on my blog, and on other translation forums and platforms. I’d like to move on to become a consultant and mentor for young translators and interpreters who want to be successful.”
When it comes to offering advice to entrepreneurial students thinking about joining LSBU, Martina has a few golden rules that mean the same thing in any language. “Go for it,” she smiles. “Try, fail, and try again. Learn as much as you can from other people. Never stop reading. Build a network. Make plans. Trust yourself and your skills. Don’t be afraid to speak up. See mistakes as learning opportunities. Enjoy the freedom, but stay focused. Never lose sight of the big plan.”
For Martina, that big plan is coming to fruition thanks to the skills the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Institute helped her to develop. It’s a plan that suggests she isn’t finished with LSBU yet either. “I’ll keep attending workshops and making the most of LSBU’s network,” she says. “I might even rent a nice office at the Clarence Centre to hold my own workshops and talks for some freelancers!”
Find out more about the Clarence Centre.