AMA: Mariona & Robert Bolohan, co-founders of Lotuly
Mariona and Robert Bolohan are the co-founders and directors of Lotuly, a translation service with a team of experts that capture the nuances that bots cannot.
Hi both! Tell us a bit about your company.
Lotuly is a UK-based translation bureau, with a remote workforce, operating worldwide. We specialise in human translation and localisation services.
The kind that enables you and your customers to start meaningful conversations. Our remote workforce includes more than a thousand native-speaking human translators, who work all over the world.
Together they translate more than 90 different languages in more than 8,000 combinations. Our translators can offer specialist expertise too, with experience in all the major industries.
How did the idea for Lotuly come about?
From the moment we stepped foot in the UK we focused on building our startup by solving a communication problem through translation.
Then, we expanded little by little into building a team of language experts, and our list of services like localisation, keyword research and even SEO translation to help other startups and big companies reach global markets in a sustainable way.
We are not afraid to mention that we started small but now we've been on all sides, as clients, as translators and also as agency owners.
Are you and your team still working remotely? Do you plan to keep that going?
Yes, we have always been working remotely, even before we started Lotuly it was something that we always thought was best, especially in the translation industry where you need your own space and peace and quiet to really get into it.
When translating a document or a website you need to be able to stop when you need, take a break or go out for a bit, there is no point in making our translators go to an office and lose precious time that they could use with their families or doing something that they want.
It would also mean that as a startup we could only hire people in the UK (currently we hire people from all over the world) and this would not be possible if our team had to go to physical offices, as we can’t have offices everywhere in the world.
It’s also more thoughtful towards our planet to work from home as we avoid CO2 emissions from cars or public transport as there is no need to commute, and as we are very mindful of our planet this is a big plus for us so we plan on keeping it this way in the future as well.
How do you keep your team aligned?
By being honest with each other, we do not micromanage our team, if they say they can deliver something by a certain date we believe them, and if a problem arises the only thing we ask is to be notified ASAP so we can fix it together.
Do you have a share or option scheme in place for your team? What impact has it made?
Yes, from time to time and depending on the project we are able to give bonuses to our team and that is the best feeling ever!
Fantastic! What is the biggest mistake you've made as an entrepreneur?
Being afraid and not setting boundaries. In the beginning, I was so afraid to lose a client that even though I knew we did a perfect job they would say something to try and pay less.
And because I was afraid of losing long-term custom, I would say, "Oh don’t worry, I’ll make you a discount". But in the end, I realised it wasn't worth it, because if a client doesn’t respect me as a business owner I don't want anything to do with them.
I remember a client calling us at 12 am because they wanted to discuss something and I was afraid that if we didn’t answer we would lose them.
But I’ve learnt the hard way that this is not how things work, you need to set up boundaries and respect them yourself so that others can respect you.
Did you ever experience a business disappointment that led to something better?
Yes, in the beginning, we were scammed by a long-term client of ours. We used to get paid upfront but after a while we let him pay a few days after delivering the project, those few days turned into months and all that turned into over $4k in losses for us.
We paid our translators but we lost a lot of money and when you are starting out this is a huge deal, now we only start if the whole amount of the project has been paid upfront.
But it's good for our clients as well, because they know they've locked in our time, and we're able to give our translators the same sense of security and pay them upfront.
If you could only eat one meal every day for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
I’m not sure if I could choose one but right now it would be “Calçots” they are similar to an onion or leek and it’s very popular in Catalonia.
They're put on the BBQ until charred, wrapped in newspaper to steam and cool, then you slip the charred outer layer off with your hands and dip them in a special sauce called Romesco, they are so delicious.
I think I’ve chosen this one because it’s been years since I've eaten one and I have such fond memories of my dad making them every weekend!
Sounds delicious! And finally, what does company culture mean to you?
Everything, we want our clients and our translators to be happy and our job is to make that happen, so for us we want people to work with that are easy-going, open-minded and honest.
And that goes for clients and for translators too. We are all human and that is something that in the translation industry has been lost and we are trying to bring it back.
Thank you both for your time! It's been a pleasure.