First published on Alumni Stories – Ensign College and used with permission, read about founder Lelani Craig’s personal and business journey below:
The sayings “there is no growth in the comfort zone” and “there is no comfort in the growth zone” are more easily recited than they are lived. Comfort is the reward of a life well-lived. Yet, comfort can be seen as the villain to growth.
Lelani Pickett Craig’s life outside the comfort zone has driven her to heights she would have never achieved had she chosen the road most travelled. As a child, she was essentially forced to flea her home land of Argentina and was brought to the United States. She’s been trying her hand at business since an early age, learning from her failures and turning them into triumphs. She’s suffered great, personal loss and has chosen to rebound with even more resolve and with gratitude for her trials.
The mission of Lelani’s business, CommGap , is “to bridge the international communication gap by providing precise language services and cultural adaptation.” Bridging gaps is a great metaphor for life as we work to turn our weaknesses into strengths.
We’ve asked Lelani to share her story with us. Reading her story is medicine to desire more growth and crave less comfort.
You were born in Argentina but you and your family were essentially forced to leave your home country at the height of political unrest. With your father being an American, you, your parents, and siblings were able to safely relocate to Idaho, USA. What brought you to Ensign College? What do you remember fondly about your time here? Were there lessons learned then that continue to resonate with you now?
I remember my first visit to what was then called LDSBC. As an immigrant to the United States living in a small, rural town in Idaho, I wasn’t very familiar with college applications in the US. I took a business class in high school and my teacher introduced me to a representative of LDSBC who was visiting my high school. He reviewed my transcripts and offered me a work/study scholarship. I immediately accepted and selected LDSBC as my school. I was thrilled!
Ensign College/LDSBC was the perfect place for me. It was a great transition to moving away from home, taking college classes, and living in a new city. I worked as an assistant to Dr. Carolyn Brown who at the time was over the English Department. She quickly became a mentor who guided me through my schooling and my first job while in college. I have fond memories of working for her and helping correct exams, prepare her materials for class, and learning how to be a better student.
The business classes I took there reignited my interest to become an entrepreneur. The basic principles of business that I learned gave me the appetite to continue to learn more about how business works and pursuing my dream of owning my own business. And eventually becoming a successful businesswoman.
You sowed the seeds of entrepreneurship at a young age. What were your earliest experiences like? How did you decide that entrepreneurship would be a sustainable career for you? What are some of the traits of a successful entrepreneur?
As a child, I loved doing little businesses, much like many kids do. I was about 10 years old when I decided to go door to door on the street where we lived in Argentina and offer to cover textbooks for school. I purchased the paper, covered the books, delivered them, and collected the money. I remember sitting on my bed counting the coins I had received as payment and realizing that I had the same starting amount. I was so disappointed, but it was a great lesson to learn about profits.
As I got older, my businesses turned to selling magazines, etc. I got my first real job at 14 helping at a local Ben Franklin store doing inventory. I was later hired at that same store as a clerk. In high school, I worked for the city’s prosecuting attorney doing basic office work. At that same time, I started working as a weekend interpreter at the local jail which is what led me to my career in languages.
The trait of a successful entrepreneur is to understand your passion and ability to provide products or services that might be unique. But, at the same time, realizing that because you are good at providing a service doesn’t necessarily mean you are good at doing business. An entrepreneur needs deeper knowledge of business, finance, and basic economic principles.
Today you are the President and CEO of a successful company. Yet, you’ve faced many challenges along your path including the death of your first husband when you were 32 and mother to young children. What have you learned from these challenges? What role has your faith played?
Challenges are instrumental in teaching us so many life lessons. I strongly believe that who I am today was shaped by the many challenges in my life! My challenges taught me patience and gratitude. Patience in knowing that “this too shall pass” and it will be okay. Gratitude for our Heavenly Father’s trust in me by giving me challenges. Gratitude for all the blessings in my life. Gratitude for little things that often go unnoticed and those that I see constantly. Gratitude for my family, my life, my health, my current amazing husband, and for living at this time of the world. Gratitude is my saving grace. I strongly believe in the spiritual gifts we are given and those that we can achieve.
You founded CommGap in 2000 and have molded it into an innovative language translation company that has pioneered and perfected services like Transcreation. Talk about the meaning of Transcreation and the unique value it provides your customers? What other services does CommGap provide?
Transcreation is amazing! For years, there really wasn’t a name to this service. We called it cultural adaptation, creative translation, etc. Now it’s commonly known as “Transcreation”. It’s the combination of translation + creative writing/content creation. Not everything translates well from one language to another. In the marketing world, it takes a strong translator with creative talent to transcreate effectively and successfully.
Translation + Creative Writing = Transcreation
CommGap offers translation, interpretation (in person, over the phone, and video), localization, voice over, desktop publishing, and other language related services, all into over 240 languages. It’s an exciting time to be in our industry! We keep companies in compliance with language access policies, help them reach an international audience, and really add that “local” touch to our translations. Instead of just doing translation/interpretation, one of the principles of CommGap is to step back and listen to the client’s needs and find a solution that solves their problem. We customize solutions for specific needs.
You manage offices in locations across the globe and have contracts with more than 500 translators that provide services in more than 200 languages. Who are some of your key customers?
Our clients range from medical (hospitals, clinics, medical groups) to legal, education, manufacturing, aviation, eLearning, import/export. Basically, anyone that needs to communicate with a different client or culture. They are our clients.