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Voice-over entrepreneurs make their own good vibrations

Stephanie Ciccarelli, co-founder and chief marketing officer of Voice.com

Voices.com

As a North American market leader in its field, Voices.com of London, Ont., knows a thing or two about connecting voice talent with the clients who need it. So much so that the company's founders wrote a book on the subject.

Stephanie Ciccarelli, co-founder and chief marketing officer, originally intended the book as a promotional tool for clients. But the publisher wanted to take it one step further.

"We actually pitched Wiley, who does the For Dummies series, on making our own version of Voices.com for Dummies, just for our customers," she said.

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But the publisher asked the company to come up with a more general tome to sell to anyone looking to get into the industry. Last year, Voice Acting for Dummies was published as part of the bestselling reference series. The book encapsulated what Ms. Ciccarelli and her husband, David, the company's chief executive officer, have learned since establishing Voices.com in 2004.

"Some authors will compare writing a book to having a child and going through labour and whatnot," she explains. "It certainly was a labour." The process took a year, but the finished product is available on bookshelves now.

The book has also become a marketing tool as the company moves into a new stage of development. Fully established as a go-to site for anyone looking to hire English-speaking talent, or for voice actors looking for such work, Voices.com was looking to break down language barriers.

As an entrant in The Globe and Mail and Telus Corp.'s Small Business Challenge contest two years ago, Voices.com was hoping to use the $100,000 first prize to help reprogram and translate its website into 10 additional languages, since about 17 per cent of the company's job postings are seeking voice-overs in languages other than English.

The company didn't win the grand prize but benefited from advice given by the judges, who encouraged the Ciccarellis to narrow their focus to one or two languages to begin. The pair emphasized quality in lieu of quantity and just launched their first non-English site, for Spanish speakers in Latin America.

"We have at least 1,000 voice artists on the site who speak the Latin American Spanish, or dialects thereof," Ms. Ciccarelli says.

With many of Voices.com's clients hailing from south of the border, where there is a strong Spanish-speaking presence, establishing a Spanish option was a priority (other languages on the company's short list are French, German, Japanese and Italian).

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"We have the infrastructure built, so all the hard work has been done," she says. That includes a content management tool that can now be more easily applied to whatever language the company decides to focus on next.

Whichever language that is, one goal remains first and foremost. "We only pursue a project if we think it will have a $100,000 return," Ms. Ciccarelli says.

With revenue projected at $6-million in the 2013-14 fiscal year, Voices.com has come a long way since it was a Challenge contest semi-finalist, when it had revenue of $2.2-million. Its roster of clients and voice actors also rose, to more than a quarter-million combined, an increase of almost 90,000. The company employs 45, up from 25 two years ago.

"We've been growing, and what we really did was find what worked, in terms of the clients that are coming to post the jobs, and we built teams around those needs," Ms. Ciccarelli says.

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