2017’s a big year for Luisa – we’ll be turning 25! 16 November will mark a quarter of a century since Berbel Pedari (then Pruunsild) ensconced herself in 10 square metres of basement office space on Tiigi Street in Tartu and took on her first client. Initially her plan was to set up a typing business that offered a translation service on the side. There wasn’t a lot of call for translations at the time, but most typists also had a thing for languages, which is why translating came to be offered as a secondary service.
Berbel recalls: “A friend and I put up our first flyers in the corridors of the student dorms in Tartu one night in September 1992. It was hilarious – they were hand-drawn in ballpoint, albeit very prettily, on the back of strips of wallpaper, listing our services: typing, calligraphy work, translating, logo design and advertising posters (on plexiglas). My first very client was a student who asked me to type up two pages of scribbled text!”
In August 1993, Berbel and the then BIG team opened a Luisa office on Pikk Street in Tallinn. This was a major step, since the market was all but void of service providers and the need for translations seemed to be growing by the hour.
The true future of Luisa Translation Agency took shape as early as 1994, when its Medical Department was founded. Within a couple of years it had grown into a fully-fledged department, and is still expanding today. Further departments were established in the mid-2000s when the decision was taken to separate general and more specific translation projects. Clients could now contact Luisa via four e-mail addresses: email@example.com (medical translations), firstname.lastname@example.org (technical translations), email@example.com (legal translations), and firstname.lastname@example.org (documents). The impetus for this change came not only from the market, but also the people working for Luisa, each of whom had strengths in specific areas. Luisa became the first translation agency in Estonia to set up teams according to subject areas, headed up by project managers in the relevant fields. This led to more competent and effective distribution of work, a clearer overview of jobs and, inevitably, greater customer satisfaction.
By the start of 2017, Luisa had notched up more than 30,000 clients. Each day, 75 translators translate more than 500 pages of text, which are edited by 30 editors. We offer more than 200 language combinations. 138 young translators have been accepted into our Junior programme, which was launched in 2012. The Estonian translation market currently amounts to 19 million euros in volume, 10% of which is accounted for by Luisa. 50 translation agencies operate in the country.
Luisa has taken quite a few steps towards its dream: language hubs in both Tallinn and Tartu where every department has its own floor. The first floor is home to the reception desk, where documents are brought in, the sworn translators centre and the Luisa café, where trainees can practise translating and get used to using translation memories. The higher floors are home to the dedicated departments and language suites, as well as the offices of our senior translators and editors and European translation specialists. The Tartu hub should also have a floor just for Juniors, with enough space for at least 20 enthusiastic young translators. Our Junior Department has enormous potential – we already have almost 70 young translators working in 14 language combinations to fill clients’ orders, each of them improving step by step under the watchful eyes of our senior editors.
Of course, the majority of this dream has already come virtually true, since people simply don’t need as much office space any more: around 40 people work in our Tallinn and Tartu branches, whereas almost 400 work for us remotely around the world.