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Willmar woman starts translation business, working with WAM-BC

Miny Miley of Willmar, left, owner of Midwest Translation Services, has learned a lot about starting and running a business from Jeff Madsen, business consultant at the Willmar Area Multicultural Business Center in downtown Willmar. Tribune photo by Linda Vanderwerf

WILLMAR -- Miny Miley comes from a family of entrepreneurs, but she thought about it for some time before she took the plunge and started her own business.

She began Midwest Translation Services Inc. last fall with advice from the Willmar Area Multicultural Business Center in downtown Willmar.

"I always had it in the back of my mind to start my own business but never had the guts to do it," she said, "until I met Jeff." Jeff Madsen is a business consultant with the Multicultural Business Center.

Miley said she had worked for a long time as a Spanish interpreter for area medical clinics and still works part-time as a receptionist and interpreter for one of them.

For now, she said, her business is small but picking up. She does mostly written translation through her home office and face-to-face interpreting when it's needed.

Miley said she can translate medical, legal and financial documents.

Miley has been working with Madsen to learn more about QuickBooks, which she uses in her business. She hopes that knowledge of QuickBooks will help in her translation business, she said.

Miley is from Merida, Yucatan, Mexico. She has lived in the United States for 21 years and in Willmar for 17 years. She flew in to the Twin Cities for a professional exchange program on Halloween in 1991, she said, at the beginning of a historic blizzard. She stayed anyway.

Her college degree is in architecture, she said, and she worked in that field in Mexico and in Minnesota when she first moved here.

However, that career was very demanding and didn't fit well after she and her husband Mark started their family of three children. "When you choose what you want to be, you're young and have no kids," she said.

Miley's move to translation happened by chance shortly after they moved to Willmar. She was at Affiliated Community Medical Centers with one of her children, and the mother of another pediatric patient asked Miley to translate for her.

"I started interpreting, and I liked it," she said.

She decided to attend a two-day workshop in St. Paul and passed a code of ethics test for interpreters. She went from working part-time for the Willmar School District to interpreting for ACMC and has had other translation and interpreting jobs in the area.

When she decided to start her own business, she approached the Willmar Area Multicultural Business Center for assistance. "He's helped me a bunch," she said of Madsen and his advice.

Madsen and director Roberto Valdez explained the pros and cons of her idea and told her, "It's up to you how big you want your business to be."

Madsen said it's always the owner's choice how to proceed and whether to proceed after developing a business plan and assessing their risk.

When she started out, Miley said, she decided, "I'll start with baby steps."

However, she was recently approached about translating a book, and she's still considering the offer. Though she's a pretty fast translator, she added, doing an entire book "would be a big step."

With her business just starting out and other obligations, "I'm afraid I won't have time," she said. "I know I can do it." Maybe in a year, she added.

Madsen said he's confident she could handle the job, too, but pointed out, "she's learning how to run her own business, too, which is a challenge."

The Willmar Area Multicultural Business Center offers business advice for qualifying small businesses from all cultures, Madsen said. Grants have helped the business center provide much of the advice at no cost to clients.

"They have done a lot," Miley said. Madsen helped her write a business plan, train in QuickBooks and prepare quarterly tax returns, she said.

The center has worked with a wide variety of businesses, Madsen said.

"Our retention rate is amazing," he said. The national average is about 20 percent survival for small businesses in the first year. The businesses that have worked with the Multicultural Business Center have had an 83 percent survival rate.

Madsen said they believe the one-on-one help provided and the technical assistance has made a difference.

"I had no idea" how much there was to know, Miley said. "It's still a learning process; there are so many things I still need to learn. ... That's why I'm so glad I have them."

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

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