Ivana Sedia is the founder of Unida Translation, which delivers both spoken and written word translation services in over 125 languages for projects in the certified, legal, government, medical, and technical fields. Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Ivana moved to the U.S. with her family in 1989. In addition to her Argentinian roots, Ivana is also Italian and Macedonian and is fluent in Spanish, Italian, and English with knowledge of Macedonian.
A passion for language-learning sparks business
Ivana’s interest in languages began when she was a little girl and only continued to grow throughout her life. She is passionate about helping people and cultures transcend borders and find understanding and commonality through language. With experience with writing in Spanish and English for Latino Social Magazine and working for the government by assisting non-English speaking immigrants, an MBA in management, and a Bachelor of Arts in Communications, International Relations and Diplomacy with a minor in Italian, Ivana decided to open her own translation service business, Unida Translation.
The idea for her business was born after the birth of Ivana’s first child.
Ivana recounts, “The idea of trekking from home in Indiana to Chicago downtown every day, with my new baby on my hip, was less than ideal and with the exuberant cost of daycare close to home, I chose to leave the Illinois Secretary of State and step into my new role as a full-time mom.”
While at home, Ivana kept herself updated with the “working world” by translating documents and hosting Spanish and Italian lessons. These hobbies would eventually turn into her very own translation service business. However, like many entrepreneurs and business owners know, the road was not without some struggles.
“Teaching Italian and Spanish is my passion, but I was advised by so many individuals that my classes were not going to be enough to grow my business,” said Ivana. “Then COVID-19 hit, and my clients were too afraid to come to my classes. Contracts that I had were canceled. Halfway through 2020, I thought my business was over, but then I received a surprise call and found out that I had won the Indiana Technical Assistance Program (INTAP) grant. Thanks to this grant, I was able to launch a new brand to refresh and become Unida Translation.”
This experience taught her not to lose faith as the grant came just when she needed it most.
“Do not lose your faith in applying for help and God,” she says to other entrepreneurs. “I applied for this grant twice and failed the first time, but then the grant came at the right time.”
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Connecting and transcending across borders
Ivana cites her knowledge of cultures and languages as one of her greatest strengths. It is through these strengths that she is able to help people understand each other and connect and transcend across borders. Her connections with people across the world have also helped her in her business and in the business world. Another crucial strength for Ivana was growing up in a family of entrepreneurs which gave her early life experience in business.
“Nothing beats experience!” she says. “Even if it is experience from watching your parents sell while you were playing with your Barbies.”
For Ivana, success is achieved whenever she is able to help people communicate and connect better. She shares with us one of her favorite stories of a time she helped someone through her translation services.
“It is no secret to the people who really know me that I am always a hopeless romantic! Still, my favorite story about my business was when a client from the government approached me and asked me to translate a letter from English to Spanish because he wanted to ask for his girlfriend’s hand in marriage. It was such a romantic and respectful letter and I really enjoyed translating it! It is translation jobs like that sort that keep me going so that I can continue to help people communicate and in turn, achieve success.”
To other minority women who are thinking of starting their own venture, Ivana shares a few words of wisdom that she has learned along her own journey as a Latina entrepreneur and business owner.
“Just do it. Do not be afraid because you never know what your business will be, and you will always wonder ‘what-if.’ Of course, do not go crazy! Have limits especially on how money is spent. Also, be open to interacting with others, put all your insecurities and judgement aside. Lock it up! Ask questions and mingle with others so get off your phone. To the women who want to be successful in their professions or careers and I think the same applies to entrepreneurs, remember that learning is never enough. Go get that degree or take that course to get certified. After all, like my mom always said to me, ‘They can take away your car, house, man, friends, ideas, but no one can take away your degree or certification!’”