Entrepreneur, Founder of Today Translations
Jurga Zilinskiene was only eight years old when she first dabbled in business ventures, selling seeds out of the loft in her family house in her hometown of Kaunas, Lithuania. Two years later, her small business transformed into a pet breeding business, and then a fruit stall.
At age 16, Zilinskiene expanded, already demonstrating her passion and flair for international business as she began importing cloth and silk from the United Arab Emirates. The money earned from that venture was naturally invested into the next, and a year later she opened a “small but incredibly profitable” supermarket in her hometown.
Having initially enrolled at a private college in Kaunas, she moved to the United Kingdom at the age of19 to continue her studies at the City & Islington College, and later went on to read law and economics at the University of London. However, it was her part-time work as a freelance translator for the UK government that would give her the inspiration and determination to found her own translation business.
“I also saw that there was a real opportunity to start a business that would offer a better, more personal service than other agencies seemed to be providing,” she said.
Zilinskiene founded Today Translations in 2001. She was awarded the Shell Live Wire Award that very year and Young Entrepreneur of the year in 2003. Now, more than 10 years since its founding, Today Translations boasts a client list of over 3,000 companies and a network of roughly 2,600 freelance translators and interpreters from the around the world. Big name clients include Shell International, the BBC World Service and Dior.
One of the keys to Zilinskiene’s success is down to her designing and developing her own database, independently of any other company or developer, which caters specifically to the company’s needs. She says that creating it herself was the only possible way of ending up with exactly what she wanted. That database, although it has gone through a number of updates over the years, is still used by Today Translations’ in-house staff in the company’s City office.
Furthermore, Today Translations’ success is all the more staggering, considering that Zilinskiene has not borrowed a single penny in funding. “The investment I made in the business was gradual,” she explains. “The final figure was about £13,000. It was my own money – money I had made and saved from previous ventures.
“I never borrowed from the bank. I don’t like borrowing from the bank. Some people might say that I am old-fashioned in that way, or maybe un-British, but I believe in natural business growth.”
Zilinskiene’s work has been widely recognised. In 2006, following a trade mission to Lithuania that she organised, she was presented with a certificate by Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, for promoting international trade. To this day she advises the UK Trade and Investment on the national language strategy and sits on the China Interest Group committee chaired by the former Lord Mayor of London. She is also a major contributor to the initiative run by the City of London Corporation encouraging entrepreneurship amongst women.
In 2010, she accepted the Freedom of the City of London at a ceremony at Guildhall, and was subsequently proposed into to the Worship Company of Fruiterers, one of the City’s oldest fellowships.