BUSINESSWOMAN Sam Rhodes can justly claim to be serving a worldwide market.
But the managing director of translation services firm Transfix, who has been living in New Zealand for the past five years, chose to return to her home of Huddersfield to get the business under way.
Derby-born Sam spent her childhood in Meltham and Golcar and is proud to call herself a Yorkshire girl.
She attended Golcar Junior School and Colne Valley High School, where her achievements included passing GCSEs in French and German – although at that stage a career involving languages was not in her plans.
“I was always interested in art and went down that route,” she says. “I got a degree in graphic art and became a freelance graphic designer and illustrator.
“But that led me into languages because a friend told me about a job that was going for a typesetter with a languages firm. I started there in 1995 and have been in languages ever since.”
Sam and husband Nick then took the bold step of moving out of the country.
She says: “We had young children at the time and decided if we didn’t do it before they were in school we never would. We originally planned to go to Paris – but we went to New Zealand and settled in Papamoa at the Bay of Plenty on the North Island.
“We were there for five years, offering typesetting in various languages and providing translation services for clients such as the immigration department.
“But we decided to come back because we are from Yorkshire and we wanted to provide these services to businesses here.”
Sam and Nick haven’t regretted the move.
And despite the widely held belief that “everyone” speaks English, Sam points out: “Spanish and Chinese are the most spoken languages and only one in five people in the world speaks English to some level of competency.”
Transfix can translate everything from tweets to websites, short letters to highly-technical manuals and medical documents using its bank of native-speaking translators across the world.
Sam could have set up the business anywhere, but believes West Yorkshire is the perfect place for a firm with a global focus.
She says: ‘The world’s an amazing place, full of wonderful people, languages and diversity.
“We came back to Yorkshire to be part of the business community and to help customers increase their global market share – wherever their business is based.”
Sam says Huddersfield’s long history of international trade, its diverse ethnic population – and strong family ties also helped shape the decision.
She says: “My father-in-law David Rhodes used to be an Examiner junior reporter years ago before becoming a vicar, while on my husband’s maternal side of the family the Weir family have worked in the textile business in Yorkshire for many years.
“Doug Weir was a director at F Uttley & Son, mill furnishers of Prospect Street, who serviced the wool and cotton industry in Yorkshire, Lancashire and overseas.
“The family history in textiles goes back 100 years as his father Alexander Weir was a director of D.W Orr & Son leather works in Lindley making school bags, belts and footballs. Nick Weir is the owner of DIDACTEC, which manufactures automotive and engineering teaching equipment in Marsden.”
Says Sam: “Huddersfield has an exporting history, an international population and lots of great, progressive businesses. We may be in the middle of an island, but we’re part of the big picture.”
Sam says technology is making the world smaller and more accessible.
“Internet, email and e-commerce make for exciting times for international business,” she says.
“Even with the recession, private sector companies and exporters can look forward to a bright future, if they make the most of the opportunities that exist.
“Today, it’s easier than ever to communicate with your target audience, worldwide.
“The way we translate information now means it’s more cost-effective, faster and convenient, but clients can still expect high quality service.”
One Transfix client has a business to business online networking site offering a translation service for SME businesses worldwide. Through the site, businesses can contact other SMEs to discuss business proposals, buyer knowledge and export information.
Says Sam: “Language is constantly evolving, so translators must be surrounded by it on a daily basis. Our translators are based in their native countries and are experts within their chosen field.
Transfix also provides interpreters for organisations, including the police and the health authority as well as major firms based overseas in countries such as India and China. Says Sam: “We also want to get involved in the Olympics because Yorkshire will host some of the visiting athletes and their families.”
Sam hasn’t ruled out a return to New Zealand. She says: “Our target is to have a New Zealand office as well as an office here in Yorkshire and make ours a ‘24-hour’ company, so there is always someone to talk to our clients on both sides of the world.
“We could take the family back to New Zealand knowing we are leaving the Huddersfield office in capable hands.”
At present, though, Huddersfield is home and there’s plenty of business to be done.
“I am trying to get involved in business networking groups in the area,” says Sam. “Good contacts are so important.”
There’s been little time to relax since the Rhodes move back to Britain, although the couple’s children enjoyed the recent wintry weather.
“We landed here and it was snowing, so they did like sledging,” she says.
“We get together with family and friends, which is fantastic. It doesn’t matter how far away you go and how long you’re gone for – family and friends are always there for you.”