I’d like to share a personal success story with you. I will begin by telling you how I became the successful business owner of Friends Interpreting Services, LLC. which will be celebrating its seventh year of operation this month. The past seven years have been a journey, and I have come a long way to get to where I am today. My hard work and persistence has paid off because I put forth 100% effort. I go the extra mile to be as successful as possible, and I will continue to use my strong traits of persistence and hard-work to achieve my goals. I still have many other goals. In spite of my Deafness and being legally blind in one eye, I do not let anything stop me. The former president of Gallaudet University, I King Jordan, once said, “Deaf people can do anything except hear.” This famous quote resonates with me having graduated from Gallaudet as a Deaf student during his presidency, and I wanted to share it with you.
I was the third child born to my parents Alice Ann and Patrick McNulty. My father is a Vietnam Veteran. It was a very difficult time for my parents who were raising young children while my father was serving in the Vietnam War and recovering from his injuries. It is noteworthy to mention that on November 3, 2017 (50 years late), my father was presented the Silver Star which is the second highest medal awarded by the military. I imagine that if my father had received this medal 50 years ago, he probably would have been treated better. Unfortunately, my father has struggled throughout his life but has also had the good fortune of having the love and support of my amazing mother who has helped him to survive today. It was extremely difficult back in those days upon his return from Vietnam. I remember it well. One can imagine my mother nursing my father back to health after sustaining four serious injuries during the war, raising three young children, birthing another daughter, and finally my youngest brother born fourteen years later. It was an extremely stressful period during those tough years exacerbated by my Deafness as well as fighting chronic eye infections for years which left me legally blind in my left eye.
I have two younger siblings which make a total of five siblings in my family. At the age of three, my parents found out that I was Deaf. My parents decided to use several methods of communication with me which included Sign Language, Total Communication, and the Oral method of communication. I was mainstreamed in a Deaf program until the fifth grade with another Deaf classmate. Then I skipped sixth grade and entered a mainstream seventh grade class without the aid of American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters. I continued my education without the benefit of interpreters throughout high school despite appealing to the School Board and Bucks County Intermediate Unit #22 along with other Deaf classmates requesting American Sign Language interpreters without success. I didn’t like the idea of having to lipread full time.
This forced me to continue to struggle throughout high school as a mainstreamed student, and I was limited further in that I was not able to take more challenging classes given there were no ASL interpreters. Consequently, I graduated with a fourth-grade reading level. That is indicative of how inadequate Deaf education was back then. I’d like to share a quick fact regarding lipreading or sometimes referred to as Speechreading. Because even the best lip readers only understand approximately 30 to 40 percent of what’s actually being spoken, lipreading or speechreading does NOT replace written or visual communication. Obviously, a great deal of information is not being successfully conveyed!
Many letters and words look the same on the lips, which can cause misunderstandings. For example, “p(ail), b(ail), and m(ail)” look the same.”* Can you imagine missing out on at least 70% (+/-) of the conversation or what was said? And there is a lot of guessing! I had to rely on one good eye putting excess strain on it, and I had to focus very hard to do my best to understand and decipher what was being said. This was unbelievably exhausting, and I was very often tired growing up necessitating daily naps after school. It is no surprise that I didn’t do well in school being forced to lipread as a method of learning!
I eventually graduated due to my sheer determination, grit, and desire to succeed before my parents surprised me with their decision to let me go to Gallaudet University which I had never even visited. Gallaudet University is the only college for the Deaf in the United States and is located in Washington D.C. It was a last-minute decision and I only had one day to pack, but I was so excited and delighted that it didn’t even matter! It was very difficult for my parents to let me go and especially difficult for my father.
The first day I stepped foot on the campus of Gallaudet University, I immediately fell in love with it. My life CHANGED drastically! I started to excel immediately. My learning curve went higher than ever! I even made the Dean’s List. I was able to take upper division classes in ASL that I couldn’t take during Elementary, Middle or High School. I was finally able to SOAR like an eagle free from language and learning barriers! My life truly changed! My reading and math levels improved tremendously! I was very happy with Gallaudet University. I called Gallaudet my “home sweet home” when my mother was driving me back to Gallaudet and we were pulling in to the campus. I am sure that offended my mother when I said that, but it was MY world. Everything was communicated in ASL, and I UNDERSTOOD everything for the first time! I felt so comfortable and was able to LEARN BETTER every day! I did struggle with one teacher who prevented me from graduating due to political reasons, and it was an injustice.
I eventually graduated from Gallaudet University with a degree in Elementary Education. I went on to Graduate school at Western Maryland College which is now named McDaniel College. I majored in Deaf Education. There I experienced another political injustice, but I fought my way through eventually graduating once again.
Upon receiving my Masters degree, I decided I wasn’t ready for a career in Education as I had been working very hard as a student all my life. So, I got a few odd jobs and many working as an administrative assistant. I experienced some job difficulties, and I wanted to start a family. Therefore, I decided that I wanted to become my own boss running my own business which is now Friends Interpreting Services, LLC. This business would allow me to be near my children if and when my husband and I decided to have any children. By surprise, my husband and I now have 2 sets of twins! We have three boys and one girl. It is extremely difficult to run a business while raising a family at the same time! How did I do that?! It was GOD who provided me the necessary energy, multitasking skills, inherent drive to work, and the persistence to finish the work! HE was with me at all times. I could not have done it without HIM and my amazing husband, Richard.
I met Richard while attending Gallaudet University. He graduated the year before me, so we went our separate ways but as fate would have it, we saw each other again 3 years later. We rekindled our relationship and have been together for 24 years! Richard is an amazing husband who has been extremely supportive, encouraging, and given me wonderful advice on so many occasions. I am forever thankful for my husband who has always been around for the kids and me when needed. I could not have successfully started and run my business without his amazing help, support, and words of advice.
As a business owner, I have learned to multitask, research thoroughly, write proposals, take webinar classes, respond to interpreters’ requests, and fill and confirm their requests. I believe that my prior experience working at a well-known agency called “Sign Language Associates” helped me to better understand how to run an interpreting agency even though I did not have the “whole package” in terms of actually running an agency. What I mean by not having the whole package is that I was lacking certain skills. For example, I didn’t know how to write a proposal or know exactly how to communicate with the clients. There were specific things I wanted my clients to do and not to do, but I wanted to make sure they felt respected and appreciated when making my requests known. Effective communication is essential to running a successful business. In spite of these shortcomings or uncertainties, I said to myself, “I could run an agency someday myself.” I understood the big picture. I loved working with the amazing American Sign Language Interpreters and administrative staff. I loved this work atmosphere! I also believe that this inspiration helped me find my true passion and my career. I highly recommend you work at a place that you would find interesting and inspiring, and if you ever want to start a business, get some experience first before starting your dream business. It will help you know your true passion and desire which means you will love your work.
My biggest piece of advice to future entrepreneurs is to review the Small Business Administration (SBA) booklet called “How to Start a Business?” and answer the questions to assess eligibility for running a small business. That is where I got the confidence to start my business, because I answered “yes” to most of the questions. As I have looked back over time on numerous occasions trying to figure out how I got started on my dream business, I realize it is simply because I answered the basic questions in the SBA booklet. An example of some of these basic questions are: “How can I support my family while I build up my business?”, “What are my abilities?”, ” Will your product or service sell well?”, “How long will it take the business to reach the financial goal you have?”, “Do I have the drive to work long hours?”, “Will I keep fighting and be persistent after trying over and over?” Here is the link to the Small Business Administration about starting your own business: https://www.sba.gov/business-guide.
There are many more questions but answering the basic questions will help you determine if you are ready to pursue your dream business. If you have met the basic requirements of running a business and have the required traits such as dedication, determination, putting forth a lot of effort, working many and long hours, the desire to do extensive research, and many other important traits necessary to becoming a true and successful business owner, then you are ready to embark on your new adventure! I must warn you… there will be some happy days, some sad days, some tearful days, and some frustrating days. But remember, if you work hard and put up the good fight, you will get there eventually. It just takes TIME! Again, running a business is HARD especially when raising a young family and maintaining some of the programs such as 8a Certified Firm, GSA Schedule Holder, as well as many other certifications to satisfy the eligibility requirements. I’ve learned that if you want something in life whether it’s owning your own business or anything else for that matter, you have to also want the costs of getting it! Any journey you embark upon has costs, so you will have to invest your time and energy into it every step of the way. One of the questions I ask myself when things get tough are “What am I willing to give up to get what I want?” Or, on those inevitably hard days, “What is worth suffering for?” Seriously think about it. If you want the successful business, you also have to want the long days, the stressful business deals and decisions, and the possibility of failing twenty times to learn what you need to know to succeed in the long run. You must be willing to suffer through the effort and work it’s going to take to achieve it. My best wishes to all entrepreneurs!
One of the best experiences I’ve had as a small business owner is realizing that my strongest traits are determination and hard work! I have learned SO much working as a small business owner! In fact, I’ve probably learned MORE as a small business owner than all the years combined up until starting my own business. My learning curve continues to thrive! Owning my own business is the most rewarding experience I’ve ever had and brings the most job happiness I’ve ever known. The best part of it is that I am my own boss. I enjoy being near my family and don’t have to commute daily. I can just enjoy immediately working from home hassle free instead of having to rush out the door to get somewhere. I am truly blessed to have been able to create this wonderful experience as a business owner!
I am also proud to announce that my business is one out of 102 Champions across the nation selected by SCORE, sponsored by Sam’s Club. Ever since we all met in Reno, Nevada for the ASBC Training and Networking Celebration, I have made drastic improvements by increasing my efforts to complete the homework we were given upon returning home. We were all instructed to complete our homework between April and the end of June 2018 to show how we applied what we learned at the workshops. It has been an incredibly rich and rewarding experience. All of the Champions in attendance continue to talk to each other daily and provide ongoing motivation. It has also been a very impressive experience for me. I see these powerful 102 Champions with various businesses ranging from an Ice Cream business owner, a Cricket Farm, a Fashion Designer, and many more! They are amazing and true champions. “The best positive 102 Champions ever in 2018 ASBC Training & Networking Celebration” says one unidentified SCORE representative. These people are amazing, and they are all working very hard to compete for the $15K final prize. Only 3 Champions out of 102 will win the $15K prize on Sept 13, 2018. I feel that I have changed so much by putting forth the effort I know is required to be a true Champion! All the sweat, tears, joy and success are what it means to be a Champion! I am so grateful to have learned so much from each other and appreciate the help provided daily! That is what makes this unique group of 102 champions! We all have developed special bonds, and we hope to keep in touch for many years to come! I hope you have enjoyed learning about this success story! “You never know if you will get there until you try and see the light! BIG opportunities will stand above the rest.” By Alli Friends