How to Reach Clients' Ears in the U.S. Market

W100 winner Stephanie Ciccarelli does a lot of her business south of the border. Why she's succeeding in the land of opportunity

Written by Sarah Niedoba

Stephanie Ciccarelli always has the last word. Or at least, her company does. Founded in 2004, offers clients access to thousand of voice actors, as well as translation services for businesses looking to record voice-overs for foreign markets.

The origin story behind Voices is almost too good to be true. “I guess it starts back when my husband and I first met,” Ciccarelli recalls. “I was a voice major at the time, and my mom saw an ad in the paper for a young man who had opened a recording studio. I went for a tour of the studio; a year later, we were married.”

The couple started a website on which they sold voice recording services; David Ciccarelli had the necessary engineering background, while Stephanie provided the voice performance know-how. “We kept having these voice talents getting in touch with us, asking to be on the site,” she says. “€˜If you need someone who can do French, I can do that,’ or €˜If you need a surfer dude, I’m your guy.'” Inspired, the pair opened up their site to outside talent in 2004. Now, the company offers access to 250,000 voice actors from around the world. The success of Voices landed Stephanie Ciccarelli the No. 22 spot on the 2016 W100 ranking of Canada’s Top Female Entrepreneurs.

When it came to expanding the business internationally, the company’s business model gave it a natural advantage. “We’re an online marketplace, so the world was open to us already,” says Ciccarelli. The site offers recordings in over 100 languages, and this year it hired an export manager for Latin American and Asia-Pacific to deal with increasing international traffic. “Over 80% of our customers are actually from the States,” Ciccarelli explains, attributing the massive client base to the country’s giant entertainment industry.

The next step for the company is a brick-and-mortar storefront in New York City. The couple has spent the last six months travelling between their London, Ont. headquarters and the Big Apple, establishing face-to-face connections with potential clients. “We always knew New York would be somewhere really beneficial for us to be,” says Stephanie Ciccarelli. “For Fortune 500 companies, Madison Avenue is basically where all of their ads are made. New York City is the centre for a lot of our industry.”

Ciccarelli says being on the ground is essential to building relationships. “New Yorkers do business with New Yorkers—you really need to be there,” she explains. “You can’t parachute in, you have to build your relationships, let people see you, get to know and trust you.”

Her biggest piece of advice to companies looking to expand into the U.S.? “Know if you have any American customers at all,” says Ciccarelli. “We were already serving Americans, so we knew that was a market we wanted to pursue, that made sense for us to pursue.” Ultimately, she says, you have to go where the demand is. “New York City is a very geocentric base us. But if a Canadian company is thinking going to the U.S., I would advise them to take that decision very seriously. There just might not be a want or a need for what they have to offer.”

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