Thanks to fast help from the city, a small translation service adapts to an altered marketplace.
In February 2020, Ronald Ponton’s translation business, PSquared Linguistics, featured a large client base and robust customer pipleline.
“Things were going really well,” he said. “The main concentrations for our translation services are school districts, law firms and other government entities. Those markets showed no signs of slowing down and our future looked bright.”
But that narrative changed a few weeks later when COVID-19 and an influx of cases became a reality in the United States. Non-essential travel of all types was suspended, which affected travel through ports of entry from Canada and Mexico. Immigration courts were closed for an extended period of time. Schools all over the country shut down and made the hasty transition to remote learning.
Out of every possible business scenario for which Ponton had planned, a global pandemic was something he can confidently say he never saw coming.
Fortunately, Ponton was able to quickly secure a City of Charlotte Access to Capital grant to help with payroll and for reaching new customers.
City grant was fast, easy
Access to Capital Small Business Recovery grant program, which is administered by Foundation for the Carolinas, his interest was immediately piqued.
“I get so many emails, but that one caught my eye,” he said with a laugh. “I flagged it and said, ‘Okay, June 22. I’m going to get my paperwork together so I can be ready on day one.’ The paperwork the city was asking for was paperwork that any small business owner would need to have for tax purposes, so I already felt prepared.”
The first day the grant program was open, Ponton applied — “took me about 10 minutes to complete” — but expected he’d have to wait awhile for an answer. “Within two weeks, I got an email that said I had been approved,” he said. “I think it was about 10 days later that I got the funds deposited. Such a seamless experience — which is so important when I think about all of the other things we’ve been worried about through all of this. It was nice to have an experience that was easy.”
Ponton and his wife plan to use the Access to Capital grant in several ways. The first is to explore new marketing opportunities. “We know there are several other business sectors that might benefit from services, and the funds mean we can look into marketing to those sectors,” Ponton said. Digital marketing, like Google Ads and SEO consulting, is a high priority.
The second is to pivot PSquared’s services to be more sustainable for the duration of the pandemic and help clients regardless of social distancing measures. “This is important with all of our clients, but schools have an especially big need,” Ponton said. “With more and more schools doing remote learning for at least the first part of the year, the need for parent communication is still there — and perhaps even more important. How can we do our part to make that communication easier?”
Funds will also be used to generally keep the office — and Ponton’s contractor staff — running until things open back up. Ponton said that even though his contractors do project-based work, it’s still important for him to make sure they’re taken care of, too.
Love of language and other cultures
PSquared Linguistics was started in 2012. Ponton, a native of Maryland, studied abroad as a teen and learned Spanish and Portugese. His love for language, learning about other cultures and working with people made becoming a linguist a natural fit. He shares the title of co-founder with his wife, and while they’re based in Charlotte, the business has allowed the couple to become digital nomads and travel all over the United States and the world.
“It’s not just work for me,” he said. “It has really become a passion and a joy.”
It’s this passion that’s helped Ponton keep a positive outlook when it comes to his business.
“So many things have changed with our business over the past five months, but my passion for the work — and the business — remains the same,” he added. “The assistance from the city came at exactly the right time and it’s going to allow us to keep our passion alive.”
Ronald Ponton, owner of PSquared Linguistics, is an Access to Capital Grant recipient. Through the grant program, the City of Charlotte is Distributing $30 million in federal CARES Act funding to small businesses impacted by COVID-19. If you are a small business owner with a business headquartered in Charlotte, learn more about the Access to Capital Grant and apply today.