Interview Questions: Chandra Clarke of Scribendi
Here, The NextWomen talk to Chandra Clarke - an author, columnist, business woman and founder of Scribendi.com - about the satisfaction of starting your own business and standard of English across the world.
Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
My name is Chandra Clarke and I am the founder, co-owner, and President of Scribendi.com, an online editing and proofreading company based in Ontario, Canada. I hold an honours degree in English and Psychology from Athabasca University, as well as an MSc in Space Exploration Studies from the University of North Dakota.
Can you tell me about your site?
Scribendi.com is a global leader in the online editing and proofreading industry.
What services do you offer?
We offer a wide range of editing and proofreading services for students, authors, academics, business people, and large corporate entities. Whether you’re working on a molecular biology dissertation, or a multi-million dollar proposal, Scribendi.com’s editors can help you produce a highly refined document. Furthermore, Scribendi.com is open 24/7, which means we can work around any deadline.
What is your business model?
Scribendi.com has developed a new way of executing an age-old profession, by utilising the best available digital and Internet technologies to provide a fast, efficient, and reliable service. Our proprietary workflow management system allows Scribendi.com to take digital documents from our clients, automatically assign the work to the most appropriate available editor, and deliver the revised document within hours. Indeed, this system is efficient enough that we currently review more than 1.5 million words per week, 52 weeks a year. We employ an international workforce of highly educated editors, and provide service 24 hours a day.
How and why did you come up with the idea?
Scribendi.com started as a way to help people, and I’m proud to say that that’s still our number one priority. When one of our editors reviews an admissions essay, we help someone get into the school of their dreams. To say that this has a profound impact on that person’s career path and even their personal life—who they end up meeting, befriending, or marrying—is no exaggeration. The same is true for authors, academics, and business people; we are constantly helping writers reach their highest potential, and nothing could be more satisfying.
You have worked as both a reporter and photographer on various publications. What made you go it alone and do you miss the photography?
A sense of accomplishment was something that constantly evaded me in my previous work experience. While I enjoy being an employee and can work for other people, I’ve always preferred to be able to take charge and take responsibility for doing things. I found being a managing editor very frustrating because I had been tasked with the responsibility for putting out a good product, yet didn’t have the authority to make the changes needed to have that happen. I suppose at the time I wasn’t properly empowered; now, however, I am able to monitor projects closely, and make changes that will benefit both our company and our clients. I do miss the photography from time to time, as it was a great way to be a bit more creative.
Do you use any social networking tools such as Facebook or Twitter?
I do use social networking sites – you can follow me on Twitter @ckclarke, and my personal account at Facebook. We also use both these sites for the business; you can become a fan of Scribendi.com on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter @Scribendi_Inc.
Do you worry about the standard of English in the country?
Oh, absolutely! I just read a story where Birmingham council has decided to scrap punctuation on council signs for the sake of “simplicity”. This is really unfortunate because decisions like this seem to provide official sanction for poor punctuation and bad grammar. Badly done commercial signs were already driving me around the bend!
You are shortly to re-launch your site. What made you make this decision?
If you’re going to do business on the Internet, you have to stay current, and we’re overdue for a facelift. The changes aren’t strictly cosmetic though; we’ve done extensive research and have implemented a number of improvements that should make the site even more ‘user-friendly’ than it is right now.
Are there any experiences you feel other women setting up a business could learn from?
If I can be permitted to summarise in the usual business wisdom pithy way: You don’t get what you don’t ask for.
We have been through a number of negotiation situations recently, for software products, for financing, for facilities, where we were offered reasonable terms. We pushed for better terms, and got them. Aggressiveness still isn’t really considered an acceptable female trait, and so may not occur to women that they can—and should—try for better, even if the original offer seems okay. You don’t have to be a jerk about it, but it doesn’t hurt to ask either!
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