Chandra Clarke is a woman who saw an opportunity in front of her and went after it. As an editor, she saw first-hand published works full of errors and knew there was a market out there for her if she struck out on her own. She founded Scribendi from her home office and began taking on freelance editing jobs. Before long, she realized the market for fast and professional editing services was huge, so she put systems in place to make editing easier not only for her, but also her clients. Her business is now internationally known and acclaimed, and continues to grow thanks to Chandra’s hard work and drive to create a successful business.
Thamesville, Ontario, Canada
Current Residence (City, State):
Chatham, Ontario, Canada
A double major in English and Psychology from Athabasca University and an MSc in Space Exploration Studies from the University of North Dakota.
I started out in newspapers, first with my high school paper and then part-time at my hometown newspaper. While working my way through an undergraduate degree via distance studies, I was promoted to managing editor for a small weekly paper. After months of enduring the responsibility of producing a good publication while not having the ultimate decision-making authority over it, I decided it was time to strike out on my own.
I started taking in editing jobs, knowing that kind of work was available after having seen some atrocious press releases from police stations concerning “marjewana busts.” By the end of 1997, I knew there was a market for a fast, professional editing service; I began designing a system that would make the editing process easier, both for the writer and the editor.
With a lot of hard work and a little help from the Internet, Scribendi is now an international leader in the editing and proofreading industry. We’ve won numerous awards, including an Ontario Global Traders Award for Market Expansion – Service, and a Small Business Standard of Excellence award from the Web Marketing Association.
What you wanted to be when you grew up:
Ha – well, my dream job would still be science officer aboard the U.S.S Enterprise! I did seriously consider becoming an astronaut as a teenager, but could see even then that it was going to be some decades before the world’s space programs really got into gear again. Becoming an astronaut would have required thousands of hours of study, flying time, and so on, and even if I were to make the cut into the astronaut program, my chances of actually going up were quite slim — in the past 30 years, only eight Canadians have flown. So I’ve gone at this another way… into business to eventually make enough money to be a full-time philanthropist supporting scientific research, and I’ll eventually do a PhD in the public understanding of science.
What you are:
Founder, president, and co-owner of Scribendi Inc., a leading online editing and proofreading service.
Brief Summary of your Start Up:
Scribendi started in my family home. It consisted of me, my computer, the Internet, and a lot of coffee. Since I couldn’t afford outside help, I handled all aspects of the business, including programming the first version of EditorWorksTM (Scribendi’s proprietary workflow management software), editing the orders, and balancing the books. It took a while, but eventually I was able to start hiring telecommute editors, as well as a part-time bookkeeper. In 2003 I incorporated the company with the help of my husband, and the rest is history.
What inspired you?
Aside from the horrendous spelling of press release authors, Scribendi was designed to help writers everywhere gain access to affordable professional English language editing. Services like Scribendi’s college application review help aspiring students get into the college of their dreams, while ESL academic services help researchers from non-English speaking countries share their discoveries in scholarly journals. Corporate organizations and government agencies also depend on Scribendi’s expertise by outsourcing the editing of manuals, presentations, and web site content. Helping people express themselves in a clear, concise manner is what inspires me, and inspires the more than 100 editors who are currently employed at Scribendi.
How long have you been in business?
Scribendi has been in business since 1997.
How did you fund it?
For more than 10 years, Scribendi was funded entirely by personal capital and profits.
Do you have a Fairy Godmother (or Mentor)?
Not one person in particular, no. I read widely though, and have taken advice from a wide variety of sources.
Do you belong to any Business Organization or Networking Groups?
Scribendi is a member of the Chatham-Kent Chamber of Commerce, the Better Business Bureau, and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.
Current Business Challenge?
I’m hesitant to refer to it as a struggle, considering the current condition of the global economy; however, Scribendi’s rapid growth is currently my main focus. Right now we’re in the middle of a five-year expansion plan, which includes a complete overhaul of our web site, increased marketing efforts, and an international hiring push. And that’s just the start! There are so many things we want to do at Scribendi and it just seems like there’s never enough time or manpower to get it all done.
What are you doing about it?
Our Human Resource Manager is currently interviewing for an additional full-time in-house editor, as well as recruiting candidates for telecommute positions. The editors and staff are also giving 110% in order to ensure that the new web site launch goes off without a hitch.
Favorite motivational quote:
Be the change you want to see in the world – Gandhi.
I’m happily married to my husband, Terence. We have three beautiful boys: Tiernan, who is five; Egan, who is three; and Rhodri, who just turned six months.
If so, how do you balance family and business?
Well, if you’ve ever been to Canada, you’ll be familiar with a place called Tim Horton’s. I highly recommend their coffee, especially when you’re working late!
Seriously though, I wouldn’t be able to do all the things I do if it weren’t for the help of my husband. Terence is the Vice-President of Scribendi, as well as a loving father and exceptional husband. In order to balance work with family, we’ve arranged to split all our duties 50/50 — this way, we’re there for both our boys and our business. It also helps that we have fantastic people working for us; Scribendi employs some of the finest editors in the world, as well as a dedicated internal staff.
I’m not sure I could pick just one favorite because I like different books for different reasons. I am a big Terry Pratchett fan, and recently enjoyed his Nation. Right now, I’m reading Nudge, a book about public policy.
What do you do to relax?
I’ve had very little time to relax recently, what with big changes at work, and of course, three kids with widely different needs. I enjoy walks with them, either in our neighborhood or at nearby provincial parks. When squeezing in a day trip isn’t an option, I read, or play computer games.
What do you want to change most about your world?
So many pressing issues… obviously, the environment is a big one, as if we don’t get that sorted out, everything else is moot. The economy is closely tied to the environment; we truly need to find a way to implement sustainable development, so that economies can continue to grow or improve without trashing the planet.
What are you most proud of?
My kids. We homeschool, so we have the privilege of seeing their horizons expand on a near-daily basis; they’re doing very well in their studies.
What advice would you like to offer other Start Up Princesses?
Plan, plan, and plan some more. Have clear goals and objectives for each day, each week, each month, and each year. This will help keep you on track and pointed in the right direction.
Favorite Magic Wand (tool/resource)?
My laptop and increasingly, my Blackberry; both keep me connected whether I’m working from my office desk or at home on the kitchen table.
If you could design a tiara, what precious stones would you use?
Rubies, if only because they’re my birthstone.
Would you be interested in being a Fairy Godmother and writing articles or speaking at Startup Princess events?
In a few months time, possibly, yes. Currently have rather a lot on my plate!
What business subjects would you feel comfortable mentoring in?
Planning, e-commerce and Internet related subjects, management issues.