Theresa Katalinas

The late William R. Martin was fluent in Spanish and English and began interpreting at a young age. As the son of Cuban parents, he was often required to convey messages for his mother, which were spoken in English, in her native language.

“He helped my grandmother find her way in the world,” recalls Martin’s daughter, J. Nicole Martin Lawton.

As an adult, he realized how important access to languages ​​is for those who prefer to communicate in a language other than English, and so he began his career as a professional interpreter, finding a way to help people other than his mother, which gave him great joy.

Bill Martin founded Phoenix Language Services in 1993. Following his death in May 2020, Lawton took the helm as President and CEO.

Since taking over operational leadership of Phoenix, Lawton has made the commercialization of the company's Interpreter Management System (IMS) one of her top priorities. Developed by Martin in 2012, IMS is a management and scheduling solution designed to facilitate the delivery of interpreter services.

“My father believed in the value and utility of our interpreter management system,” she said. “I owe it to him and his legacy” to drive commercialization.

At the suggestion of a business partner, Nicole sought help from the mentors at SCORE Bucks County. Two years ago, Nicole began meeting with her SCORE mentors, Bill Grant and Charlie Morris.

“Charlie was a tremendous help to me in our development discussions. He gave me sound, valuable advice and acted as my interpreter on software,” she said. “Charlie is an expert in software development.”

For Nicole, 2024 and 2025 will be crucial for the launch of a subscription service for IMS. “I believe in it,” she said.

Grant provided important financial and strategic advice with significant insight into supplier negotiations, and both he and Morris supported Nicole throughout the continued development process for the third iteration of IMS. Their advice and recommendations, both at the business and software level, have been invaluable as Nicole tackles the continued growth of the company.

As the owner of four companies, “you have to stay current. You have to think ahead,” she said. “Bill and Charlie help me think of different ways to grow.”

Since her father started the company out of his home, it has grown significantly, with hundreds of interpreters on-site and over 15,000 remote interpreters providing language access in over 140 languages. Blue Bell-based Phoenix has many clients in the greater Philadelphia area and its suburbs, including four major health systems.

Interpreter services are used in healthcare and business, in human resources, in schools and in legal contexts such as arbitration, depositions and client meetings. “In every setting, really,” she noted.

Prior to taking on a leadership role at Phoenix Language Services, Nicole worked for ten years as a healthcare attorney and was a partner at a large law firm.

“I have a legal brain. That's how I think,” she said. “It's really helped me a lot in getting things done.”

Nicole has worked for Phoenix Language Services in various capacities since she was a child and was most involved in the early 2000s while simultaneously completing her bachelor's and master's degrees at the University of Pennsylvania. She was the Program Director of Phoenix Language Services at a local children's hospital for several years.

“That sparked my love and interest in it,” she said. “I had planned all along to be where I am today. This is truly what I was meant to do. I feel so honored to carry on my father's legacy.”

Nicole's leadership and the company's achievements were recently recognized with the U.S. Small Business Administration's prestigious 2024 Eastern Pennsylvania Entrepreneurial Success of the Year Award. Additionally, she was one of the SBA Success Stories featured by WBEC-East.

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