Nicole Lawton inherits her late Father’s incredible business and leverages WBEC-East resources to soar to new heights.
Nicole Lawton owns four companies, but our focus today is on her role as President and CEO of her company Phoenix Language Services, which assists its clients to communicate directly with anyone who prefers to communicate in a language other than English. Examples include on-site and remote interpreters at medical encounters, meetings, legal proceedings, events or conferences, translation for items such as documentation, signage at facilities, and website localization.
Phoenix Language Services (PLS) has become the go-to interpretation solution for large healthcare systems in the greater Philadelphia area. Similarly, PLS provides interpretation services for visiting professors, lawyers, and healthcare providers in a variety of settings. Further services include assisting with language access program development, providing access to proprietary software, the Interpreter Management System (IMS)® for clients to manage and schedule their own interpreters, and training bilingual individuals to become professional medical interpreters. For more information about trainings visit NICHC.org and plsi.net/training.
So how did Nicole come to be President and CEO of such a vital company? Phoenix Language Services was founded in 1993 by her father, Bill Martin, who she intended to work alongside for many years. Sadly, Bill passed away on May 29, 2020. Nicole remembers her operational control and role as President and CEO of PLS starting on that very next Monday, June 1st, when she had no choice but to hit the ground running and continue the legacy that her father had created.
Leaning on her family, Nicole was first drawn to WBEC-East through inspiration from her mother, Jacqui Snyder, a “solo-preneur” who knows the value of networking, business training, and certification. In order to succeed, Nicole recognized that her focus should not only be to hold on to her father’s vision of PLS but to incorporate her own while remaining passionately committed to the company’s purpose and mission.
With a little more encouragement from a long-time mentor and certified WBE, Nicole set out on her journey towards rebranding Phoenix Language Services as a woman-owned business.
“Growing up, I had always seen the business as my dad’s, but as I transitioned into leadership and the company transformed, this was just another way of making it feel like my own.”
Nicole applied for support through the WBEC-East CARES Act fund and received 37.5 hours of one-on-one business counseling and training. During these valuable discussions, her executive coach and her social media strategist each helped Nicole view things in a new and refreshing perspective that she didn’t have before. Through this business consultation, Nicole developed a new brand for PLS, including revitalizing the website and introducing an exciting new logo. With the help of WBEC-East, Nicole lifted up her business, and, just like a phoenix, rose from the ashes stronger and ready to soar.
From there Nicole went through the application processes with WBEC-East, EMSDC, and the Pennsylvania Department of General Services and Phoenix Language Services was certified as a WBE, MBE, WOSB, SDB and DB, securing PLS a place in the Women-Owned world. She was introduced to additional resources such as the Temple SBDC, Goldman Sacs 10K Small Businesses Program, and NAWBO, and describes the incoming support as a domino effect set off by being around “powerhouses who are other women.”
Nicole also met fellow WBE (and one of our 2023 Envoys), Aliya Hammond, who she related to as a business owner and mom of two young daughters. Aliya reminded her of the power of personal storytelling in a professional context and helped Nicole grow her social media presence by sharing the story about her dad. It was Nicole’s way of honoring everything her dad had taught her about valuing the people around her and giving them a voice. Nicole remains connected with Aliya as friends and as collaborators in their respective businesses.
This is just one example of the connections that are made through the SBA and WBENC networks. Nicole was recently able to secure one of her dad’s “bucket list clients,” a success she credits to her professional support system and advisors, including the network she has built through WBEC-East. She is grateful to continue what her father created for those seeking language access in the modern world.
Nicole is currently focused on growing her company and continuing to adapt to the shift toward remote work in all capacities. She is always exploring the resources offered by WBEC-East—as well as what knowledge and skills she can provide for us—and sees this relationship as just beginning. In November, Nicole will be a guest speaker on the podcast, Family First, which will air after the new year. Follow them and stay tuned!
“My advice to others on their small business journey is to surround yourself with mentors who have done it before and who think differently from you. The combination of getting out of your comfort zone while also building your support team is what will make your business thrive.”