The story of Acantho: from freelancer, to cooperative, to company.


by Acantho I&C

Acantho Ideas & Cultures is a budding translation company in the heart of Zaragoza, Spain, located in a narrow street with a long literary history. But how did Acantho get to where it is today? The answer is quite simple: in three stages.

1. The Freelancer

Nieves Pueyo always had a thirst for learning about new cultures and languages and before settling down definitively in Zaragoza, she lived in the USA, France and the United Kingdom, soaking in the different cultures, experiences and meeting amazing people.

After finishing her Degree in English Philology, a Master’s degree in Translation was the next natural step for her to take. Upon finishing this and then going on to experience the inner workings of a very profits-driven, high-output translation agency with a high staff turnover, Nieves was resolute that she would work in her own way, consciously, ethically, with integrity and in a people-centred manner.

She had no trouble setting up shop from a small desk at home and working as a freelance translator (albeit it with the 2003 slower Internet connection). This flexibility allowed her and her partner to continue to travel abroad extensively – to India, Jordan, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia – to name just a few destinations, generally as far away as possible from the beaten track as possible, to truly explore and experience different cultures and continue to experience life- and perspective-changing events.

Nieves enjoyed the flexibility of working freelance and it was not long before word spread and she found that she, alone, was unable to meet the growing demand for her services.

2. The Cooperative

So, still with a clear vision that she did not want to follow the typical agency (outsource to the cheapest supplier and add a fat margin) in 2007 Nieves got together with like-minded colleagues and formed a co-operative providing linguistic services with an emphasis on co-operation and collaboration. The 2008 Expo in Zaragoza saw a boom in demand for translation services as millions flocked to the city of Zaragoza. And it was during this same year that Nieves became a mother for the first time. In some ways, the co-operative was more in alignment with Nieves’ vision for a more people-centric way of working, but in others it didn’t provide a way to scale services to meet demand quickly.

3. The Company

In 2010, Nieves, accompanied by her intrepid tour-guide husband, Carlos, transformed the co-operative into the company it is today: Acantho Ideas & Culturas, as the vision became clearer not only on WHAT she wanted to create, but on HOW to create it. The company was based around two branches, one the one hand a translation company (not an agency), with Nieves at the helm, and, on the other hand, an alternative, ethical + sustainable tourism company, headed up by her husband Carlos.

This blended structure allowed both Nieves and Carlos to continue to evolve their passions for promoting and communicating different cultures, not only through the written and spoken word, but also by physically expanding people’s cultural horizons in an alternative, conscious way. With integrity.

The translation company naturally evolved into an incubator for new talent as people were drawn to her business model, allowing Nieves to also exercise another of her vocations: that of teacher and enabling many budding translators to get a foothold in the market. In fact, the in-house and external teams today are largely comprised of translators who at some stage in their career have spent time in our translation company – talent incubator. Sometimes people take a hiatus to expand their families, travel abroad or get married. And often they come back.

Since its inception, the company has continually grown thanks to its unwavering commitment to provide its customers with competitive prices and high quality, regardless of their knowledge of the translation market and the economic outlook. This ethic has ensured the company has grown year after year regardless of the market condition.

The Acantho in-house team today is composed of a versatile team of polyvalent polyglots which gives it the flexibility to get things done quickly. Team members are encouraged to contribute their ideas (as intrapreneurs), meaning we thrive from constant feedback and teamwork. And, most of all, we all love translating!

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