Sounon Coulibaly says he’s an entrepreneur by necessity. He works for the business conglomerate Dangote Group, and set up a branch of the company in Cote D’Ivoire. During his years in business, he observed the vital role translators played in acclimating foreign business to his country.
“(Businesses) would book three or four months ahead of time just to have a seat,” Coulibaly said. “So the demand is very high for translators.”
In 2012, he created Vice Versa Language Intelligence, a venture that provides translation services in French, English, Spanish, and quickly expanding to Arabic and other popular languages.
The mantra of Vice Versa is “we translate the soul of your words into the words of your soul,” Coulibaly said. “We’re basically the only group in the country to propose that cultural context in translation.”
He hopes to invest in a training center and video conference capabilities. Government contracts are already piling up, he said. Since English training is so valuable, officials at the embassy expressed interest in a Vice Versa language training center.
As an extension of his business, Coulabily founded an NGO named NDJIN-NIESSOU. It means New Dawn, and the social enterprise gives young graduates their first contracts in communication or translating. Ndjin-Niessou also invests in orphans on the condition that they stay in school. Working with orphans is the social value he wanted to add to my ventures, he said.
“In Cote D’Ivoire, we have a phenomenon of homeless children, but when you talk to them you realize they actually have a family, but they left for some reason,” he said.
Whether it’s communicating with businessmen around the world, or checking up on schoolchildren in his own community, Coulibaly believe in the power of words. The right words.
“I realize that more communication will break barriers and bring more business,” he said. “This is why I wake up in the morning to go to Vice Versa.”