Alice Anne Friends, the owner of Friends Interpreting Services, was born without the ability to hear. From seventh grade on, she learned in a mainstream classroom without the aid of an American Sign Language interpreter. The result? Friends graduated high school at a fourth-grade reading level. But when she enrolled in Gallaudet University, America’s only college for the deaf, everything changed. She began to excel academically and went on to graduate school, where she studied Deaf Education.
After three years of working at a top ASL interpreting agency in Washington, D.C., Friends decided to strike out on her own. But her business venture was interrupted by the birth of twins in 2005, and then another set of twins a few years later. In 2011, Friends established Friends Interpreting Services, which provides American Sign Language interpreters in medical, government, educational and business settings. Running the business has not only brought Friends success, but has also allowed her to work while caring for her four children.
Friends worked with SCORE mentor Nathan Idio, who she met with through video conference calls using a remote ASL interpreter. Friends got help from Idio on doing the business modifications necessary to become a GSA vendor. Friends estimates that doing the GSA modification through SCORE saved her about $16,000.
“My mentor is very special because he finally broke the barrier for me, and he sees that I am successful and will continue to be because of his willingness to mentor me,” says Friends.
Friends Interpreting Services is now a General Service Administration (GSA) vendor, providing interpreting services to the U.S. federal government and has four GSA clients. The company was also a 2018 American Small Business Championship finalist.