Creating an Accidental Business

April 23, 2019

This is not the story of two people living in their parent’s basement who cooked up a world-changing idea that made them millions; but it is the story of two people who created a small business out of something that neither ever envisioned doing before.

It began when Candy Ho was working on her Master of Education at Simon Fraser University. A common requirement of any grad program is to conduct interviews as a core component of one’s research project or dissertation – and once those interviews are done they need to be typed out word for word (transcribed), which can be a pain-staking process.

Candy conducted around 13 interviews during her MEd and ended up paying a transcriptionist to do the tedious work of converting her audio files into Word documents. It cost a small fortune as well.

About a year later, John was working on his MEd at SFU and instead of contracting out the transcribing work, Candy said she’d give it a shot. And she liked it. And she was good at it. When John told his classmates his transcribing was done, many then approached him to ask who he hired to do the work… you guessed it, that’s when Transcription Ninjas was born.

Before investing any significant time into developing our business, we did some general market research and determined that there is a large need amongst the academic research community (as one example) for this type of work. We then attended a Venture Connection “Mentor Meet” and had our suspicion confirmed by Mentor in Residence, Guy Flavelle, who then helped us join the program, develop our business plan, and begin our journey as a 100% Canadian owned and operated professional transcription company.

It was never our life goal or mission to start our own business, and especially not one that focuses on this type of work, however, five years later our business continues to grow – and all based upon referrals from past clients. And it all began through a typical experience that most graduate students need to go through…

Here are some tips we have to share with you to consider how your own ‘accidental’ business may be identified:

  • Is there a service or product that you pay someone for semi-regularly that a certain segment of the population also requires?
  • Is the service being provided or product being produced something that others wouldn’t necessarily enjoy doing themselves, nor have time to do?
  • Is there a perceived lack of options available for people to access this service or product?
  • Are the barriers to entry into that market relatively low?

In our case, the answer to all four above was a definitive yes.

One other aspect that made it very easy for us to enter this market is that the start-up costs were nearly nothing – we have no overhead, do our work from the comfort of our homes, and rely upon excellent contractors who are paid based on the work they complete. Plus, at the end of the day we’re offering a service that truly helps people, and that, to us, made Transcription Ninjas a great venture to pursue.

Candy Ho
Founder & Head Ninja | Transcription Ninjas
Faculty, Educational Studies | Kwantlen Polytechnic University
John Grant
Associate Head Ninja | Transcription Ninjas
Director, Alumni Relations & Executive Director, Alumni Association | Simon Fraser University