Claudia Mirza (CEO/Cofounder) & Azam Mirza (President/Cofounder) | Plano, Texas | B2B / Food Services


“The need for constant digital innovation was there before COVID-19, and today it’s even more critical.”

Claudia Mirza, Akorbi | Plano, Texas

Colombian-born Claudia Mirza doesn’t let much stand in her way. Overcoming a challenging upbringing in Medellin, today she’s CEO of Akorbi, one of the fastest growing female-owned businesses in the world. Akorbi, cofounded by Claudia and her partner, Azam Mirza, helps organizations across many different industry verticals connect with employees, vendors, and customers in over 170 languages. Thanks to its longstanding embrace of digital tools, this translation, workforce solutions, and technology business has also proven incredibly adept at pivoting in challenging times — including the COVID-19 pandemic.

Digital tools have been critical to Akorbi’s success over the years. “It’s what allowed us to compete with the big boys,” Claudia says. Akorbi turned to social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter and marketing services such as SharpSpring and Google Ads — paired with the capabilities of Google Analytics — to get the word out, and customer management tools to keep sales digitally integrated and operations digitally automated. Claudia and Azam also began a company-wide push, beginning in 2006, to shift from in-person to remote video interpretation services. As Azam puts it, they wanted to focus less on transporting translators long distances and focus more on delivering content in a timely manner.


of SMBs used digital tools for some core business function pre-crisis.

However, only a quarter (25%) saw digital technology as essential to their business operations. Only 45% felt digitally ready for the pandemic.

After Akorbi’s marketing team implemented digital capabilities, the business was able to shift to the products and services that customers wanted most when COVID-19 hit. A quick review of the marketing team’s Google Analytics data showed Claudia how to proceed. “We gave the order to our marketing team to increase the spend on Google Ads,” Claudia recalls. “And we told them to focus the campaigns on our remote service offerings.” Akorbi reoriented its ad spend to focus on social media platforms as well, including LinkedIn and Instagram, and shifted significant resources to the call center side of the business. The company also focused heavily on telehealth offerings. Even before the pandemic, Akorbi was helping facilitate hundreds of medical appointments every week in languages such as Spanish, Swahili, and American Sign Language. The company’s ADAPT platform allowed the doctors, patients, and independent interpreters who used it to trust that the sensitive information they were discussing would be kept safe and secure. Today, this health-care-focused platform has become even more essential to saving lives.

The same digital infrastructure that enabled Akorbi’s quick pivots also allowed it to have a workforce that was highly global and largely remote before the pandemic. As a result, despite Claudia and Azam’s initial fears when COVID-19 hit, they have been able to pivot quickly and remain resilient. “It’s incredible when you think about it, but we hardly missed a beat,” Claudia says. “And that is only because of all the digital tools and connectivity that we had invested in previously.”


of SMBs found digital tools more helpful to them during the crisis than pre-crisis.

Most SMBs (53%) also plan to continue to use more digital technologies in their business, even after the pandemic.

It isn’t just Akorbi that is benefiting from this digital resilience. So too are the many businesses and individuals that count on the services Akorbi provides to keep functioning every day — not to mention the patients and medical professionals who are able to stay safer and healthier thanks to the company’s telehealth offerings.

The many challenges brought about by COVID-19 are tough. But Claudia, Azam, and their digitally driven small business proved to be even tougher. “The need for constant digital innovation was there before COVID-19, and today it’s even more critical,” Azam says. Claudia agrees. “There is no right path, so be fearless, and if something doesn’t work, get up and try again,” she says. “And never forget to be compassionate and emphasize the importance of human connection.”

The many challenges brought about by COVID-19 are tough. But Claudia, Azam,and their digitally driven small business proved to be even tougher.


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