In 1992, shortly after graduating with an MBA from New York University's business school, Elting started TransPerfect with classmate Phil Shawe. Their start-up money: $5,000, largely from credit cards. Today the 30-branch international translation and interpretation service takes in more than $65 million a year. Elting is married with two young children.
Eureka!: "I worked in finance for six weeks and thought, 'Why am I doing this? I don't love it.' What I did love was languages. I'd worked at a translation company, first coordinating projects and then in sales, for almost three years after college, and I'd seen a gap between the service and quality that was available and what clients really needed. Today we offer the most qualified linguists and the fastest service in more than 100 languages."
How do you say "espresso" in Swahili?: "In the beginning, Phil and I worked 100, 120 hours a week. I'm lucky I wasn't married and didn't have kids then."
The toughest week ever: "We needed to translate an 800-page geology study into Russian in only six days, and it required people with specialized knowledge. Through networking we found some translators who had actually worked in the mines in Russia, so we flew them in for the job."
Strange but true: "I speak French and Spanish but not well enough to translate. Phil speaks only English."
Life after the struggle: "I'll never feel completely comfortable, because anything can change at any moment. And we still have a long way to go as a company. But now I don't need to work on weekends and I get to be home with my kids every night. And having a certain amount financially does make me feel secure. It's nice not to have to worry about money day in and day out."