Co-founder and chief brand officer of Voices.com, Stephanie Ciccarelli first developed her business idea with her husband. Founded in Ontario, the company is now the world’s largest online marketplace for voice actors and
their employers. Considered as one of the most connected people in the industry, Ciccarelli has used her voice to empower women through spoken word, the written word, and song for over twenty years. She believes in the power of voice and she helps others improve their craft through her
podcast, Sound Stories
You co-founded Voices.com with your husband. What was the inspiration behind it?
Great question! My husband and I both hail from industry. His background is in audio engineering and mine is in music, specifically voice. One of our shared passions is connecting people to complete meaningful work. We believe that all people have dignity and that there is dignity in work. Spotting an opportunity in a fragmented market like ours to help others connect those dots while applying our purpose, passion and skills inspired the founding of Voices.com.
You’re a strong believer of the power of voice and that it can help empower people. How do you believe Voices.com has impacted people? Do you believe it has had a huge impact and if so, how?
The human voice is one of the most powerful and persuasive tools a marketer has. The voice, while important on many levels, serves principally as a vehicle for the words being expressed. As we know, words can be used to build up or to tear down. We choose at Voices.com to work on those projects that give life, not drain it. Words that give people hope, words that educate them and stories that entertain. The words you hear stay with you and affect you deeply one way or another. Words are powerful. Tone and interpretation also play pivotal roles in how messages are communicated and received. To know that the work we’ve completed is heard all around the world is astonishing. It’s possible that messages recorded on our platform have graced the ears of approximately 4 billion people, maybe more. That’s a lot of ears, hearts and minds to connect with.
What is your biggest accomplishment so far? What are you most proud of?
The biggest accomplishment for me personally is that we’ve been able to positively impact so many people, be it through meaningful work opportunities or the hearing of voice-overs recorded on the platform. Knowing that lives are being changed for the better because of Voices.com is a real blessing. Voices.com is a channel for launching and establishing successful voice acting careers. It is also the place where people know they can go to achieve their goal of finding a voice that connects with their audience. From an entrepreneurial perspective, employing over 100 people in our city full-time and sharing this journey with our teammates for over 13 years means a lot to me and to my husband.
Can you talk about some of the daily challenges you face and how you overcome them?
Some of the daily challenges I face as a creative is keeping my inspiration bucket full. I have to remember to feed myself because no one is going to do it for me. When I need a boost, I’ll read some inspirational quotes, have short visits with colleagues to acknowledge their good work or take a walk outside to get those creative juices flowing again. Recharging is so key, especially when you run your own business. Also, working in a tech company, it’s really easy to be looking at screens for hours on end, typing away. When I’m feeling like I’ve been at it for too long, it helps to physically remove myself from the computer and start interacting with the real world. For me, that might look like writing on a whiteboard with a coloured dry erase marker. We have a number of walls in our office that have whiteboard paint on them. Brainstorming on one of those gets me out of the digital realm and into the real world.
You started a podcast called Sound Stories. Can you tell us what inspired you to start the podcast and what you’re hoping to accomplish through it?
Sound Stories is a podcast geared toward creative producers who are looking to infuse greater meaning in their content to foster a stronger connection with their audiences. We started the podcast because I wanted to better connect with our client base (advertising agencies, producers, marketers, etc.). The challenge was, how to best do that when there are so many different companies out there with a diverse set of needs project wise. After boiling it down, I realized that storytelling is what brings all creatives together. Given storytelling is the common denominator, we used it as the unifying glue for the podcast.
What resources helped you out when you first launched your business? What tools were a huge help to make Voices.com the success that it is today?
We had an amazing support system in our city for our business to grow and thrive. In our earliest days, TechAlliance was absolutely pivotal to our growth as entrepreneurs and as an organization. We were located at the time in the University of Western Ontario Research Park (now called Western University), surrounded by resources of all kinds and other entrepreneurs who inspired us and grew with us. Aside from tools and connections, it is living in a community that propels you forward. You can’t grow in isolation. Make it part of your business plan to connect with others and contribute to your local startup community.
Do you have any regrets? If you could go back and do something differently, what would it be?
If there was anything I would go back and do differently, it would be to establish a morning routine that not only gets me through the day but is truly energizing. We all need to plug into a power source to get ourselves going. For the longest time, I was relying on caffeinated tea and sugar to do that for me. What I came to realize though is that focusing on my spiritual well being is actually where I get my strength from and feel more alive. Making prayer a priority and connecting with God makes my days better. When I fail to do this, it doesn’t matter how much tea I drink. I still get thirsty. There’s no substitute for that.
If you could give advice to women entrepreneurs who are starting out in the business world, what would it be?
Think of a problem in the world that breaks your heart. You might even get angry about the problem, and that’s okay. It just means that you care and that something should be done. Not all businesses are started because someone has a great idea. Sometimes it is because you see a great need and you feel a burden to meet that need. Finding the intersection of where your passion, skills and purpose collide with that heartache will create room for you and your venture. With all of this in alignment, starting a business with the goal of creating real, positive change is within your reach.
Where do you see Voices.com going in the next 10 years? What is the main goal?
Voices.com is poised to scale and serve more people than we could ever imagine. Our goal is to be the place where the world gets its voice.
On a different note, what’s it like working with your husband?
Working with my husband has been an adventure. David and I have learned over time that we are very different people, which is great because we each bring something special to the table. Being so very different though also presents challenges personality wise, be it with regard to communication, where we draw energy from, how information is gleaned/interpreted and how decisions are made. The key to any relationship is love and respect. Marriage refines you as does working together as business partners. One way that we manage our working relationship is by remembering that it is just one facet of our relationship. In the Three Circle Model for the family business, there is the Family Circle, The Ownership Circle and the Business Circle. The opportunity for growth in all three circles is immense. We’re excited about the future and wouldn’t have it any other way.