Mosaic Stories

    Susanne Evens

    Susanne Evens has always felt at home in St. Louis. Born, raised, and educated in Germany, she originally moved to St. Louis in the 1980s with her military husband - and she immediately loved the city. Over the next several years, she relocated to many cities in the United States and around the world, including back to her home country. In 1992, though, she decided to move to St. Louis to settle permanently. “I had always really enjoyed it,” she explains, “and the architecture reminded me of my home in Germany.” St. Louis quickly became her new home, and she has been an asset to the city’s community ever since.

    Within one week of her return to St. Louis, Susanne secured a job in the legal field, given her prior experience as a paralegal. Her original degree, however, was in international business, and she was trained as a foreign language correspondent. While she worked full time in the legal realm, she always found herself doing German-English and English-German translations on the side for various clients, as she was a translator by trade. She even was hired by Enterprise Rent-A-Car to help with their translations, as the company had recently opened their doors to the German market. After a few years of working a fulltime job with additional translation work, Susanne reached a point where she wanted to reevaluate her career path, and given her strong interest in the translation field, she aspired to formally enter that industry. “In 1994, I decided to take the plunge and start my own company,” she says. “That’s how AAA Translation started.”

    AAA Translation, formerly called German Language Communications, was initially just a German and English translation firm that started in Susanne’s little home office. In regards to the name, she decided on “AAA” because the title would put them as the first entry in the yellow pages, thus enhancing visibility and helping to get the name recognized. “I’ve been thinking of changing the name,” she says, “but everyone here knows us by that name, so here I am, sticking with it!”

    Susanne’s hard work and perseverance soon elevated the company to success, and its reach expanded tremendously. Currently, the company includes three full time employees, two part-time employees, and nearly one hundred translators all over the world that work on a contractual basis, providing translation services in 150 languages. “We do everything, and we are all over the world,” she says. Translation projects span from translating historic documents that a German family found in their attic, to converting communication translations for the sports industry, to working for big name clients like Energizer and even the Vatican. “It’s so easy to start a company here in comparison to the rest of the world” Susanne explains. “Translation seemed like a niche market here, and I had the background, so it was a service that I could offer. I never thought it would be this successful.”

    As an immigrant entrepreneur in St. Louis, Susanne raves about the opportunities that the city has to offer, advantages which ultimately helped her business grow and thrive. “I love the business culture here,” she explains. “It’s so easy to meet people, and everyone is very friendly. There are many networking opportunities which have led me to make several connections.” Furthermore, Susanne cites the importance of funding opportunities for startups, like Arch Grants, that welcome foreign companies into the St. Louis entrepreneurial scene.

    In addition to the business scene, Susanne loves the multicultural environment of the city, from the abundance of ethnic restaurants to the myriad of cultural enclaves to the array of free events. “St. Louis is like a little treasure box -- you go to different areas, and there are different cool things about each specific neighborhood.” 

    Susanne has also found her place among the German community of St. Louis. “We have a huge and very active German community in town,” she says. “We have nineteen German organizations, and there are German events happening every weekend!” In fact, she is in her ninth year as the president of the St. Louis – Stuttgart Sister Cities program, the oldest sister cities partnership in St. Louis, established in 1960. She leads the organization in fundraisers, hosting a huge German Mardi Gras ball every winter, and support for various German programs at high schools and local universities. Notably, the program is partnered with three local high schools that engage in exchange programs with three high schools in Stuttgart, thus further promoting an international cultural exchange between the two cities. “In the past twenty years, we have had at least three-thousand kids going back and forth between the cities,” Susanne explains. “When German exchange students come here, we host events, provide them financial support to go to local sites like the Arch, and even assist some of them with airfare.”

    She has also been a German voice talent for Talent Plus since 1998, and has served as a board member for the German American Heritage Society since 2008. In 2013, she was awarded the society’s Friedrich Hecker Freedom Award. The award, named for a popular 1848 German revolutionary, is presented each year to an outstanding individual who has worked for the promulgation of cooperation and understanding between Germany and the United States.

    Susanne’s involvement with the international community extends beyond her role with German programs. She has been on the board of the World Trade Center – St. Louis since 2006. Notably, she is an active participant in many dimensions of the St. Louis Mosaic Project, the immigration innovative housed within the World Trade Center and St. Louis Economic Development Partnership, working to foster regional prosperity through immigration and innovation. As an immigrant entrepreneur herself, she serves as a member of the Immigrant Entrepreneurship Advisory Board, working to engage and connect foreign-born entrepreneurs in the region with the resources to help them achieve success. She also serves as a connector in the Professional Connector program, meeting one-on-one with immigrants seeking advice and searching for connections in the St. Louis area. Susanne promotes the value of welcoming and connecting immigrants within our region, as their contributions benefit the overall community. “Sometimes you run into people that think foreigners are taking their jobs, but they don’t understand that we’re creating the jobs,” she explains. “Most of us have companies and employ locals; statistically, immigrants grow and create more companies than native-born people.”

    For the future of St. Louis, Susanne hopes that there will be more multicultural events where people can get together and embrace other cultures, thus helping to create an internationally inclusive and welcoming community. Given today’s global marketplace, she also hopes that more people in St. Louis will choose to learn a foreign language, as it creates so many opportunities for the city to become more globally connected.  “Learning another language gives you a totally new outlook on another culture which opens your mind."

    In her role not only as a translator, but as a global citizen, Susanne believes in the importance of increasing awareness and understanding of other cultures. “I tell people that international is the way to go,” she says. “I want to make a difference in the language market and help people understand other’s a good way to look at the world.”