Not too long ago, she decided to do something different…
In 2003 husband and wife David and Stephanie Ciccarelli founded Voices.com, an online platform connecting buyers of voiceover products to voice actors.
Jump to July 2017: With the announcement of an $18 million growth investment from Morgan Stanley Expansion Capital, a selection of 200,000 voice actors representing over 100 languages and dialects, and clients from Fortune 500 companies, what was once a simple idea has grown far beyond the definition of success.
I wanted to learn more about one of London’s fastest growing companies, so I met up with Chief Brand Officer Stephanie Ciccarelli in the company’s shiny new Dundas St. office. The space features a modern minimalistic design, but its pièce de résistance is a miniature museum dedicated to advancements in the history of audio-recording technology – fitting, as our conversation revolved around the past, present and future of Voices.com.
Tell me about Voices.com and projects being done in voiceover work.
A lot of people seem to think it’s all about what they see in Hollywood, but those jobs are far fewer than what’s out there – they’re the unicorns of the industry. The glamorous work is the tip of the iceberg as far as this industry is concerned.
It’s more business applications, white boarding videos, explainers, telephony and translation. There’s so much work that people don’t think about because advancements in technology always create more pockets of work for voiceovers.
In your opinion, what’s the strength in using a real human voice over an automated one?
It comes down to connection. I’m sure in the future there may be some cases where it’s indistinguishable, but still there’s a nuance that will be missing. It’s not just about the voice and the way it sounds, it’s about the authenticity as well.
In certain areas of our business audio has always been seen as the last thing at the end when you have a small budget left, but it’s literally one of the deepest connections that you can inform with another person. The human voice can persuade, comfort, educate and entertain. There’s so much you can learn about a piece of information because someone is putting bits and pieces of themselves into it. The beautiful part of what we do is that we’re able to help people tell their stories authentically because we help them to find the people who tell them best.
Is Voices.com the first of its kind?
In a lot of ways, yes. There have been sites that connect people with talent before but not in the way we do.
We actually take the client from start to finish with the transaction. Our biggest challenge is to be known in an industry that has traditionally done business in a certain way, but luckily we’ve built relationships with a lot of younger creatives who are finding Voices.com on their own and telling others.
You have a BA in Music Education and Vocal Performance from Western University. How has your creative background helped you develop your business?
It begins with how I sang at weddings and needed a demo; this is how I met David in my first year of school when he already had a recording studio. We got married, started a family, and mapped out the idea of Voices.com on a napkin. Every assignment I did from there on had a focus or bend that informed what we were doing in the business. I was also gigs commissioner on the Faculty of Music student council, which is another precursor to us being the connectors we are now.
Do you do any voice acting or impressions?
I haven’t done a paid voiceover since we started the marketplace. Something I do continue is to sing, however in a different capacity. I’m singing to my kids when they go to bed, or singing in my house when I like to. It feeds my soul to sit at a piano and lose myself.
What is a typical day like for you?
I’ll read something from our brand storyteller, or write occasionally, write something myself. I like to be out with people so I find meaningful reasons to walk around either for inspiration or to congratulate someone on a sale.
Once a week we do a Sound Stories podcast where we interview creatives, which is great for anyone who is responsible for vision or content or shaping a brand.
What are the challenges to being so busy and how do you deal with them?
Something that I’ve been more aware of is that I have to schedule time for myself. As someone who does not seek it out I know that I have to do this or my day goes really badly. If you aren’t able to nourish yourself, you can’t give anything back. I try to carve out this space so that I can be calm and more prepared mentally.
Voices.com has grown exponentially in under 20 years. How has London served as a business centre for what was once a startup?
London has always been able to support us in the various stages of whatever we’re doing, and there’s a phenomenal talent pool we’ve been able to draw from. Considering the associated costs, there are few other places where this could have worked.
Having an operation of this size in Toronto would be vastly different. When you look at a business perspective, we are in the best possible situation to the scale of what we are doing.
Why has the company been so successful?
Perseverance is a huge reason for why; being committed to something and knowing there’s no turning back.
What does the future hold for Voices.com?
To be blunt, industry domination has always been our goal. We’ve always wanted to be bigger than what we are, going from two people at the table, writing on a napkin trying to figure it all out, to growing our team and knocking down the walls at Western’s research park where we started, going downtown to our Dufferin Street office, then finally ending up here. We’re going to keep hiring and producing more content, and creating more bridges in the industry and in London. There’s so much more we can do. I firmly believe there are greater things to come for this city, and also for this company.