President writes her own ticket

Published: November 2000
Harold Davis | Stamford Advocate

If you had asked Antoinette Allocca 18 years ago if her business would take off, she might have expressed some doubt. But Allocca, not one to give up easily, has since been honored as a prime up-and-comer among the top 500 women-owned businesses in the country by Working Woman Magazine.

Last year her company placed 461 on the list. This year it jumped to No. 381.

Essential Data Corp. which provides technical writers, documentation and training services, was recognized by the magazine last year for reaching revenues of $20 million. This year, Allocca anticipates her sales to go well beyond that number.

“You have to dream big and take a risk, that’s what I did. I saw an area that was underdeveloped and it still is, but it is a field which is booming,” Allocca said.

Never a technical writer herself, Allocca served as a sales person in the information services consulting industry for 20 years. She discovered, while working in the industry, that clients often needed tech writers more than programming consultants.

Some were trying to make do by having programmers, do the technical writing, but programmers are not writers, she said.

Allocca decided to start her own company to fill the need. “I wanted to do my own thing and technical writers were in demand,” said the 46-year-old Stamford resident.

Since launching in 1982, Allocca has grown her company from 10 writers to more than 100 in the Fairfield County, New York and New Jersey areas. She also has 14 sales associates who contact prospective clients and link them with writers.

Having worked with clients such as Perkin Elmer, Unilever and Pitney Bowes, Essential Data expanded its services to 20 states and has additional offices in Pennsylvania and California.

The business’ main focus is on documentation through Web sites or printed manuals, for a company’s computer system. It also provides instruction for the company’s staff.

“A company can become vulnerable if you don’t know how to use the system,” Allocca said.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job market for tech writers will experience increasing growth through the year 2008. Writers typically find employment in computer software firms, manufacturers of aircraft, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and computers and other electronic equipment, as well as in the federal government. The BLS also reported that California, Texas and the Northeast are hot spots for employment in this field.

Allocca suggests that there is a certain appeal to being a tech writer, including more flexible schedules since their work is done on a project basis. They also can earn from $100,000 to $200,000 annually, she said.

“Some of the people that I work with are artists and musicians. They might work six months out of the year in order to pursue their other interests and this allows them to do that,” Allocca said.

Maurice Martin of the Society of Technical Communicators agrees.

“About 25 percent of STC members call themselves independent contractors. They tend to have more flexibility than someone who works at a particular company with regular hours. They might have the ability to work out of their home or work on locations for a given time on assignment. They’re selling their service on a job-to-job basis and can either get another assignment or decide to take time off”, he said.

Looking ahead, Allocca expects her company to record $50 million to $100 million in annual sales within the next two years. She also plans to open two more offices next year.

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