Founder Stories: Lilia Stoyanov On Building Transformify (TFY)

In today’s Founder Story, we feature Lilia Stoyanov, CEO of Transformify (TFY)!

Read on for lessons she has learned from launching and marketing her business.

1. Please introduce your business and share your role.

Transformify (TFY) workforce management system automates the entire process of hiring, managing, and paying employees, international contractors, and freelancers for mid-sized businesses and enterprises. 

Our solutions include Applicant Tracking System (ATS), Freelancer Management System (FMS), Employer of Record (EOR), Vendor Management System (VMS0, and Human Resources Management System (HRMS), which enable businesses to build a world-class team without worrying about the complexities of managing a global workforce. We also support DEI & CSR programs that help businesses attract diverse talent and become socially responsible.

Our platform has been especially supportive of groups like people with disabilities, those diagnosed with autism, single parents, and individuals living in high-unemployment areas and post-war zones. We believe in “jobs without borders,” allowing people worldwide to earn a decent living regardless of their location or their employer’s location.

As for my background, I have extensive experience in management, finance, and consulting. Before founding Transformify and stepping in as CEO, I held various “C-level” positions and was an angel investor. My inspiration to start Transformify came from witnessing the impact of business transformation and process automation on job losses. This drove me to create a platform that could bridge the digital skills gap and address talent scarcity in certain parts of the world.

My vision for entrepreneurship is the ability to quickly learn from mistakes, remain calm under pressure, and maintain persistence and vision even in challenging times. These qualities, combined with the freedom to decide on strategy and execution, are what I value most about being an entrepreneur.

2. How did you prepare for and go about your launch?

Initially, we took a “freemium” approach, letting businesses dip their toes in Transformify for free. This sparked the word-of-mouth fire, as happy clients became our best ambassadors. A booming referral program, where we share 20% of our revenue with referring partners, further fueled our growth to over 150 countries. Remarkably, we achieved all this without a marketing budget, proving the power of genuine customer enthusiasm.

Our 20% referral bonus for partners referring new businesses proved far more efficient than traditional marketing. This, combined with promoting our core commitment to diversity recruitment and corporate social responsibility, resonated deeply with both clients and their values. We offered targeted programs for working parents, returning professionals, and individuals with disabilities, not just aligning with our mission but proving good business sense.

During the pandemic, the booming remote work trend fueled our growth as we offered companies the tools they needed to manage a virtual workforce. From facilitating remote work arrangements to streamlining team management, we became the go-to solution for companies adapting to the new landscape.

3. Since launching, what types of marketing campaigns and designs have worked best to attract and retain customers?

Since our launch, we carved out a unique path in the marketing space by weaving impactful Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs into our very core. This focus translated into tangible marketing strategies that not only attracted customers but also fostered a loyal community around our company’s mission.

  • DEI and CSR Impact Stories: Powerful narratives like the ‘Career Come Back’ program for mothers rejoining the workforce and the ‘1000 Interns’ program promoting inclusivity showcased the real-world impact of our efforts.
  • Collaborations: Strategic partnerships with organizations like ViaCodigo (empowering youth in Peruvian detention centers) and Innovate UK (AI-driven ATS for pandemic-hit job seekers) amplified our social impact.
  • Digital Skills & Jobs Coalition of the EU Commission: We bridged the digital skills gap in Europe and offered remote work opportunities in high-unemployment areas.
  • Strategic Partnerships: Alliances with WeWork, Payoneer, and Roam enabled us to enter new markets and engage with freelance communities, universities, NGOs, and beyond.
4. What have been the most influential brands for your business? Whose branding and marketing do you aspire to and why?

Reading and research are cornerstones of my business philosophy, alongside a strong belief in independent decision-making. That’s why we bootstrapped Transformify instead of seeking VC funding. This approach has given us the freedom to experiment, iterate, and adapt our strategies based on market demands and client feedback. While it hasn’t come without challenges, it has empowered us to maintain control over our vision and values, ensuring that Transformify stays true to its mission of innovation and social impact. 

Back in 2016, Virgin Startup and Richard Branson helped to boost Transformify’s brand awareness. We were privileged to take part in a pitching event that was widely covered by the media. Brands like Nike that put lots of thought into their creative process and come up with meaningful campaigns are always to be admired.

5. What are your favorite marketing platforms/tools?

We use several tools to complement our marketing efforts. HubSpot is a tool that manages communications, tracks interactions, and delivers data-driven insights for effective marketing.

AmpleMarket extends our reach through AI-powered insights and automation, connecting us with new clients and markets with laser precision. Crisp is the online chat we love as it streamlines the conversations with website visitors. 

6. Looking ahead, what are you most excited about?

2023 was an unpredictable year with many turns and twists. Still, it was a very successful year as we doubled our processed payment volumes and increased our profit margins despite all odds. At the beginning of 2024, I am really excited about new marketing channels. We are already testing a bunch of new channels and the process of trial and error is very exciting. 

7. Who or what inspires and motivates you?

You may be surprised, but I am inspired by the results achieved by our competitors. To me, having strong competition is desirable as we can learn from their success and failure. 

Nothing motivates me better than the notion that we can be a step ahead and see the same opportunities from a different angle. Converting big customers, adopting an omnichannel approach in competitor outreach, and coming up with out-of-the-box strategies are so exciting!

8. What are some lessons you’ve learned along the way that you would share with entrepreneurs hoping to launch or who have just launched?
  • Connect and collaborate: Don’t do it alone! Network with other entrepreneurs, share advice, and learn from their journeys. Isolation is the enemy of growth.
  • Build for the long haul: Focus on sustainability and profitability. Don’t get caught up in the funding hype. Your business needs to stand on its own two feet.
  • Learn, adapt, repeat: Stay curious, understand your market, and be flexible. The best entrepreneurs know when to pivot.
9. What do you believe are the qualities of a good entrepreneur? And what makes a team successful?

My years at Transformify have shown me that successful entrepreneurs share three key qualities: a compass-clear vision, an unyielding spirit of persistence, and the flexibility of a chameleon. A clear view of your destination guides you through rough terrain, while persistence fuels your journey, and adaptability ensures you can navigate unexpected turns.

At Transformify, we’ve found that diversity of skills and backgrounds is the orchestra that composes innovative solutions. Our agile dance of adaptation lets us embrace new markets and demands, and crystal-clear communication across continents keeps everyone in sync for flawless execution.

10. Let us know where we can go to learn more!