The Power of One: How Daria Leshchenko Prioritizes the Individual to Create Supercharged Growth
Daria Leshchenko, CEO and Partner at SupportYourApp, is changing the way businesses are able to support their customers.
During her early career experiences, Daria noticed a discrepancy between a tech startup’s booming growth and its ability to ensure their customers’ needs are met. The solution to this common problem was SupportYourApp, which acts as an outsourced customer service team to help tech startups scale by taking exceptional care of their users. From call center outsourcing to ecommerce support to telephone answering services and everything in between, SupportYourApp has a plethora of custom-tailored solutions available to help businesses achieve their long-term goals.
We asked Daria about the experiences that shaped her into the leader she is today, the most difficult and rewarding moments throughout her journey, and whether or not she would do it all over again.
Q: Tell us the story behind SupportYourApp’s founding: How and why did you start working on your company?
A:Unlike many other entrepreneurs, I didn’t set a goal of starting my own business. Instead, I always wanted to fulfill my full potential and take advantage of any given opportunity. Starting the company happened very organically. I started as a regular customer support representative at a tech company and was later promoted to the head of the department. I implemented a set of changes in how we took care of customers, and other businesses started to take notice.
We shared an office building with other startups, and one of our neighbors approached us for assistance with customer support. He was the founder of a rising tech startup, and the business was growing so quickly that his team needed assistance in dealing with the influx of customers’ inquiries. We gladly agreed to provide customer support and that’s when I realized that there was a gap in the customer service market. By lessening the load of customer inquiries for fast-growing startups, we could help them to scale faster. I pitched the idea of creating a company that would serve a rising tech scene to my company’s senior management, envisioning a technically-versed and multi-linguistic customer support system. One of the managers, Peter, believed in my idea, and together we founded SupportYourApp.
Q: What are some of the most meaningful impacts your business has had so far?
A: I take great pride in how we have impacted the lives of our team. Most people in the company don’t have a technical background but possess soft skills and know foreign languages. We’re happy to provide them with reliable, well-paying work that stops them from looking for opportunities in other countries. A large part of the team, including myself, is based in Ukraine, and brain drain is a real problem here. I consider our contribution to slowing this process down very important. We’ve impacted the lives of many people who were considering emigrating before working with us.
For example, one of our employees brought his parents to work at the company. They live in a small town and to make a decent living, they had to take menial jobs abroad. However, they know the Polish language, and so, became a part of our customer support team for that region. Now they have an opportunity to work from home during the pandemic and stay together as a family. For me, this is one of the most meaningful impacts we’ve had on the community as a business.
We also make a difference by contributing to the success of our clients. We often have businesses coming to us with great products but poor customer support systems and many frustrated users. We change the way they interact with their customers, increase their retention rates, improve their customer experience, and contribute to their growth.
It makes us proud to watch small startups growing into tech giants and change the world with our help. One of our clients came to us with a team of five people. Within a year, their blockchain startup experienced huge growth, and we were there to support it. Today their team has 70 people. The company’s management didn't expect us to be able to scale their support to match the business growth, but we did it. I can’t wait to see how much more they’ll grow in a couple of years.
Our very first client also started as a three-person startup, but today produces world-class software for Apple products with more than 160 people on their team. We consider their success our success and couldn’t be happier about the impact we had on their business.
Q: What makes your company different from others?
A: We don’t just provide people to do the work— we build processes to improve customer experience. We fully integrate into our clients’ systems and team, becoming a part of the company, not an addendum. We provide solutions to customer service issues, not just responses to emails. However big the client or the number of its customers, we always try to apply an individualized approach to its business. When we see a problem, we not only report it, but suggest a way to resolve it. On several occasions, our advice was instrumental in changing the business’ pricing model or product features.
Among other differences is that we partner with promising, innovative clients even if their current needs are small. We consider the potential future growth and want to be there to support them. We don’t have yearly commitments, but instead month-to-month payments. Basically, we work as a customer support subscription business—Support as a Service.
Flexibility is especially important for businesses in times of uncertainty and for startups that have customer influxes and drops. Unlike many contact centers and customer service companies, we take special care of our team. It makes good business sense because it improves productivity and reduces employee turnover. People are the core of our service, and we believe that a happy agent means a happy customer. We can scale the team very quickly. We have an established process of recruiting people with great language skills and can rapidly expand our teams upon a client’s request.
Q: In what ways has your upbringing or past experiences contributed to how you operate as an entrepreneur?
A: After I became the head of customer support, I was challenged by my team’s insubordination. I was a young woman who was promoted rather quickly and my colleagues were not ready to accept this. This experience taught me that authority is hard to enforce and must be earned. That’s why I prefer to personally hire people who work for me. Despite being the CEO of an 800-person company, I still participate in main hiring decisions and interview the core candidates before bringing them to the company so that we can learn more about each other.
Additionally, I worked in a couple of companies as a customer service representative so I understand what it can be like—gloomy offices in basement-like open spaces, old slow hardware, and no air conditioning. I remember promising myself that if one day I had a business, my customer support team would not be treated that way. That’s why when we started SupportYourApp, we paid great attention to creating a great working environment. We turned our second office into a modern art gallery featuring 10 murals by local artists. Our third office has over two dozen paintings and temporary art exhibitions in the hall. We designed and ordered customized furniture for the offices and provided the whole staff with MacBooks. I wish I worked under similar conditions when I was a customer support rep. Fortunately, however, I have the opportunity to improve the working conditions for my team.
Q: What’s been the hardest and most rewarding part of your entrepreneurial journey?
A: The hardest task for me as an entrepreneur and a leader is to teach and motivate people to think independently and to voice their opinions. Most people expect their leaders to tell them what to do. But I hire people to tell me what to do. I get frustrated with people’s emails asking my opinion without providing theirs. As CEO, I have so many things to juggle that I need people to be proactive, professional, and able to handle responsibility. It doesn’t often come naturally and it’s not easy to teach.
The most rewarding part of my experience is when people appreciate my efforts and investments in them. As CEO, it’s your job to inspire the team, and to show them your appreciation. But you rarely get it yourself. A simple email or a thank you note from anyone on the team can make a total difference to how you get through your entrepreneurial journey. It’s easier to power through the hard stuff when you can see how you change people’s lives.
Q:What are the biggest mistakes you’ve made?
A: Once I became close friends with people who were very important to the company. We were close and had family-like relationships. But they left me in a crucial moment. It was a mistake to take business personally. Making friends with colleagues is great, but as a leader, you always have to keep a bit of a distance. Otherwise, you become too attached to people, stop noticing their flaws, stop judging them objectively, and start making decisions based on your feelings, not value for the company. My personal relationships interfered with my rational judgment of my colleagues’ performance and that’s something you should avoid in business.
Q: Have you struggled with self-doubt as an entrepreneur? How do you navigate this?
A: I don’t know any entrepreneur who hasn’t had doubts during their journey. Even with a perfect background and education, people have to make some decisions intuitively. No matter how well you calculate the risks, things often don't work out the way you predict, leaving you wondering if you’re going to make it.
I had a lot of doubts when starting SupportYourApp. We landed our first clients easily through word-of-mouth, but then our growth stagnated. We battled to attract new clients and lost some of the old ones. We tried a bunch of different tactics, but it took a long time. I was ready to give up any minute, and promised myself every month that it would be the last one. As a last ditch effort, we decided to launch on Product Hunt. It was an unusual move for a service company like ours, but one that paid off and brought us first leads.
Q: We dare you to brag: What achievements are you most proud of?
A: I’m really proud of the people I promoted from customer support representatives to managers. It’s fascinating to see how they transform in their roles, take on more responsibilities, grow professionally, and open up new opportunities for themselves.
Many of my current managers were afraid to take managing roles, and weren’t sure if they could do it. I saw their potential and guided them through this journey. Now, they are self-starters and I couldn’t be more proud of what we’ve done. The CEO of my other company, Label Your Data, used to work at SupportYourApp. She was 18 when she came to work for us, and we were her first serious job. After four years in the company, she performed so well that I decided to entrust her with a totally separate project. She wasn’t sure if she could do it and had the same doubts as I did starting the company. I encouraged her by trying to help her overcome those doubts. After a year, Label Your Data not only broke even, but became profitable. This success boosted her confidence and today nothing can stop her. I’m really proud I recognized her talent and guided her through this leadership role to success.
Q: How would you describe the journey you’ve had in a few sentences. And would you do it all over again?
A: My journey is a roller coaster of ups and downs, failures and achievements, rejections and wins. It’s fun and challenging. I’m happy to see more and more people hopping on it with me. Would I do it all over again? I think if I knew how hard it was going to be, I wouldn’t have had the heart to get into it. I’m glad I didn’t see the full picture back then, because everything turned out well.
Daria is a member of Dreamers & Doers, a private collective that amplifies the entrepreneurial pursuits of extraordinary women through thought leadership opportunities, authentic connection, and access. Learn more about Dreamers & Doers and subscribe to their monthly The Digest for top entrepreneurial and career resources.
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.