Tackling the formalwear industry with Queenly co-founders Trisha Bantigue and Kathy Zhou

The below is a full (unedited), machine-generated transcript of a Youtube session / podcasting episode I recorded with Trisha Bantigue and Kathy Zhou, the co-founders of Queenly in Q3 2021. You can view the video/listen to the podcast on YoutubeApple PodcastStitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.

Erasmus Elsner 0:06 
Let’s start rolling now. Okay, welcome everybody to another episode of Sand Hill Road, my little pirate radio station here where I talk to successful startup founders and their investors about the companies that they built in investing. And I have two amazing founders with me here today, Trisha boutique and Katie’s zoo, who are the founders of Queenly, which is a vertical marketplace for formal wear. Welcome. Thank you. Where does this podcast find you today, guys?

Trisha Bantigue 0:32 
Oh, very common. San Francisco.

Erasmus Elsner 0:35 
Is it at the Queenly office or are you running still remotely at this point in time?

Trisha Bantigue 0:41 
Oh, yeah. This is our queen in the office Queen HQ.

Erasmus Elsner 0:45 
Nice. So you guys just completed a seed round led by Andreessen Horowitz prominently announced on on TechCrunch so you obviously know all about the elevator pitch, just gonna ping you. What is Queenly? 

Trisha Bantigue 0:58 
Yeah, sure. So we’ve built Queenly and this is an online marketplace and search engine catering to the formal wear vertical. Now we are tackling anywhere from prom wedding skins in euro to ballroom dance, where ice skating where cultural formal attire is basically any formal garments that a woman has to wear for any special occasion events. We are a post launch post revenue platform, where in 2019 and early 2020, we launched on iOS, Android, and web. And we had been a small team up until this year since fundraising since going through Y Combinator, we’ve been able to successfully grow engineering, business and operations.

Erasmus Elsner 1:45 
And you started it in probably one of the worst slash best times end of 2019 sort of launching it in 2020. There were practically no proms, no weddings, talk a little bit about the formal wear market during these times.

Trisha Bantigue 1:58 
Yeah, I think what most people don’t truly understand, and understandably so since they’re outside of the space that the formal world markets has withstand any similar events, such as a global pandemic through time. And I think it’s a very stubborn market. It is rooted in a lot of tradition and a lot of culture and a lot of things related to formal wear. Purchases are very emotionally driven. This isn’t really a $20 T shirt that you buy from Amazon that you don’t need. These are the most important events in a woman’s life, whether it’s your wedding, quinceanera or prom, meaning they’re willing to do anything to buy it, and they’re willing to pay any price to buy it. And so I think we tend to forget how strong tradition is in most people. And so for 2020 the pandemic, we definitely had a lot of increase when it comes to supply a lot of sellers have more time at home, to post stuff on Queenly to list their dresses out their closets, as well as we partnered with a lot of small business owners that have bridal shops, prom dress store skins in Euro stores, as well as formal wear brands such as McDougal and Fianna prom, so to be able to onboard their inventory since majority of it has been traditionally offline, people still got married. People still had their prom gatherings. Even if they didn’t have a prom gathering. People still wanted to dress up in a prom dress. People created more content at home for Tik Tok or Snapchat for social media and dresses have been around for literally centuries. And I don’t think they’re going anywhere.

Erasmus Elsner 3:31 
And one of the categories that we haven’t touched on is the pageant segment, which gives us a good opportunity to talk a little bit about your backgrounds. You are a subject matter expert in that field. Both of you having competed in pageants before and I’m just reading off your CV here. I mean, both of you have gotten these amazing awards. Trisha, you’ve been Miss Asia Global 217 Miss California 216. Katie, you’ve been Miss New England Earth 2021. So both of you have background in competing in these. Talk a little bit about for someone who’s very unfamiliar with that subject matter on how it works in terms of the formal wear, because I was always under the impression that it was sort of the organisers of these pageants that would provide you with the formal wear.

Trisha Bantigue 4:17 
Oh, yeah, sure. Quite interesting that you say that because we’ve actually never heard that from anyone. That kind of assumption on the industry. So gives us a bit of a perspective. But yeah, so for me, I started competing pageants in Yeah, before Kathy started doing it, and I was an emancipated youth meaning going into UC Berkeley. I was an independent student, so I had to find a lot of ways to make money survive and pay off my tuition. I started dabbling in pageants about 2013 And I found that pageant organisations are actually one of the biggest scholarship givers to young women in the US. They give away hundreds of millions of dollars fun woman’s education, and so I started why not I competed in it with my old prom dress and that up During the whole experience in 2018, that’s when I encouraged Kathy to do her first one, she also ended up loving it. So yeah, basically, there’s different segments in a competition. And each pageant system pretty much varies. So, you know, for example, Miss USA and Miss America are two completely separate pageant systems. So they are very different roles such as Miss America has a talent portion, whereas Miss USA does not Miss USA has a swimsuit segment and Miss America has a fitness segment. Usually there’s closed door panel interviews. So it’s basically I mean, you’re interviewing for a job, right? And so there’s like, anywhere from, let’s say, three to like seven people that are going in there and asking you a tonne of questions about yourself, your resume, your platform, your your plans for the future, and your capabilities as to, you know, being able to handle I guess the title. And the main part, in my opinion, in our opinion, is the evening gown segment is this is what most people know the pageant industry for is the beautiful and stunning evening gowns onstage. It shows each girl’s personality and individuality for these major pageant women, they spent anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000 per gown. 

Erasmus Elsner 6:17 
Wow, that’s a lot, I wasn’t aware of that. And if I can double click on these formal wear segments that you have on the marketplace at the moment. You have the pageant segment, but then you also have prom dresses for a woman’s most important day in teens, then you have the wedding dresses, obviously for the most important day in the life of a woman. Then last but not least, you have the party dresses, if you had to, like sort of slice your market at the moment. How would you, you know, rank the importance of each segment?

Kathy Zhou 6:47 
Yeah, the great thing about pageant girls woman is that they are more common in American society than you might expect. We live in San Francisco coastal cities and such but so much of the South and the Midwest, everyone there has either peated in a pageant once in their life, or their best friend or their sister has. And what’s also great is because they have these gigantic wardrobes of not just their own closet, but their sorority, then their prom dresses, and all of that sort of seeded our initial inventory these past couple of years that let us branch out into these different categories. And so for our most active users, those are still the pageant title holders, the very active pageant girls still competing, but because of the extensiveness of their social networks, their social connections, we’ve been able to gain traction within wedding it can send your up from and sorority and many of those events.

Erasmus Elsner 7:55 
I mean, obviously you are a resale market and what I was wondering about the wedding dress, it’s something that’s so memorable to a person that they they might not want to resell it whereas the pageant dress, something that you might use for for an evening or to talk a little bit about this resale market. And what’s the marketplace liquidity for the different segments there.

Trisha Bantigue 8:18 
For resale, specifically over rental, there is a huge advantage in the business model. And that being able for us to have bootstrap before we raise venture capital, as well as not having to take on inventory risk of managing so much inventory warehousing, maintaining quality alongside the actual use case of a dress. You would I guess the assumption is that because it’s a one time use, people might want to rent, but because these events are so important to someone’s life, having a perfect wedding dress, having a perfect prom dress, you want to have the flexibility of owning it for as long as possible, even cherishing it since past the event, and then being able to decide for yourself to resell it. Yeah, I just wanted to clarify that we’re a marketplace. And we’re not we do have a result section but we also have community partners which we took and partnerships from businesses and certain brands so woman can also buy brand new inventory there.

Erasmus Elsner 9:25 
I think it’s good to clarify because that wasn’t fully clear to me at this point. I I saw the partnerships but I wasn’t aware that this was primary inventory as you said,

Trisha Bantigue 9:34 
Yeah. So what’s great about dresses is because they are worn once and they are barely touched. Even resale dresses are like new it makes for the perfect platform to sell brand new inventory from these boutiques from these designers alongside very lightly worn dresses.

Erasmus Elsner 9:52 
Understood, and now taking a step back and this is really going to you Katie, you’re the CTO, you build the MVP. You have a Background having worked at Pinterest, from my experience building a marketplace, it’s fiendishly difficult. There’s so many functionalities starting with, you know, the login, Kevin upload function, then a search function. Talk a little bit about the MVP of Queenly, how many lines of code and how many long nights it took you to get the first version shipped?

Kathy Zhou 10:19 
Yeah, so Queenly was an iOS first app that we started thinking about. While we were still at our full time, jobs, nights and weekends. Of course, we did decide to prioritise iOS. First, to prioritise the seller side, the inventory side of the marketplace, we actually released it without any full NLP search engine. And the point of that is to build features as they become important. What’s really great is once we were able to be approved in the app store, I was able to build an iterate on those seller side features, to improve upon them as we were growing our user base as we were growing our inventory. And then once we hit a certain scale, I’d say a few 100, up to 1000. Dresses, then I was I had really great data to play with to start thinking about what the perfect search engine for finding a dress would be. And this is much different than searching for something on Google. On Google, if you want to look up the weather, if you want to look up the capital of Turkey, then you it’s a very, it’s a very small short query. When it comes to dresses, woman wants their perfect dress, they know what colour looks good on them, they know their body measurements, the headline neckline types of fabrics that they love. And so being able to have a comprehensive search engine that takes into account all those fashion based requirements, that hasn’t really been done before. And that’s, I would say is one of the most interesting things we’re doing tech wise, or Queenly. It’s something that I have to thank my Pinterest experience a lot of because not only was I able to develop my iOS engineering skills, my web based react based skills at Pinterest to become a full stack engineer. What’s great is that me and Trisha had been scrappy for the longest time. But it really inspired me to think about search engines and recommendation systems outside of what’s already there. And a lot of that hasn’t been applied to the fashion industry yet. And Silicon Valley has barely touched that. So it’s such a great opportunity.

Erasmus Elsner 12:32 
Interesting. Yeah, I think it really just hits in once you have enough data to run these algorithms on it. Let’s talk a little bit about go to market. And that’s probably more to Trisha side, talk about the first customers first customer validation and how you onboard them. That’s always I think, for the the entrepreneurs out there, very interesting to see how you went about that one.

Trisha Bantigue 12:51 
We started off with my initial pageant network. So when we launched iOS, it was more so of a closed beta. And we launched it to I believe, 100 to 200 users just so we could closely watch, you know, any bugs, any crashes that would happen and that any like really like user feedback right away, we could cater to but yeah, I guess like I’m all about building relationships wherever I go, whether they’re in tech or in pageants, and with the relationships that I’ve built over the years, like people are more than happy to try out my products. And not only that, but it’s like something that they’ve always wanted and needed. And so it wasn’t too hard of I guess, convincing. In that sense. We do have a two sided marketplace to begin with, which is like supply and demand seller and buyer side. And so in the beginning, we initially had to do a lot of seller initiative. Yes, go to market strategy, because we needed the inventory, because we don’t prepay for inventory. We don’t keep it we don’t, you know, produce it, which is very, very sustainable. Yeah, we needed to make sure that we had as many sellers as possible high quality sellers, high quality inventory, and that a lot of these sellers have already been doing these kinds of transactions on more so unsafe platforms, such as like Craigslist, or Facebook groups, etc. So they were already very familiar with the whole like, buy and sell method for this type of inventory. And I would say it was more so building the trust building the relationship, building the word of mouth, the community was always my strategy, because I think that if you build a genuinely good product that people need, and then people like to use is that, you know, Word will definitely spread around in the community, and that they will be more than happy to give a good word to their friends, their families, their loved ones about

Erasmus Elsner 14:42 
You’ve gotten to marketplace liquidity. Some metrics here that you shared 125,000 users, I think 60,000 unique dresses listed on the platform, 15 million in inventory value on the platform itself. Talk a little bit about the key metrics that you track on a daily basis. and which milestones you want to hit personally.

Kathy Zhou 15:02 
Yeah, so what we’ve also said publicly is our average order value is anywhere from 300 to $500, which means that in terms of the shopping experience, the whole customer service experience, it’s very end to end, it’s not an abrupt purchase or a short experience. And so we track recurring customers, about 40 to 50% of our customers have purchased at least once. And we also track recurring sellers and the long engagement funnel. Because as you know, for spending the time and effort on deciding whether to spend $500 on one item, it is a long decision process. And being able to make our users happy along the way, and answer all their questions really also inspires brand loyalty and inspires them to keep coming back to Queenly.

Erasmus Elsner 15:58 
Now talking a little bit about fundraising. I mean, you’ve just announced this Andreessen Horowitz led round. But when I look at your cap table there, I mean, you have some of the most amazing operators on your cap table, the CEO of Stitch Fix, obviously, someone familiar with the vertical himself, then the former CTO of Uber, then the house Fund, which led your pre-seed round. Talk a little bit about the fundraising journey, because it was all during mostly during Corona and marketplaces aren’t the easiest thing to raise money for, you have to convince investors who might not be familiar with this vertical about the potential about the need and about the ability to build a category here? 

Trisha Bantigue 16:39 
Yeah, sure, I think that it is very clear that we are to be young female founders, and that it has been statistically proven that it’s a lot harder to raise as a female founder, you know, I mean, less than 3%, VC funding went to female founders last year. So that was very prominent, and our own personal fundraising journey. I think during our pre seed round, we did receive a lot of, I would say, gender based biases. And a lot of the questions we receive, such as like being asked, Who did you hire or outsource to build your product, when we were obviously sitting right there with a clear CTO who’s been a software engineer at Pinterest, it was definitely hard as we were tackling a very female focus market that most books not only either not know about, but more so have negative connotations on so we received a lot of nose and backlash and whatever. And to us at the point where just like, we know what we’re doing, we know where we come from. And we think that, you know, fundraising has always been a numbers game, especially for your life, no first company, your first like, round of funding. So but I leaned into a lot of, again, the relationships that I’ve personally built in the professional workplace. So I worked at Uber and I did executive recruiting for engineering and product, which meant I worked very closely with Toine, who was the CTO at that time, as well as Monique who was the chief product officer at Uber at that time. And so when I was leaving Uber, I had more Silva closing meeting with them. And I let them know what I was doing, Antoine was like, super happy and very proud. And he was actually the one to offer to invest. So he was one of our first checks in and so having that on the cap table was really, really great and validated what we were doing. And then Kathy also made a great impression while she was at Pinterest. And we were able to get the head of data and machine learning at Pinterest, as well as the head of corporate strategy of Pinterest to invest in us. So that was majority of our precede. And then once we got into YC, and once we started seeing a lot of traction, like post COVID We got a lot more I guess. All Star angel investors, such as you know, the CEO of lamda, school CEO Fitbits, CMO of Scentbird. Was Am I missing? Yeah.

Erasmus Elsner 19:08 
All the greatest solopreneurs and angels out there. Yeah, and then the House Fund, which is I think its Jeremy Fiance, who’s leading that.

Trisha Bantigue 19:15 
They were our first institutional and we absolutely loved working with them. And they were just very open to our, you know, our product or market even though you know, both of them are male VCs, and they know nothing about pageants, but they were really like the first institution to give us a chance to, you know, have a meeting because most of the time like if you reach out via cold outreach, you don’t even get that first meeting. You don’t even get 15 minutes to explain your side. So very grateful that they give us chance and compensation for well, they they’ve liked our numbers, they’d liked our credentials, our backgrounds and what we’ve been able to accomplish on like, pretty much bootstrapping it. So the House Fund focuses on UC Berkeley students and alums, so meaning me, so Cathy’s from UPenn has a very positive experience. And they were, you know, they connected us with a lot of resources, etc. And I think that they are super hands-on with their founders. And they do, I think they generally mean well for their founders through our YC seed raised, like they were super hands on with introducing us to a bunch of different funds and just like doing the work, really, that most VCs will never do for any founders, so we have a lot of respect for them.

Erasmus Elsner 20:31 
I like Jeremy a lot. I met him at a event that UC Berkeley once and then how did the round with Andreessen Horowitz come together? Andreessen Horowitz being the new Sequoia, everybody wants to be funded by Andreessen Horowitz. How did you manage to get that round pulled together?

Trisha Bantigue 20:45 
Right after Demo Day, we literally had more than enough funding to move forward. And just to call it a day for our seed round had raised $2.3 million from a couple of other funds, as well as you know, the angel investors that I had listed out. And I think, actually, one thing that I wanted to know is, we also got Oh of Mercari, as well as an early investor of the real real, to invest in our seed round. So huge validation. Again, I think less than a month later of that finishing, raising the 2.3 million BSafe, we got an email from someone at Andreessen and I was actually like, we were so exhausted with fundraising, like literally, I talked to probably more than 100 investors in the course of two months, and I didn’t think that they were truly interested. And he just, yeah, just like, tried to schedule something with me. And I said, Oh, I’m so sorry, we’re actually done fundraising, which I guess that is in VC language more, more of a reason to talk to you. It’s like VCs have this logic, where it’s like, when you don’t need money, that’s when they come. But when you need the money, they like shut the door in your face all the time. So that’s been the experience. And we had a meeting with them initial call, and the partner who led the round, Connie Chen, brilliant, and just amazing female VC, she was very, very impressed with what we were doing. And she immediately understood the market as if she like, lived and breathed the, the market. And towards the end of the call, it was no surprise, I guess that she used to do pageants. So it was a one in a million coincidence that we finally find the VC from a very prominent top tier VC fund to understand what we were doing wholeheartedly. I met with the other partners, and I think came to the conclusion that we wanted to work together. And so they gave us a term sheet. So that was basically the story of Queenly and Andreessen.

Erasmus Elsner 22:45 
Understood. Now, for the main part of this show, I really want to unpack the marketplace dynamics here. And I think there’s so much to unpack really, obviously, starting with this boring old question of the chicken and egg problem. I did the homesharing marketplace where I basically spent the first three months just like sprinting to get inventory and and once I had like top tier properties, everybody would flock to it. Where was the main focus of your attention? In terms of getting the the initial liquidity for this marketplace?

Trisha Bantigue 23:14 
I think the most common misconception of people going into marketplaces is that it’s chicken or egg or that it is buyer or seller, where in reality, you really have to keep both sides in mind in balance every single day at all times. I think that’s most people try to, you know, focus on one too much and then forget to take care of the the ladder or the other side. Whereas, you know, as you said, like you can you think you can expect the demand to follow right after you provide the supply. But that’s not necessarily the case, we think of our marketplace as literally forging really deep bonds, deep relationships, forging a really strong community. And so even when we were still starting out in the beginning, focusing on acquiring more supply, because, you know, if you’re shopping for a dress, you want to be able to have more than one or two options, right? But simultaneously, we were taking care of those highly engaged active users that were searching, filtering, browsing, etc. I’ve definitely track a lot of user activity on the app and on the website. And we were making sure that you know, Kathy, and I would touch base every week, like what were the popular searches, like what are people like focusing on and so if they’re focusing on this, then we should try to acquire more this from the supply. And so always kind of being one or two steps ahead of what your consumer side would want will then kind of like successfully put you in a place where you are finding the right supply that will actually lead to demand following.

Erasmus Elsner 24:49 
And let’s talk a little bit about unlocking supply there. Obviously you have two categories of supply here you have the individual sellers and then you have the brand partners We know for Airbnb, for example, they started out with the individual ones. And today I think they have 80% are professional hosts. How’s the dynamic at the moment for you guys? Where are you seeing the most traction right now.

Kathy Zhou 25:13 
In terms of sheer volume, our partnership inventory is growing the fastest as we are still very loyal to our core mission of making sure that not only can find their affordable woman can find their affordable dream dress, but they don’t have to worry about being able to sell their dresses in their closet, they should be able to sell them very quickly, very easily on Queenly. When we think about the user experience for that entire ecosystem of seller tools, we think of it kind of unified, because the typical away of Silicon Valley thinking about building a platform for businesses building B2B tools, they think of the end company as being very tech savvy as another Silicon Valley company. And for us, it’s very much not the case, the end user for us can often be a woman in Alabama, who’s been running her boutique shop for 40 years, they can be a suburban mom in another city, who isn’t that tech savvy. And so when we think about those sellers, we tried to think of it from a place of empathy, of realising that not everyone has lived in this Silicon Valley bubble. And even the people that have been able to run the successful businesses that generate a lot of revenue for their boutique shops, we can’t assume that they want to think about Shopify or SEO, they they think about their product, they think about their lives the same way the average American does. And it’s a lot of being able to really understand that user that drives our user experience.

Erasmus Elsner 26:57 
Do you have for the professional sellers? For the brand partnerships? Do you have like a multi listing upload functionality? How does that work? Someone has 80 dresses that they want to put on the platform?

Kathy Zhou 27:09 
Yeah, yeah, it’s actually a little closer to 1000 dresses, which is an interesting problem in itself. There’s a huge range of different point inventory sizes. But yes, there’s bulk uploading and bulk exporting features on are clearly part platform Queenly partners platform tools to build off on what I already said, it’s not as simple as copying Shopify or copying an Excel spreadsheet to help these partners upload their entire inventory. It’s really having that sort of ease of use, and something a little more intuitive to someone who was less tech savvy. And so creating that hybrid between what you would think of as a consumer app, and what you’re thinking of as a b2b app is one of the interesting software problems we have.

Erasmus Elsner 27:57 
Interesting. And then talking about the demand side, obviously, there’s a lot of generalist marketplaces talking about, you know, Facebook marketplace, eBay, obviously, Craigslist, if you like, on the demand side, how do you sort of get through the noise in terms of recognition in the market? And is it something that you’ve grown organically? Is there a particular channel where you would say you have product channel fit, if you like?

Trisha Bantigue 28:22 
Yeah, I think I’ve touched upon it earlier, where I tapped into my pageant network, literally hundreds and hundreds of women. And so initially started off as word of mouth tapping into the community really helped because they’re also very highly engaged already. We do a lot of partnerships with pageant organisations, which we then acquire all the girls as our users. We ever since we got funding, we started advertising a lot on paid social and that’s going to be Tik Tok, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook caveat has done a phenomenal job with our SEO ranking. And so we do have highly ranked on a lot of search terms, like common search terms for our specific demographic. And yeah, I mean, a lot of it is definitely community, word of mouth, social media and strategic partnerships.

Erasmus Elsner 29:09 
Let’s talk a little bit about facilitating transactions on the marketplace, which I think is always super interesting, especially in marketplaces where you have high friction easing one pain point of the marketplace can really get you traction and recognition in the market. And I saw that you have two angles there. One is you do these quality checks. And then on the other hand, you also do the dry cleaning for the ones that go through your fulfilment centre, talk a little bit about these two angles that you have to really differentiate the marketplace itself.

Trisha Bantigue 29:39 
We provide it for dresses above $300. And buyers have the option to also opt out if they want their dress shipped directly to them to find a cut that time. Well, we’ve always wanted to prioritise giving a white glove experience to all of our users and that means that we want to make sure that we’re giving a better experience And if someone bought a $500 dress from Poshmark, or eBay or Craigslist, that you don’t really get that level of detail level of like safety, etc. And so what we started doing is making sure that the things that people were buying on our website on our app are exactly what they expect. And so we promote a lot of transparency and communication in the process. Were anything under $300. We also asked sellers to submit proof photos before shipment in order to verify the condition of the dress, just so that we don’t have a lot of like misunderstandings. And this this, this decreases the refund return rate drastically. But yeah, because we know this type of inventory, like we’re able to check for undisclosed stains, tears, missing beads, broken zippers, etc. And we try our best to communicate this to the buyers. And, you know, they really, really appreciate that we do that, because they’ve probably been screwed over through like some sketchy online place. Yeah, that’s the process right now,

Erasmus Elsner 31:09 
I can imagine that, especially for some of these party dresses, state, there might be a lot of wear and tear that you might not even recognise, at first glance, and also hard to probably recognise on the photos. So probably probably a good idea to do these quality checks there. And let’s talk a little bit about monetization. And a big question that always comes up in marketplaces. And where a lot of founders are obviously bit conservative, because they want to have marketplace transactions and increase the GMV. It’s the take rate. And as far as I understand you have a 20% take rate on the marketplace. How did you come up with it? And what sort of the market feedback about this take rate?

Trisha Bantigue 31:46 
I guess we just looked at similar marketplaces. Poshmark takes 20% The real real takes anywhere 25 to 55%. And we just felt like it was justifiable to make sure that we give sellers majority of the seller earnings so that they don’t feel like they’re getting screwed over. And at the same time 20% of a $500 dress is $100. And that’s pretty high profit margins for any marketplaces.

Erasmus Elsner 32:15 
Yeah, it’s a pretty healthy one, I think. And then you touched a little bit on this already competition, the real real you mentioned, than Poshmark. And you have this great appearance on voc business in a feature about fashion tech companies where where they mentioned a couple of I wouldn’t say direct competitors companies in the vertical market fashion marketplaces, they could then key for the watches, talk a little bit about what are the most direct competitors that you see in the market? Or to phrase it a little bit differently? What’s the success story in these fashion marketplaces, the playbook that you would think about emulating to grow this further?

Kathy Zhou 32:51 
Yeah, I think that’s part of our core pitch is actually we compare ourselves to StockX and Goats, and many of the multibillion dollar streetwear marketplaces. Because, as we’ve seen, there’s so much success in marketplaces in general and in generic resale marketplaces. But there is such a need for a platform that caters to a particular community and a particular type of products. What we’ve seen with stock X scouts, and those marketplaces is that they are very integral to the streetwear. community. Their founders and their company have been directly part of it through partnerships similar to our partnerships with designers, and through being able to build that comprehensive shopping and search experience for their customers. Similarly, we are dedicated to build that platform that search experience that seller experience for our community. And it’s it’s definitely important to emphasise that there is a distinction for that, and there is a need for both. As we’ve mentioned, the early investors and founders of mercury and the real real have been investors in us, and so they don’t see us as direct competitors, but another successful company that can operate in adjacent space. Yeah, we actually recently got featured in this article on business of fashion. I guess the title is the next generation of resale sites sites. And I think this is a great article not only featuring us, but other niche based resell marketplaces who are finding a lot of success because they, you know, focus on the community aspect of things and they’re able to just bring about more so a five star experience for all of their users because they’re not stretching themselves out. Far too thin.

Erasmus Elsner 34:51 
I mean, what’s obviously fascinating about stock X is that you can basically start almost trading sneakers, specialty and rare, limited edition sneakers like a stock Is there a similar dynamic in formal wear, where you have sort of re our dresses worn and special events in the Miss America original dress or something like that? Probably she won’t sell it. But is there a similar dynamic that you’ve seen? Is there like an instance where you had something trade for, like 510 X, what the original listing price was? Because I think the base case for you is that you have a considerable discount for the buy side, right? Yeah,

Trisha Bantigue 35:24 
I think that our inventory, and our market is very different, as well as I guess the nature of the pricing. So when it comes to Nikes, and Adidas, they start off very cheap. And the way that they try to control, I guess the demand for it is to make limited amounts of it, and then mark up the price. Whereas for dresses, they start off very, very expensive. So it’s not necessarily the case where you mark it up, but more so they retain the value fairly well. I just also want to eliminate the misconception that women wearing dresses for this special occasion events are still holding on to them. I think that was in the 1970s or 1980s. And I think with the rise of many, many, many, many resale sites of many different categories, we can see that millennials Gen Z years are now more so leaning into minimalism, and being able to be more socially conscious of purchases of from companies that are more eco friendly, more sustainable, more mission driven, and that sense. And so yeah, we’ve sold dresses on Queenly that are over like five $6,000 and resale. And these are Miss USA girls, Miss America girls Lord onstage and they don’t care about keeping it. Like they care more about the you know, being able to get their investment money back because let’s say they didn’t win. And it’s kind of just like, Okay, well, I spent $15,000 Like, why would I keep $15,000 in the closet when I’m going to law school and I’m paying for my tuition to law school. You know, and I guess this is why we have photos and social media to kind of immortalise the moment, but we are seeing more so the rise of the liquidity of all these types of categories for us.

Erasmus Elsner 37:11 
Interesting, I wasn’t aware of that that dynamic. I mean, maybe I’m more the hoarder type. If I ever had the chance to compete, I would probably keep every every shoe and sock that I wore

Trisha Bantigue 37:21 
in the movie called like the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants. So basically, it’s like these group of sorority sisters or just like friends that share the same pair of jeans and the jeans like kind of go through this journey. And the way that we see the purchases happening on our site is that really all of our sellers are so happy to see that their dress is now being reused and re worn and being given to someone special and being given to someone that will use it for special occasions events. And I think it’s just such a heartwarming thing for us and building up how how great this community is that we’ve built up is that, you know, we really do see our users empowering one another with just you know, something as simple as like a dress and giving life back into it by taking it to their prom or taking it to their like holiday party Gala. And I think this is very unique to us.

Erasmus Elsner 38:15 
Understood. Yeah, no, I wasn’t aware of that. And as we’re running against the clock here, I want to talk about the broader vision you have for Queenly. You’re in the journey now for two years. But what’s the future vision? Where do you see it going in one to five years time?

Kathy Zhou 38:29 
Yeah, if I can start first. On the tech side, there are amazing leaps and bounds made in computer vision and ml, that, as you’ve seen, we can do real time better real time detection, tracking, instant segmentation, everything that can lead to augmented reality, which we see a lot of great companies doing for makeup and for sneakers. And so we would love to be the first company for dresses for everything else when it comes to scaling out our platform. Because now we have so much more inventory, we’re going to have so much more inventory so much more users that we can expand to all these special occasions and we can give a more personalised curated experience, similarly to how you land on face book or you might on Pinterest and have a curated newsfeed. You can have personalised suggestions for dresses for every moment in your life, similar to Stitch Fix to yeah, there’s a lot of really interesting tech that we are super excited to apply. 

Trisha Bantigue 39:01

Yeah. And I think to add on to what she said is just the whole concept of retail marketplaces are good marketplaces is being able to democratise access to kind of do the kind of inventory that has never really been accessible, affordable, inclusive to a lot of consumers prior and so I hope that in the near future, we could definitely be a name brand where any girl that thinks about buying a dress for any special occasion event they think of it First, you know, we reduce the carbon footprint of the formal wear industry, whereas a lot more people are leaning into, you know, reselling their things and buying resale, we’d love to be able to be as inclusive as being able to have cultural attire, plus size LGBTQ communities on Queenly. And really, that’s our goal.

Erasmus Elsner 40:19 
Wonderful. And maybe for the audience out there, if they want to find out a little bit more about what you’re up to, where can they reach out or follow your list or inventory and who should who should reach out to you.

Kathy Zhou 40:31 
I’d say that in terms of our company’s social media, Instagram is the most active and also a great channel for sending out requests or customer support plus on plainly.com. We have links to download iOS and Android, but we also have our social media links. In terms of main company news, we try to, we’re trying to be a little more active on LinkedIn, trying. Yeah, we’ve been super grateful for the most recent preps from both business business of fashion and all of these outlets showcasing what we do with the world there.

Erasmus Elsner 41:04 
Yeah, and I will make sure to follow your journey. I think quite an inspiration for every marketplace founder out there. We always track the new marketplaces coming up. And this is this is a typical one where we have no understanding and it’s a huge community with different dynamics. So it was super interesting for you to walk me through this. Thanks so much for being on the show today, guys. 

Trisha Bantigue 41:23 
Yeah, thank you so much for having us.