Meet Trisha Bantigue: Trisha is the co-founder of the Queenly App, the largest user-generated formal dress marketplace. By making it easy for women to independently buy and sell gently used formalwear, she is helping so many women generate supplemental income through their sales of homecoming, prom, or pageant gowns, and also making designer gowns affordable and accessible for the babes shopping on a budget. Not only does she empower women and achieve sustainability through the app, but she also serves as an inspiration for all of us because of her success as a tech entrepreneur. Her journey to create a successful app was not an easy one, but she is paving the way for women in tech. I know that you will feel empowered and inspired after reading our interview with her and her story behind Queenly.
Hometown: Las Vegas, NV
Current City: San Francisco, CA
Hobbies: Modeling, photography, wine tasting, hiking, boxing, traveling to tropical places, trying out new restaurants
Favorite food: I looooove tacos!
Favorite movie: All the Marvel movies
Three words that sum you up: Resilient, compassionate, adventurous
Song you have on repeat right now: The Man by Taylor Swift
Dream job: already have it 🙂
Beauty product you can’t live without: Tarteist PRO Glow Highlight & Contour Palette is my everything! I love highlighting everything haha
Favorite quote: “A barrier is a limitation only when you perceive it as one”
Were you always inspired to start your own business?
Yes of course, I have always been “business-minded”, where I would find ways to sell things I would create at school and I’ve always wanted to find solutions to a lot of problems in society, especially how people live, work, buy, earn, etc. But I never thought that I would ever be at this place where I’m doing something I love and truly passionate about at such a young age. I’m really happy I’ve been able to pursue this dream of mine.
What pushed you to create the queenly app?
I started competing in pageants back in 2013 and to this date, I’ve done 9 and won 3. The best part of it all is what I got out of the experience, which is improving a lot on my self-esteem, having confidence in my capabilities, public speaking skills, communication skills and also lifelong friendships. Without this experience, I wouldn’t be the same person I am today. Going through all these pageants, I realized how expensive they were, and especially how ridiculously expensive the evening gowns were. I don’t come from an affluent background so this has always been difficult for me to manage. I wanted to create a better platform where girls can share their gowns with each other and also save money. I saw many Facebook groups that were for gown resale, but there’s also so many scams that happen. This was disheartening for me. I would hate for any girl to be scammed or feel like she can’t compete in a pageant or even go to prom simply because she can’t afford it. This was the ultimate push for me to create Queenly!
What are some challenges you faced starting a new business?
When starting something of your own, especially if it’s never been done before, you just don’t know where to start! No one gives you a “how-to manual” on doing a business, because every business is so different from each other. You really have to be super resourceful, ask a lot of questions from others, be okay with making mistakes and learning from them, and just learning how to stay focused on your goal. There’s a lot of people who are going to bring you down or tell you it’s not going to work, but if you truly believe in your vision and your capabilities in executing it, don’t ever listen to them. Take all of these challenges and make them your stepping stones to your success!
What past experiences helped you find success today?
I actually grew up in a non-traditional household, and I had to emancipate myself at the age of 17. I experienced homelessness and absent parents at a young age, so I’ve really had to choose to be strong and fend for myself. I know I didn’t want my circumstances to define my future, so I motivated myself to work hard and get into a good university. While at UC Berkeley, I was working 2 jobs, modeling, doing pageants, all while having a full-course load. I wanted to get a college degree because it’s something I can give to myself and no one else can take away. Learning how to be resilient and determined through adversity taught me to keep going and to always find ways to make things work. I believe these are the experiences that helped me get to where I am today.
Technology is still a pretty male dominated industry. What is it like being a woman in tech, and do you have any advice for women who may be looking to start their own apps?
It’s been such an uphill battle for us, as two female founders in a male-dominated tech industry, to launch and raise funding for Queenly. As of 2019, only 2.8% of venture capital funding went to female-led startups. This is immensely disappointing, and nowhere near an equal playing field. During our fundraising process, we met with countless VC’s, who for the most part, are all male. It’s been such a struggle pitching our market and our product because they obviously don’t know anything about it. They quickly dismiss it to be too small, or that no one needs our product because there’s already Rent the Runway, or question that girls actually spend more than $1000 on brand new dresses. We have gotten many passive aggressive questions and also ones that are condescending such as “So who built the app for you?”(we did) or even stating “I’m going to have to ask my wife first” (which in this case, doesn’t work at all, because most times, their wives are not our target demographic). The investors pass on us simply because they don’t want to acknowledge our market, and it’s a very frustrating reality for us and to most female founders.
My advice for women wanting to start their own apps is to persevere in their goals and to be assertive in what they deserve. First, know that building an app is not done in one day, and it’s a continuous and tedious process. It’s best to have an in-house developer, in my case, my cofounder is a full-stack software engineer. It’s hard to trust outsourcing, and it can also cost a lot of money. If you don’t have a cofounder, go to a lot of networking events and meet people. This can lead to someone also believing in your product and vision. Lastly, once you’ve proven product-market fit, you’re ready to scale and raise millions of dollars, make sure you show those male investors who’s boss. Show them you are strong, intelligent, capable and a leader that they will regret not investing into!
What are your future plans for Queenly?
One day, when someone needs a dress for their special event, I want the first thing that pops up in their mind is “I’m going to look on Queenly!”. My cofounder, Kathy, and I are really passionate about changing this whole industry. Pageants are one thing, and this industry that has existed for decades in the US, has not been innovated yet even though people literally spend millions and millions on it combined. We want to tackle the whole formal wear industry, as we see that it’s not really sustainable at the moment, and that it’s monopolized by big brands who set insanely high prices on them. We get girls who tell us they spent over $20,000 on a dress which is crazy! These are items that are only used once, and then it’s hard to re-sell it after or it just stays in the closets. I plan for Queenly to create a circular economy with these dresses and make sure that we reduce the carbon footprint that the formal wear industry has. I want to make dresses more accessible to all, sustainable on the environment and to make sure we can create a community of women who truly empower one another.
What is the best part about your job?
The best part about my job is being able to actually help people! I get so much joy and gratification that I get when a user had a good experience with us. I just want to be able to change people’s lives for the better, whether that be helping them find their dream dress for prom or helping girls make space in their closets while also making money. My goal is to make sure every girl can look AND feel like a queen in any special occasion, whether that be prom, quinceañera, wedding, winter formal, etc. I love being able to empower every woman to find it within them that they are so beautiful and that they are capable of anything.
In your free time, what do you enjoy doing?
In my free time, which is not a lot nowadays, I honestly just enjoy spending it with good company and good food. Being able to unwind and laugh with friends is the best thing ever. My boyfriend and I recently got a Golden Retriever/Labrador mix puppy named Butters, and he’s been taking up most of our time. He’s such an adorable and sweet puppy, so I just love spending my time with him right now.
What is the best advice you ever received?
I’ve definitely gotten a gajillion advice from people that come from all walks of life, but one that has stuck with me in everything that I do is simply “be kind”. My grandma, who passed away when I was 8 years old, was the one to raise me as a child, and she is the kindest person I’ve ever encountered. There’s a lot of smart, determined, talented people in the world, but people with kind hearts are hard to come by. This is extremely important as we go about our lives and when we encounter different people, different scenarios, etc. I live by this everyday, because you never know what someone is going through and what battles they are fighting in their personal lives, so I strive to be kind to each person that I meet everyday.
Links to download app: https://apps.apple.com/app/id1439763978
Keep up with Trisha: