Trisha Bantigue and Kathy Zhou // Ep 54 // Revolutionizing Formalwear Shopping with Queenly
Welcome to Episode 54 of the Asian Hustle Network Podcast! We are very excited to have Trisha Bantigue and Kathy Zhou on this week's episode.
We interview Asian entrepreneurs around the world to amplify their voices and empower Asians to pursue their dreams and goals. We believe that each person has a message and a unique story from their entrepreneurial journey that they can share with all of us.
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Trisha is the CEO & co-founder of Queenly, and she graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in Political Science. She then worked at Google, Facebook and most recently, Uber, working directly with the CTO to recruit engineering executives.
Kathy is the CTO & cofounder, and she graduated from University of Pennsylvania with a degree in both Computer Science and Environmental Science. She then worked at Venmo and also was a full-stack software engineer at Pinterest. Both co-founders have competed and have been titleholders for various pageant organizations such as Miss USA, Miss America, Miss Earth USA, Miss Asian Global, and more.
Trisha & Kathy are also the best of friends, and they have a shared passion for empowering women, providing accessibility & resources for all, breaking barriers for female founders & women in STEM and really cute doggies.
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Intro: (00:00:00) Hey guys, welcome to Asian Hustle Network Podcast, My name is Bryan.
And my name is Maggie
And we interview Asian entrepreneurs around the world to amplify their voices and empower Asians to pursue their dreams and goals.
We believe that each person has a message and a unique story from their entrepreneurial journey that they can share with all of us.
Maggie: (00:00:23) Hi everyone. Welcome to the Asian hustle network podcast. Today. We have two very special guests with us. They are Tricia van Teague and Cathy zone. Tricia is the co-founder and CEO of queenly a formal aware of marketplace and search engine. After graduating from UC Berkeley, she’s worked at Facebook and Google and executive recruiting. Her inspiration for starting queenly has stemmed from her experience as an active pageant contestant. Having recently served as miss Asian, global and miss California earth. Kathy is the co-founder and CTO. Of queen Lee. She’s graduated from the university of Pennsylvania and has an engineer at Pinterest and has been an engineer at Pinterest and Venmo, her and Tricia met during a college internship at a tech startup and had been working on queen lease since Trisha mentored through her first pageant. She’s drawn on her full stack engineering experience to build queenly on web, Android and iOS within the first year of launching. Welcome to the show Trisha and Kathy.
Trisha: (00:01:22) Thank you. Thank you for the intro. Those are pretty good.
Maggie: (00:01:28) You guys are so impressive.
Bryan: (00:01:30) Yeah. We’re super excited to have you on the show. Let’s start with Trisha. Like, what was your upbringing like?
Trisha: (00:01:35) Um, okay. Uh, right to the, in your mind say I think, um, my upbringing was definitely, um, unconventional when it comes to like your typical Asian upbringings. Um, I know that the stereotypes for Asian households is like, you know, tiger mom, dad, like really hard on you. And like, you should be a doctor and lawyer, et cetera. And I actually had like the complete opposite where. I think my parents, my family just didn’t care what I did. Um, and even when I had like accomplishments at school, it’s kinda like they don’t know what it is, so they don’t care. Um, I come from a very low income family. Um, I was born in the Philippines and then my mom and dad had to divorce when I was like age of two, my dad went to Japan to work and then my mom went to the U S to work. And so I was pretty much left at the hands of my grandparents. Um, growing up. And, um, it was hard because the Philippines is a Catholic country. So most kids have both their parents. So it was always just like a struggle for me in that sense. Um, and I’ve always known that I was going to be. Quote, unquote, reunited with my mom, um, later on, and then at the age of 10, she petitioned me to go to Las Vegas, Nevada, the best place to raise a kid. And, uh, yeah, I mean, she, um, she actually had a very severe gambling addiction and it affected our relationship a lot. Um, At the age of 17, I decided that it was best for me to go off on my own, um, as it was like really affecting my, my school, um, my goals in life, et cetera. And so I was very much independent then, and I was way in over my head, but, um, I got through it. Uh, I worked a lot of jobs, but yeah, that’s, uh, that’s been my upbringing.
Bryan: (00:03:30) Well, I mean, shout out to you too. That’s that’s a pretty tough upbringing you made. I feel like. Like you, that upbringing made you the person that you are today, like so strong and resourceful, independent. That sounds like a great quality behind a tech founder, you know, greediness, perseverance, all of it.
Maggie: (00:03:55) That’s must have been such a hard decision, especially at a young age, you know, I I’m glad that you had got to know what your goals were and you knew what was best for yourself. Yeah. Yeah, definitely.
Bryan: (00:04:07) Let’s hear from Kathy. What was your upbringing like?
Kathy: (00:04:09) Yeah, it was actually somewhat similar and thankfully, uh, but also, unfortunately I enlarged in the upgrading of how my family also came from a place with not too much money. Uh, also in an immigrant family, I. I had to do with various things throughout my childhood and high school, including, um, being able to financially support myself through college, through internships, scholarships. Uh, dealing with substance abuse from a family member and having a lot of that, uh, childhood trauma sort of be something I needed to be resilient of and grow out of what was a really good silver lining out of. That was, that was how Trisha and I had bonded. That’s how we trust each other, because we both understand each other’s personalities from that place of empathizing, like. Okay. We, we think like this, we are trying to grow. We’re always trying to learn, and we’re trying to really prove ourselves in this industry where we’ve had so many disadvantages and not the advantages that other people have.
Maggie: (00:05:17) Well, that’s a very powerful, and so Tricia, we know that you grew up in Vegas and Kathy, you grew up in Boston, right? Yes. How has growing up in those areas, like kind of shaped your Asian identity?
Kathy: (00:05:32) For me, it was kind of interesting because, uh, Asian-Americans were a minority there. I think Chinatown was at most two blocks in radius, I think that’s yeah. Yeah. Uh, thankfully some of my, uh, there were a lot of things. Family friends that we kept in touch with her there in Boston, but I did feel like a minority. I did feel like, Oh, I’m never going to be that, you know, face of leadership, face of America, success, that sort of thing, that, um, that sort of thing is just not for you when you’re very aware of that minority status.
Trisha: (00:06:09) Yeah. Um, for Vegas, I would say now, at least there’s like a decent, uh, population of Asian Americans there of Filipinos Chinese Vietnamese, Korean. And I think it has to do with the job opportunities there that are very easily attainable for immigrants, as well as like it’s really cheap. But, um, I never quite realized how conservative Vegas was when I was growing up, because I had no knowledge of like, Political ideals. And so I came to DUS fifth grade and all my friends were like pretty much white until like later. And, uh, you know, I’d go to their houses and, um, they would yell at their parents and it’s just like such a very different thing. Right. And that was weird to me, but I think a lot of Asian-Americans there do try to assimilate a lot to be white dominant culture. Um, And now like looking back, like when I visit Vegas, there’s like Trump signs everywhere and people carrying guns. And it’s just such a weird thing for me. Um, now that I’m very much aware that that’s like, Oh, that’s kind of weird. Um, and that’s not okay, but as a kid, it’s like, you don’t know, like you don’t know these things. That’s what I experienced.
Bryan: (00:07:26) Yeah. That’s awesome. Interesting experience to hear from. Yeah, I think especially for, for us, I grew up in California. I mean, I was surrounded by Asians all my life and it wasn’t till I got to college. So I started traveling more. I found my wait a minute. I am a nurse. I am minority. No one told me that that’s a rude awakening for me. So out of curiosity, T I know that you guys both have. Pretty rough upbringings in life. I’m kind of curious, like what re what are your views about money then? And what is it like now?
Trisha: (00:08:00) That’s a good question. You can start.
Kathy: (00:08:02) Yeah. I think it spoke a lot in terms of therapy, dealing with mental health, just like. Reflecting on myself as a person to really feel comfortable doing certain things, just as much as just wasting $10 even. Uh, it was a huge struggle for most of my life just feeling like I never, um, In college, trying to make sure my bank account would stay positive as I paid for food and classes and tuition fees and, and really feeling that weight. And I think that’s something a lot of Americans struggle with is the sort of financial trauma that it’s brought on you. If you grow up with that mindset and it’s so hard to get out of a, that’s why it’s been such a struggle for people to. Be able to become founders and entrepreneurs. If you’ve grown up with that mindset, it takes a huge amount of financial risk and a huge amount of feeling like you can believe in yourself and having that like self confidence to take even more risks because your whole life is saying, Oh, let’s not put myself in that situation. So it’s very counter to,
Trisha: (00:09:06) yeah. I mean, for me, I’ve had a very complicated relationship with money finances because of my mom and yeah. Seeing her just like be buried in debt and like file two bankruptcies and just a bunch of things like taking out, um, you know, payday loans and here and there. Um, that really scarred me to the point where I, I wanted to have financial security for myself, and I never wanted to ask money from anyone even, even like $20 from our friend. Like I w I was. Very much into like, I don’t want to be like my mom, so I have to be super independent and not rely on anyone for help. And that has been the hardest thing for me to get over when it comes to fundraising, especially as a founder, as a CEO. And it was very difficult for me. To ask money from a stranger that I’ve never really met. I’m not close to a, when all my life I’ve avoided asking for money. And this is something that Kathy has helped me drastically with. And also when I started on my journey, um, healing from my traumas, um, by actually, you know, seeing a therapist and, um, being more aware of my mental, emotional health, uh, my therapist also reminds me that it’s like, It’s different now. Like this is different. Um, but that’s hard, right? When you’re really scarred from traumas to really separate yourself from that. And I’m still learning, but I’ve definitely gotten a lot better and I’ve gained a lot more confidence and like insight. When it comes to money fundraising and finances now.
Kathy: (00:10:40) Yeah. I’ve learned a lot from Trisha too, in terms of us relying on each other for that emotional support of putting ourselves in that situation, it takes a lot of mental health growth and a lot of just relying on the people around you to like, you know, from that mindset.
Trisha: (00:10:56) Yeah. I mean, I never thought I would be able to ever raise. This much money. I’ve never seen somebody zero in my bank account when you’re,
Kathy: (00:11:08) when your parents are like missing payments on the rent and the rent is like $800. Uh, anything that we. Any angel check any the amounts that tech and the whole of Silicon Valley talk about. It just feels crazy.
Bryan: (00:11:23) Yeah. Yeah. I think you touched upon a very sensitive topic for a lot of us too, and that’s unlearning our trauma and what we believe is possible. I feel that’s a common theme among first-generation Asian-Americans that we have to unlearn a lot of things from our parents, especially from the scarcity mindset point of view. And I think that’s like, A really good way, any, like what do you guys have went through and unlearn? It’s a good, um, it’s a good, um, role model for a lot of us to follow. You know, it’s because like a lot of people in this situation can’t find themselves coming out of that situation, but you guys found each other and you guys found a network and support to really help you level up unlearn. Certain things and get to the next level. The only other thing I do want to touch upon is going to therapy and seeking mental health experts. That’s a, such a stigma in Asian culture, you know, and the fact that you guys normalized it and we’re trying to normalize it. And our party we’ve been having a lot more mental health units, the Asian hustle network. It’s because it’s a real thing. You know, it’s something that, especially that our generation is become more aware of, but for our parents and we talk to them about mental health, they presented it pretend like he doesn’t exist. Yeah. He’s talking about in the room.
Trisha: (00:12:45) Yeah. Yeah. I mean, for the longest time with my family and whoever, um, mental health, like if you need to see a therapist, like something’s wrong with you and you’re crazy. And so meaning. You shouldn’t do that, meaning you don’t need it because you don’t want to seem like you’re crazy or that you’re mentally ill or something. And I think that’s such a huge thing too, to break, especially now in 2021. Uh, I, I owe a lot to Kathy when it comes to me, I would have never, ever started this journey. Um, because I’ve always been like a go-getter type of personality. Like I have to keep it going. I don’t have time to think about my feelings. Like I don’t have, you know, a care about my feelings. I just have to keep going. But Kathy, it reminded me that like that it’s also, I should also prioritize like my feelings to myself, my mental health. And she’s the one that recommended that I see a therapist and I was really hesitant at first, but. Because I thought, how can a stranger help me? Like, they don’t know me. They’re not my friends and I don’t want to pay for it. Um, but you know, luckily at that time I was working at, um, big tech companies that were, you know, they were able to, um, reimburse that cost. So I was like, okay, why not? Let me try it. Um, and since then, like it’s helped me tremendously.
Maggie: (00:14:08) Yeah. I love that. I love how you two are just learning a lot from each other. And you know, same thing with my family. Like they, when I grew up, they didn’t even talk about therapy. Like they always thought, like if you had to go see a therapist, there would be something wrong with you. Right. But there’s so much strength and courage that it takes to actually see a therapist because you’re showing that you want to improve yourself. And there are things in your life that you can’t organize yourself inside your thoughts that a therapist can help you with. And I love that you two are like recognizing that.
Bryan: (00:14:38) Yeah, I do want to switch topics onto queenly like, let’s hear more about mainly in a, was it, what was the inspiration behind? When, when do you guys.
Maggie: (00:14:48) How did you get into pageantry first,
Bryan: (00:14:51) I’ll start for a laundry first.
Maggie: (00:14:52) And you know, we’d love to know about like the elephant in the room. You know, there’s obviously there used to be like a bad connotation to pageantry, but we’ll love to know like your perspective on how that industry is like breaking stereotypes and how like they’re embracing feminine, feminine feminism and just like, you know, intelligence as well.
Kathy: (00:15:13) Can I start on this because I actually just did my first international pageant. This past weekend relations supported me, helped mentor me for a lot of it. Um, shout out to my passion coach. He’s listening. That’s my boyfriend, who everyone who’s helped me. But, uh, what I wanted to emphasize is, so the pageant is called MIS or the United States. It is a focus on environmental activism. So you. People join this pageant because they are passionate about saving the earth and they want to really showcase that as part of their platform. And another great thing about, uh, I’d say that one of the first breakthroughs that has happened this past weekend is one of my dear friends, my pageant sisters, Emma Maloney, miss Wisconsin earth. She placed in top 12 and she, uh, out of Jessie, out of safety issues, a plus size model, she is active in promoting body positivity. And normally the there’s a whole stigma, offense, beauty pageants of like carrying on this one, narrow, uh, mindset of like what beauty should be. But there has been so much great representation in, um, plus size woman being part of this mainstream community and, um, uh, black woman and woman of a different ethnic backgrounds being able to wear their natural hair. And I think that is so beautiful. There is, uh, there’s such a great spot. Like I’m not, and it’s really changing the standards of beauty.
Trisha: (00:16:37) I’m really proud hearing this from her, just because I, the one that turned her into me,
Kathy: (00:16:42) you started it.
Maggie: (00:16:46) Yeah. I know that you had to convince her like eight times. And
Kathy: (00:16:52) I know all of this have actually happened in the past few years, even a couple of years ago, people would never expect to see a plus size woman, a woman, um, Uh, just last year, all four major pageants had black woman as their title holders. Uh, and that has unfortunately been something super new, but that was the, what, what I, I was learning off of where I didn’t think something like that was profitable in this industry. And I’m so glad to be in it now because we’re all part of this current change.
Trisha: (00:17:23) So what she has said is actually why cleanly was started, like literally, yeah, yeah. Quickly go over it because Kathy has heard this a million times. Yeah, because of my, um, I guess financial circumstances in 2013, I, um, had to figure out a lot of the different ways to make money, to pay my bills. And, you know, I took on a lot of like receptionist jobs, uh, fast food jobs, and even like one, two research studies. That paid me money, like questions or something. So I did a lot of those and I found that pageants, um, uh, were a way, a great way to gain scholarship and cash prizes. And I was reached out to in 2013 by this. Organization called Ms. Global. And I’ve, I thought it was a scam at first because why would they approach me? I’ve never done a pageant before I was like 18, 19 years old. Um, but then I was like, well, it’s a free vacation for a week at the Hilton would free food. Um, I can just go. And so going into it, I really didn’t expect much, and I’ve never expected to join a pageant before. Because I’ve always just been, um, very studious and nerdy and I just didn’t dress up like that as much. And so I was really just doing it for the experience and like to get money. I got there and my orientation with like 50 women, um, everyone was dropped dead gorgeous, and I immediately wanted to run out the door because I felt very insecure. I was the youngest one there. I did not know how to do my makeup. I did the typical Asian eyeliner thing, which most of us did in the 2000 tens or something. Yeah. It was really bad. So, um, but then it quickly changed my perspective. Quickly changed because I met them at talked to the women and I had the best experience learning about their stories, the countries that they come from, their culture. And, um, not only were they beautiful on the outside, but they were just kind compassionate woman who had real platforms that they cared about, that they work towards. And they’re also super smart. Like I met lawyers, entrepreneurs, PhD scientists, like. It was crazy. And so after that, it inspired me a lot to kind of better myself and to, um, grow into, I guess, the woman that I am today. Um, I kept doing it every year. Did a play where I think I’ve done like nine now over the past seven years. Yeah. So I’ve done local state national international, and I just wanted to grow and it enabled me to grow and be inspired so much. Um, and because of that experience, I wanted to be able to share it with someone like Cathy, like Maggie, like anyone, like who is trans, who is plus sized, who is a minority, like, because I want the stigma to be broken. Since I think most people don’t know the actual benefits of pageants and what it does for a woman’s like self-esteem and self-confidence. And so I found that one of the biggest pain points of the women were finding and affording their evening gown because duh, it’s like super expensive and we’re, we all come in different shapes and sizes and different. Um, colors of our skin, that it’s still hard to find one. And so I quickly realized that this applies to prom, weddings, homecomings, any formal skin scenarios. Right. And I realized that a lot of women don’t come from a very affluent background, many come from a background like. Ours. And right now there’s not one way, one safe and secure platform to provide these dresses for them and also to provide them an opportunity to resell it in the future. Um, and so. That’s when I approached Kathy and I was like, Hey, I have this idea. And she’s like, no, I don’t think it’s good. I was like,
Kathy: (00:21:25) yeah, because I have dresses for $20 and do know any of this stuff.
Trisha: (00:21:30) Okay. Kathy, go do a pageant. So you’ll, you’ll see what I’m talking about. And she did. And then I guess the rest is queenly history. Queenly history.
Maggie: (00:16:46) Wow. That is amazing. I love that story. And that is so right. Like, I feel like a lot of people don’t understand, like, especially male, like they don’t understand that the significance of a dress. And it means so much like whether it be prom or like a party that they’re going to, or their wedding, you know, like they keep that dress forever because it signifies so much
Bryan: (00:21:59) I’m learning right now.
Maggie: (00:22:03) Love it. And so when you guys launched, mainly I believe it was 2018, right? 19 2019. Okay. Christmas week of 2018. Like almost there. Okay.
Trisha: (00:22:16) This week. And then we launched, like,
Kathy: (00:22:19) I think, yeah, it’s confusing. Cause I kept trying to submit it to the app store and they kept rejecting it. I see. Yeah. File or something.
Trisha: (00:22:27) It’s actually like, apparently it’s not that simple to just submit an app.
Maggie: (00:22:35) And so 2019, after you guys launched it, what were the expectations going into it and talk about like what the first couple of months were like for you to,
Bryan: (00:22:44) Oh, you’re struggling, like being resourceful and not having capital and you know what you’re doing?
Trisha: (00:22:50) Oh yeah. I mean, yes, everything was bootstrapped until like, Late 2019. Um, and I, I think we, we had a safety net at that time because we both had full-time jobs. I was at Uber, she was at Pinterest. So it was a little, definitely nights and weekends. And we initially launched in, uh, I private beta of like a hundred users of like mainly my network of pageant girls. And I, I really wanted to utilize my pageant network and the pageant community to gain initial traction because I knew like they already purchased these dresses. They already know what resale is. Um, it’s like less friction and like trying to tackle the wedding industry first. Right. Um, so our expectations, um, We didn’t really have any, I think we were really, yeah, we didn’t know what we were like expecting, but we knew we had a problem to solve, like we had a problem solved. So, um, for the first few months we were trying to just collect sellers as a two-sided marketplace, similar to like, you know, Airbnb, you need the supply side for us. First. And so we try to rack up as much sellers and listings as possible. And until we got to the sweet spot of like, okay, someone, a buyer was able to find their dream dress, um,
Kathy: (00:24:10) and that they had more than at least 10 dresses yet.
Trisha: (00:24:16) Yeah. and then the color and then the silhouette and all those combinations is like, you need. Thousands of dresses in order to fulfill that one search, um, and may have tiny, tiny team pets. When we first got our first purchase,
Kathy: (00:24:30) I got so excited. I called you email data job, went through about the address being sold. And I was like, bought something.
Trisha: (00:24:43) Yes, exactly. So, yeah, we got our first purchase. Um, but one of the crazy things that I wanted to kind of include in this is that. We did a lot of scrappy things like super scrappy because, um, not only did we not get any funding yet. But we’re also like super cheap frugal individuals where we’d like to save money. Like
Kathy: (00:25:04) we’re very passionate about being frugal.
Trisha: (00:25:05) Yeah. Yeah. So we want to do super resourceful and it was a miss USA, 2019 happening in Reno. Uh, in may. And, uh, we were like, Hey, like we gotta promote queenly there. Cause that’s where all of our users are going to be, but we can’t afford to pay for the official sponsorship. And, um, the tickets were like $380 each or something. Um, and so we were just like, okay, let’s just go there and print out postcards and like, see what happens. Um, and initially I wanted to pretend that we were pressed, so I submitted a press application and we got like a media pass. So that’s one, but then we found out that media is not allowed in the theater and they’re only allowed in the press room. And we’re like, well, that doesn’t work because then we can’t, we can’t look at, you know, we can give our users, potential users, our postcards. Um, we asked so many people and everyone was saying, no, But at the last second, the security guard thought we were like staff and she’s like, Hey, do you guys need help going inside? Cause the show already started and we just went with it. We were like, Oh, you know, we just landed 30 minutes ago. Like we’re super late. Can you help us? And so she escorted us that we weren’t allowed in there. Technically we didn’t have a ticket. Um, but yeah, we pretty much sneaked into miss USA. And we like plastered the bathroom and we would queenly postcards. We like stood next to the door aisle as people were exiting and giving them like, queenly postcards and pretending like, Hey, you know, did you get one yet? Here we go. Really like salesy. Right. Um, but yeah, that’s one of the scrappy ways that we kind of utilize our. Resourcefulness to gain Hughes.
Bryan: (00:26:52) I appreciate the hustle.
Maggie: (00:26:55) No, my gosh. I’m getting pills because it’s like that hustle mentality. And it’s just like you guys looking back after, you know, a couple of years, you’re just thinking like, dang, we hustled.
Bryan: (00:27:03) I love the hustle too, because it reminds me of Asian hustle. Now for a year ago I was like, Oh my God. And no one’s posting it here. So I just deal with like 300 people every day. I here you guys, you want to plus in my community, it’s for Asian people.
Kathy: (00:27:19) Hey your age, like here you go. I mean, prompts to you, the growing Asian hustle networks so quickly, it was, it was a lot of Trisha’s work in doing very similar things. I wanted to emphasize by the way that I think that this is the perspective that a lot of people, if they’re going to tech, they want to be a tech founder, or they should really. Want to not just fill all the boxes of the stereotype. Cause Trisha does not. That’s why I wanted to work with her. Cause um, her having a network, it really helped with our initial users, but just that ability to think outside that box and not just be the stereotypical tech CEO, like that’s, what’s gotten us to last this far.
Maggie: (00:27:58) That’s amazing.
Bryan: (00:27:59) I love that. Out of curiosity, they, what was the first turning point when you realized that it could be a real thing? Like we need to go out there and raise money, maybe leave our jobs. You know, this is we’re going to make that jump. Like, what was that
Maggie: (00:28:13) still working at your full-time jobs and you guys were doing queenly on the side. So it’s like, when did you guys do this?
Kathy: (00:28:21) It’s I’m sorry to interrupt you. It’s a funny story because it was a startup retreat in Hawaii this week long workshop thing that we applied to on a whim by we funder. Yeah. Yeah. It’s this company called we funder. They’re doing a crowd raising, uh, time fundraising platform. Uh, they’re really great checks I’m out, but because of their mentorship program, when we flew to Hawaii, uh, they comped our stay there. We got mentors from a lot of YC founders, a lot of people that have grown. Some shut down, some sold their companies and they were the people that initially believed in us. And I think when you’re coming from places like us, where you’re from that disadvantage background where you were super poor, no one believed in you. Uh, no one thought you could succeed. Like you kind of do need that external validation. Sometimes of people being like, Hey, what are you doing? You know, You’re going to be big. Like you have something working right here. You could be really big. You need to believe in yourself.
Trisha: (00:29:20) Yeah. I mean, we did a no, I think that was the first time and female founders going into that. I think there were like 15 other companies that were accepted. We thought that we were still too early, but then we quickly realized that we were actually way ahead than any of the founders there. And we just invalidated all of our progress because we just didn’t know. We didn’t know relatively. Um, so pretty much like all the mentors that we had were just like, you girls need to quit your job today. And they bugging us to quit our jobs and like start fundraising ASAP because you guys have way more traction than. Then we did when we fundraised. And so, um, I think, you know, mentors, uh, in this journey and his tech startup journey is really, really valuable to help you realize these, these turning points.
Maggie: (00:30:08) That’s amazing. Yeah. We hear a lot about we’ve under as well, and we’ve heard like, amazing things about them and everything happens for a reason. Right. And like, did you guys even like expect to have any like plans to go on that trip? Or was it like very small?
Kathy: (00:30:22) Yeah, we had to blind. So our managers at work, I was on some like woman. This leadership retreat later on, I told him the truth and he’s telling you was, he’s a cool guy. So shout out to you if you’re listening.
Trisha: (00:30:35) Well, I mean, I haven’t told mine, but yeah, I said I won. I won, I won a free Hawaii trip.
Kathy: (00:30:45) That’s actually pretty believable
Trisha: (00:30:46) because they told us like a week and a half or something we had to go. And so I was like, crap. Like, I don’t know if I can take off that much. Like I’ve only been here less than a year. Um, Yeah,
Bryan: (00:31:01) I’m glad you guys made that happen.
Kathy: (00:31:02) Yeah. I’m really glad too
Bryan: (00:31:07) so, yeah. So tell us about the fundraising experience. Like, you know, you came back from this big tree and you’re like, all right, you got to fundraise ASAP. Did you leave your job? I right. Really we’re done next week. And we’re going to fundraise now. Like what was that transition like?
Trisha: (00:31:21) Um, well, so we had that trip in June and then we actually didn’t quit a full-time jobs until. September.
Kathy: (00:31:30) Yeah. Keep in mind that in terms of getting to the state of believing in yourself and feeling like you’re ready to take a risk, because it does feel like a big risk. It took a lot of mental preparation.
Trisha: (00:31:40) Yeah. And I think it was also kind of like. Okay. Let’s just wait till our vesting period so we could yeah. But yeah. Yeah. I had like my one-year cliff and I was like, okay. I might as well just say, like, I don’t get these Uber stocks, whatever. Um, so that’s one, but yeah, fundraising was. Pretty, uh, scary at first. I mean, it’s still scary actually, but, uh, we’ve learned a lot and I think a lot of, uh, first-time founders actually are very, very naive. We were naive. Um, when you first approach fundraising, um, a lot of founders make so many mistakes and we made a lot of mistakes. We learned along the way. But, um, it’s really, uh, it’s really a game. I see it now. It’s like a game where, before I thought that we had to like beg money for, from them or something, but we forgot that, Hey, you know, these investors don’t make money unless we make money. Like literally they have this like money from like LPs or whatever, but their main job is to find founders that. Can make them money. So without the founders, VCs have really no, no power to make money. If you think about it in that sense. And so I didn’t realize that in the beginning. And so the way that our pitch went was like us being desperate for money. And that is just like, that does not bode. Well, I think it’s all about like confidence and controlling the conversation and just letting them know that. You’re going to be big and that whatever you’re working on, you’re solving a real problem. And that as you know, early stage founders, it’s like we have a very unique set of skills and expertise and, um, Basically like co-founder compatibility that would take this company very far. And those are things that I didn’t really pitch in the beginning. Now. I know, obviously now we know. Um, but I think I wasted so many meetings by not knowing that. And especially I would highly, highly discouraged anyone. From approaching VCs first, uh, which was the mistake that I made. Um, I think always, always start with angel investor checks first and we will come later.
Maggie: (00:34:06) Yeah. That’s really good advice.
Bryan: (00:34:08) Yeah. That’s really good advice too, because we’re in a fundraising process right now where we’re like, all right. And we got a couple of angel checks coming in, so it was pretty exciting. But to me, it’s about keeping busy on that. We’re still thinking big. We’re going to stay here for a long time. We’re greedy. We don’t give up type of thing, you know?
Maggie: (00:34:33) Yeah. I love them. It’s because I think a lot of first time founders, they are often very desperate to get money because when you’re starting out, you are desperate for money, you know, you’re bootstrapping. It’s so easy to come off as desperate. Right. But they do look for people who’s like super confident. They know that they’re going to make those VCs and angel investors money. And that’s really important if I start there.
Trisha: (00:34:55) Yeah. I mean, there’s all paradox when it comes to fundraising because a VC is want to give you money when you don’t need it anymore. But then when you need the money, VCs don’t want to touch you, which is like the dumbest thing ever, but it’s really the reality of it. Like they won’t pay attention to you until you’re like way. Advanced you have all these like metrics and you have all this progress get into YC. It’s like a chicken and egg problem. Right. So we, we really had to like pushed through and, Oh God, like we had so many nos. I sent like hundreds of like cold emails, like literally just scraping, like who’s a VC on LinkedIn who an ambassador, like literally cold reach out. Um, They barely work, but you know what? You have to try that. And then, um, as female founders with a female focus product, uh, we were shut down so many times. Um, they would always say our market’s too small, or like this is not necessary or, um, just a bunch of different things. And, uh, we’ve even gotten like a lot of like, Very sexist, um, remarks when it comes to it like, Oh, like who did you guys hire to build your product when it’s like, Kathy’s our CTO and she builds everything or like, you know, male VCs would tell us like, okay, well that’s cool. Let me, let me ask my wife about it. And we’re just like, you’re going to ask your like wife who shops at like Prada and Louis and Gucci, and doesn’t care about like saving money on resale. Like. It’s it’s not accurate. And I’ve even gotten like one remark from a VC where he said that, um, I don’t seem like atypical Silicon Valley CEO because I let my co-founder talk too much. And I was like, that’s really weird because I. As a CEO CTO, um, dynamic, like we’d like to be equals because it is like an equal partner.
Kathy: (00:36:54) It’s also completely normal that most like white male CEOs to do the event of talking. Yeah. That was, that was just very strange.
Trisha: (00:37:05) It was like really strange. So, um, I think the biggest takeaway for us is that there’s a lot. Of people with a lot of money in Silicon Valley. So if you get a no, if you get like that racist remark, a sexist remark, like honestly, move on. There are so many other people who will actually see your vision, who will believe in you and who will give you that check. So don’t waste time on like, you know, excuse the language, but like assholes that are just going to put you down because there’s other people that can support you.
Bryan: (00:37:36) Yeah, I love that remark too. I think we talked about this right? For the parts house in 2019, when we 2.8% of VC fundings went to female founders, but over the last year, it dropped to 2.3. That’s very disappointing to hear and very sad to hear at the same time. And I do want to touch base upon that too. I mean, you kind of talked about briefly about you being a female founder. My Deanna tips and advice for other female founders, especially minority founders who want to pursue entrepreneurship.
Maggie: (00:38:09) Yes, actually like if they’re trying to, you know, get in contact with VCs and investors, as well as you guys did and you know, in an industry where it’s like mostly white male, like
Bryan: (00:38:19) how do you approach that to find the VCs too?
Kathy: (00:38:21) Yeah, I’d say from, um, if I’m able to speak for both of us, we do want to acknowledge the advantage that we were able to establish. Some traction in our own tech careers, uh, Trisha working at Uber, making a strong network there and myself at Pinterest. And unfortunately, a lot of women don’t even get the opportunity to get to that point. They don’t even get to that interview to be an engineer at a place like Uber and Pinterest. And so that unfortunately is a big part of it. Just the network from the fundraising pitching perspective, uh, from the technical side, what’s also. A huge thing is the level of technical emphasis on asserting your numbers, your metrics growth, as well as the tech stack you’ve built, um, the tactical mode, whether it is patentable, whether you’ve made breakthroughs in AI and machine learning, like that’s something that you actually have to be very defensible in as a female founder compared to the average founder. And that’s something that we had to learn the hard way. It took us a long time to learn that we can’t. Listened to the same advice that people generically give to other founders,
Trisha: (00:39:31) male founders, per se. I mean, female founders just get drilled a lot more on the numbers and just everything because, um, you know, you have your typical Silicon Valley, white male founder. Um, who can raise like $2 million when they have no product. Right. And that does not happen for female founders, especially female minority founders who just can’t get away with it. You just can’t like, it’s just not possible. And we’ve experienced that firsthand. So, yeah. Um, number one thing is like before you fundraise, uh, network like crazy, um, around your community, around your, your work, et cetera, because warm intros always work best. So once you’re ready to fundraise, you know, approach like, uh, former founders or fellow founders, Whoever, um, within your network saying like, Hey, you know, I have this, this startup, like I’m trying to fundraise. Um, would you be so kind to just like, give me an intro and they’ll know the importance of a warm intro is versus a cold email. So that’s one thing, um, finding VCs and investors. Um, there’s definitely a lot of websites now that you could, you could do this on, uh, but I just can’t stress enough. To utilize your existing network for warm intros, just because VCs and investors, uh, get cold emails, like hundreds of them per week. Right. And it’s like, what do they care? It’s like, your email is most likely going to go to archive. And so my number one thing is to be able to find VCs and investors like. Find it within your network, like your friend knows a friend that knows this guy and that will always work a hundred times better than a cold email.
Maggie: (00:41:16) That’s really good advice. Yeah. We hear that all the time. Warm intros always go a long way. So what is like the most important. Thing, because I, you know, we obviously see you guys have such a great relationship between the two of you. I’m very curious, like, in your perspective, what is the most important thing when finding a co-founder or a partner in business?
Bryan: (00:41:39) So essentially you guys are married
Maggie: (00:41:42) and you guys are always complimenting each other. I love it.
Trisha: (00:41:47) Well, I mean, honestly, like, um, it’s been such a like crazy journey and it passed by so quickly that. I don’t even know where the points of me and Kathy’s relationship really blossomed or something. But it’s
Kathy: (00:42:05) funny thing that we’ve just realized is that a lot of people ask us if we live together, I guess. I have one of my friends who have I’ve just made. So like, Oh yeah. It just seems like the two of you live together. It seems like you have a roommate dynamics.
Bryan: (00:42:23) Yeah. I still, I think what people take for granted the most is co-founder compatibility.
Kathy: (00:42:28) We don’t live together.
Trisha: (00:42:35) I think probably she’s always here anyways, but, um, a lot of people think that they can just. Let’s just say, you know, post on Asian hustle network and say, I’m looking for a co-founder to do this business with me. And then people are going to comment like, Oh, I’m down. And it seems great at first. And I go, yeah, this is great. Like, you know, community networking, but, um, there’s actually a lot more that goes into it than just someone that is interested in whatever you’re doing. And it’s such a very tricky and dangerous place, uh, where, you know, you’re gonna, you’re gonna spend a lot of money on legal costs. Uh, establishing your company. And then if you have to like fire your co-founder or just like, you guys have to split, that’s more legal costs. And like, people don’t think about that and whatever co-founder friction that you guys have that you didn’t know existed because you just met. Um, it’s gonna, it’s gonna slow down your progress a whole lot. And VCs investors don’t like that. Like if they see that you’re not compatible, like they’re not gonna want to invest in you. Really. So, um, I think one of our queenly biggest strength is actually our relationship. Like queenly, wouldn’t be existing today, where it is, where you know, where it’s in YC, if we didn’t get along so well. Um, and I think the biggest thing is, um, communication, like really. Transparent candid communication is what I would stress upon for co-founders this
Kathy: (00:44:05) feedback where you’re both coming from a place of trust and where you know that the other person’s giving you that feedback, just, they want you to better yourselves and they care about you.
Trisha: (00:44:15) And like you said, like it’s like a. It’s like a marriage. Right. And so when you think about a marriage, like a relationship, it’s like when you’re arguing over something, you have to think about that. You’re not arguing against each other. You’re arguing against the problem. Like you’re a team like you can’t, you can’t go against each other. Um, because at the end of the day, you’re. Only hurting yourselves and your company. And so for me and Kathy, whenever we have issues, we want to able to be able to tackle it right away by, by, you know, approaching each other from a place of like, um, compassion and understanding. And like vulnerability is like really key, like being vulnerable with each other, um, allows you to be so close to each other and to have that bond of trust and respect.
Bryan: (00:45:04) Yeah. Yeah, that’s really good advice. Um, yeah, I mean, finding a co-founder I would think is very difficult, even more difficult than funny, a boyfriend or girlfriend,
Trisha: (00:45:17) like money’s involved right away,
Bryan: (00:45:19) money involved. It changes people to use their mentality, makes them more defensive and kind of. No untrustworthy in many ways. So that’s a really good tip. I mean, luckily I have Maggie as my co-founder.
Trisha: (00:45:33) Yeah. I love that.
Kathy: (00:44:35) That seems like two of you also have a really good dynamic going on.
Bryan: (00:45:38) Yeah. We compliment each other pretty well. Real serratus. He turned into like, I mean, it’s like a normal co-founder except in relationship, we can’t be as mean to each other. You know where I feel with me and Maggie, she’s like, Hey, being lazy in this one, you need to talk better. You need enough to be better and blah, blah, blah. You know, things are normally hurt my feelings, but it’s not hurting. We wouldn’t work in a Maggie or something. Uh,
Maggie: (00:46:06) and so we have one last question for you too. And that is what advice would you give to an aspiring entrepreneur?
Trisha: (00:46:18) Ooh a lot.
Maggie: (00:46:20) You have to pick one,
Trisha: (00:46:24) like write 10 books about it now. Yeah. Yeah. Maybe we’ll do you want to start? Do you have one?
Kathy: (00:46:29) Uh, my advice is. To embrace growth. I think that’s like the big theme of everything we’ve talked about from trying to, trying to be comfortable with. Yeah. If you come from a really different social situation where your, your family is not supportive of, uh, going into businesses, if you have never had that social, um, That community supporting you before. And I’ll say as well, it’s just like all the zillions of things you’re going to have to learn about each other. When you’re working with a co-founder about your own business, about pitching, like you’re not going to be the same person you were even. A month ago, you’re always going to have to change and adapt, and it’s always going to be this moving target of how do I improve as an entrepreneur? How do I learn all these more skills? How do I improve as a person? And so just to embrace that change and that constant feedback is. Super cute.
Trisha: (00:47:27) That’s good. Yeah. Um, I mean, there’s a lot that I could say, but I think one that would probably resonate with the Asian hustle network community is to prioritize building relationships, building relationships, and building communities. So for me, um, even way before I started drafting, um, the app screens for queenly even before I even thought about queenly, um, I knew that I wanted to start something of my own. And I started building relationships maybe in 2016, where I would go out to so many events in the city. And so many like tech conferences, tech talks, et cetera, and really put myself in a vulnerable position of like, um, Being courageous enough to ask for their email and ask to network with them and like really making friends. And, um, I never asked for anything at first and I think that’s the key to networking or building relationships. It’s not only like what that person can do for you, but what can you do for them at the moment?
Kathy: (00:48:32) Yeah, one thing she did was really good is that she helps connect people to each, like you always offered favors first. Like he always offered like, Oh, I can help to this person or learn about this.
Trisha: (00:48:43 ) I forgot how I learned this, but like, I just figured, like, this is like effective way of networking. Um, you can network by just like asking people everything, but what incentive do they have to do anything for you? Unless you’re their friend or you’ve done something for them. And I realized that this was key. And so for me, um, a lot of the investors we have today, I started building relationships with them. Way back when three, four years ago, such as, you know, I would have never gotten the CTO of Uber and the CPO of Uber to invest in queen leap. Uh, I wasn’t even like high up at Uber. I was like very low at Uber. Right. You’re important. Well, yeah, but like, um, I. Nope, such good relationships with them and impress them with my work ethic and, um, basically my personality and, uh, that they were so impressed when I told them I was starting queenly and that they offered. To invest in me and I didn’t even have to ask. And so, yeah. Um, there’s actually this term in, uh, tagalo, which is the Filipino language it’s called and what it means is like, um, it takes a nation, uh, so that can also translate to like, it takes. A community, it takes a group of people to accomplish something. And that really resonates with me in my everyday life where queenly, wouldn’t be here today, if not for the community of women that listed or dresses for sale, not, you know, like for the relationships that I built, um, with the mentors and investors that supported us. Um, so yeah, like build relationships, strong ones.
Maggie: (00:50:18) Yeah. Yeah. YouTube gave such great advice and. You know, one thing that I took away from it is that, you know, you be nice to everyone because you never know who long run
Trisha: (00:50:29 ) pretty much don’t burn bridges like Clint steeds, don’t burn bridges.
Maggie: (00:50:34) Exactly amazing. And so how can our listeners find out more about you too? And queenly online?
Trisha: (00:50:41) So our website is now very easy. It’s queenly.com, Q U E N L Y. Dot com and then all of our social media are pretty much at queen Lee app, so app, um, and then we also were available in the app store and Android, um, Google play store as queenly. And then am I missing anything?
Kathy: (00:51:07) I’d say that both of us are pretty reachable. If anyone wants to talk to us directly. We are just Trisha and firstname.lastname@example.org. Yeah. I, I mean, I’m always, we’re both always looking for people to pass it forward and to share advice too. So yeah. Happy to connect to anyone that wants to really,
Trisha: (00:51:26) yes, we are very desperate and changing the 2.3%. So any female founders out there, like really reach out to us and we’ll help you wholeheartedly, like we got you.
Bryan: (00:51:41) Awesome. It’s been awesome. Watching your story unfold as well. Yeah. And shout out to Trisha. I think you’re like literally our 50th member in Asia hustle network. I saw Trisha’s name.
Maggie: (00:51:58) Yeah, super out of you guys. You know, we also have a spotlight video of YouTube on our YouTube channels. Just. Seeing you to grow and just prosper has been so amazing.
Bryan: (00:52:11) Yeah. We’re here. We’re number one supporter. So appreciate you so much.
Kathy: (00:52:15) We appreciate all the consistent support. It means a lot to us.
Trisha: (00:52:20) Yes, definitely. And we wish you the best of luck with your fundraising. Let us know if you ever need any help.
Maggie: (00:52:28) I love it.
Bryan: (00:52:29) Thank you so much,
Maggie: (00:52:30) Tricia. And thank you so much, Kathy.
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