Lauren Conrad · Mar 16, 2016

Ladies Who Laptop: Chatting with Tracy Dinunzio Founder and CEO of Tradesy

Hey ladies, it’s Anna from Fash Boulevard here with another edition of my Ladies Who Laptop interview series. This month’s inspiring lady paired a crafty solution with a mound of determination to build a thriving empire that has style enthusiasts scrambling to their closets. We all have pieces we don’t wear anymore or, in some cases, have never worn and with spring-cleaning still a few weeks away, the need to de-clutter is vast. Cue Tracy Dinunzio, whose website and app makes it easy to clear out those forgotten wardrobe items, while adding extra cash to your wallet. This savvy entrepreneur has transformed her fashion resale concept from a one-person company into a fashion and tech empire with over 120 employees. Not to mention, millions of customers. Dying to know more? Let’s dive in…

Lets start from the beginning. What is Tradesy?

Tradesy is a fashion resale website and mobile app, where millions of women buy and sell designer fashion. For sellers, it makes it safe and simple to list, sell, ship, and get paid without ever leaving home. And buyers can find everything from Zara to Chanel at up to 90% off, with a killer selection of new and vintage. It’s kind of like having millions of stylish sisters whose closets you can raid 24/7.

Where did the idea for Recycled Bride originate and how did it transition into Tradesy?

I started building marketplaces for women in 2009, when I launched the wedding resale site from my kitchen table. I didn’t know a lot about startups or technology, but I really wanted to empower women financially with an easy way to sell the things they weren’t wearing. Most of my friends and I had overflowing closets and empty wallets, and the old consignment model was so broken. But since I had no financing or experience, I decided to choose a small niche to begin with. Wedding attire was a great place to start—it’s expensive and only gets worn for a few hours. After a few years of running the bridal marketplace, I’d learned a lot about customer behavior, and was able to use those skills to expand into the larger fashion market with Tradesy.

You’ve revealed in the past that you were born with spina bifida; can you share with our readers how this condition impacted your life and journey towards becoming a successful businesswoman?

Spina bifida is a birth defect that can be very serious, and I was lucky to have great medical care when I was young, so now I can walk and travel and have this incredible job. I feel grateful for that, and for the opportunities I’ve had, and it makes me want to create opportunities for other people. Most of us go through some challenge or obstacle that feels impossible, but getting through it helps you develop the strength to survive difficult times—a must for entrepreneurs.

Before the conception of Tradesy you were a traveling artist. How did you make the leap from artist to CEO?

Being an artist had more in common with being a CEO than you might think, but there was still a huge learning curve. I made plenty of mistakes, but learned quickly that everyone does, and all that matters is that you don’t repeat the same one twice. I found great mentors and worked hard to keep them engaged by acting on their advice and bringing them results.

At the beginning of your company you raised a massive $1.5 million in funding. How did this impressive accomplishment come about?

I had to work extra hard to raise our first round of venture capital financing, because I wasn’t a proven entrepreneur and had no tech experience. I spent a few years of bootstrapping Recycled Bride, selling my car on eBay, renting my bedroom on Airbnb, and side hustling to fund the business. Once I proved that our business model could generate traffic and sales, investors started to engage, and we got our first financing. That was in July of 2012, and at that point we were five people working in my living room. Today, we have a team of 125 people, and have raised over $40 million in venture funding.

What was your secret to attracting users in those early days?

Hustle! I dove deep in any way I could find to attract users for free. At the time, that meant learning about SEO, blogging, and social media, and working on all fronts 24/7. I even made a science out of “stalking” reporters on Twitter to get press! You really can’t afford to be shy or picky in the beginning, you just have to be willing to try everything and learn.

What keeps you motivated?

Team Tradesy is my main motivation—they’re an incredible, inspiring extended family, and it’s my job to make sure that their work is recognized and rewarded. I’m also really inspired by our customers—what could be better than a community of smart, stylish women who cheer each other on? And as if that weren’t enough to keep a girl motivated, we’ve got 25 office dogs. I am motivated.

What was a breakthrough moment in your company?

When Richard Branson first invested in 2014 that was a big breakthrough moment for Tradesy. We’d gone from being underdogs to attracting the support of a true business legend.

Photo Credit: Bridget Fleming for Rent the Runway

There’s no denying the power of social media. Do you find this approach to be your most important marketing tool or have you found a different avenue to be more effective?

It’s absolutely an important marketing tool, though it’s not always the most effective, and it’s important to know what marketing tools are most effective for your business based on results and ROI. The impact of organic social media can be hard to directly measure and sustain, compared with other marketing channels. But social media can be important for developing your brand and lets you speak directly to your customers, which is why it’s included in most well rounded marketing strategies.

For online consignment fanatics, how do you make your business stand out amongst competitors?

Tradesy takes the lowest percentage of the sale around (just 9%), which means sellers make more while buyers pay less. We also guarantee authenticity, so you never have to worry about fakes and fraud. And Tradesy makes shipping so simple, enabling you to sell as much as you want without ever leaving the house.

Do you consider Tradesy a fashion company or a data/tech company?

To our customers, we’re a fashion company, but BTS we’re more of a technology and data science company. Everything we do at Tradesy is automated and scalable, from curation to authentication. That means it takes a lot of engineers to connect the seller of that vintage Louis Vuitton bag with the exact buyer who wants it, at the right price, at the right time. We’re connecting supply and demand across millions of closets, so it takes a bit of fashion magic and some data magic too.

What are some of the coolest and/or most expensive items that have been sold on Tradesy?

This Bordeaux Crocodile Hermes Birkin sold for $68k, and these thigh-high runway Rodarte boots from 2009 are kind of wild. We’ve also been selling a ton of vintage Coach leather bags, and I think they look so chic right now.

For all of the dreamers out there—the fresh-out-of-college future entrepreneurs—what advise would you give them?

Grow a thick skin, and don’t give up. You’ll have to get up to bat a lot of times to hit a homerun, and the more often you step up to the plate, the more chances you’ll have. To be a great entrepreneur, you have to keep swinging every day, and you have to swing for the fences, because the big rewards only come from taking the big risks. So if you’re swinging hard every day, you’ll inevitably fall flat on your face a few times, and that’s OK. Necessary even. You can’t be afraid of embarrassment or be obsessed with making things perfect, or you’ll struggle as an entrepreneur. Perfect is the enemy of good. Now swing.

Words you live by?

“Opportunities multiply as they’re seized” – Sun Tzu. Also, pretty much everything that Frida Kahlo and Beyoncé ever said.

What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

Talk less and listen more. Stop putting sushi delivery on your credit card, it’s going to cost you $8,000 for the sushi you ate in 1998 and you’ll regret it. Enjoy the great adventure ahead!

Be sure to check out Tradesy here!

Who would you like to see me interview for my next Ladies Who Laptop?

Let me know in the comments below!

Fash Boulevard

Photos: Tracy Dinunzio

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