Scrappy doesn’t begin to describe Tracy DiNunzio, an entrepreneur who once took a four hour trip on three different city busses zigzaging through the trafficked maze of Los Angeles to attend her first investor pitch meeting. Before that, she raised $28,000 on AirBnB to finance her startup, renting out both bedrooms in her apartment, while sleeping on the couch herself for a year.
The relentless entrepreneur behind the thriving three-year-old, pre-owned bridal fashion marketplace Recycled Bride eats, sleeps, and breathes the notion that “one woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure” – although she’d probably shudder at my use of the word trash.
Today, DiNunzio is fulfilling the grand vision she saw when conceiving of Recycled Bride with the launch of Tradesy, a broader and more technologically advanced version of the same peer-to-peer, women’s clothing resale marketplace concept.
“We view our belongings as things that we ‘own’ and are, in a sense, stuck with,” says DiNunzio. “But what if we could all see our wardrobes as interchangeable, and our clothing as assets that hold value? Then more women would have access to the fashion that makes them look and feel great, without the stress of overspending.”
Tradesy offers the average women a solution for the 80 percent of her wardrobe that she didn’t wear last year, but that still clutters her closet. If women are like DiNunzio (and most other women I know), many of these unwanted items still have tags on them. In fact, everyday women typically have $5,000 of resale value in their closets, according to the company’s founder. The site hopes that it will offer a variety of items as diverse as its users, ranging from designer brands to vintage items to everyday styles.
Unlike existing platforms such as eBay, ThreadFlip, LikedTwice, and others, Tradesy is designed for everyday women, not powersellers. DiNunzio is focusing initially on attracting sellers, but key product differentiators benefit both sides of the transaction. These include a drop-dead simple signup, listing and purchase process, free shipping, and hassle free returns.
Because it’s designed specifically for women’s fashion, Tradesy is able to streamline the listing process significantly compared to other multi-purpose marketplaces. As a result, the site has reduced what can take 30 minutes on eBay to “60 seconds or less” on its platform. Putting hyperbole aside, the process is extremely simple and intuitive.
There are a number of reasons for this, but one of the snazziest is the site’s automatic color recognition feature which instantly analyzes uploaded images and makes items searchable along a color spectrum. The listing platform also offers image beautification tools that automatically removing the background and enhance the quality of images uploaded by sellers. The result is that amateur photographs look like a lot like fashion advertisements. For buyers, this means a more beautiful shopping experience; for sellers, increased probability of sales.
Tradesy dramatically de-risks the transaction for both buyers and sellers by offering hassle-free returns for both parties. Buyers receive a guarantee that they can return any item purchased in the pre-owned marketplace directly to the company, free of charge. Sellers on the other hand, can rely on Tradesy to accept returns on their behalf. This in particular is unheard of across online consumer marketplaces.
Unless the item turns out to be misrepresented (defective, counterfeit, or otherwise), the seller keeps the money and Tradesy keeps the returned item for future resale in its not-yet-launched Tradesy Closet. Sellers who do misrepresent will be banned from the platform.
The startup marketplace further supports sellers with a pricing recommendation engine based not on what’s currently listed in the marketplace, but instead on the price at which comparable items have recently sold. As intuitive as this sounds, it’s a distinction that has thus far escaped most other marketplaces.
Tradesy is free for buyers and does not charge sellers a listing fee. Sellers pay a flat fee of 9 percent of each successful sale, compared to Threadflip’s 20 percent, releasing funds the second an item’s shipping tracking number is activated. Much like on PayPal, seller funds land first into a Tradesy account where they can then be used to purchase items on the site or transferred to an outside bank account.
With built in social features, Tradesy shoppers can follow the profiles of other women on the site with similar size and taste. Users can signup to receive alerts when a desired item is listed or marked down. Buyers can also re-list purchased items with a single click once they’re ready to part with them.
The site has been live in private beta for a few months now, with approximately 5,000 users invited from Recycled Bride and elsewhere. The early reviews have been positive, says DiNunzio, with 82 percent of users having listed at least one item and visitor engagement numbers trending comparably to Recycled Bride. Tradesy is currently available both on the Web and via an iOS mobile app that offers both shopping and listing functionality.
DiNunzio built Recycled Bride to profitability without outside financing, and the site now receives 500,000 unique visitors per month without any paid customer acquisition. DiNunzio describes the target market for Recycled Bride as 2.5 million women per year in North America. With the launch of Tradesy, she expands this addressable audience to more than 70 million women.
Alongside today’s launch, Recycled Media, the parent company of both Tradesy and Recycled Bride, has announced $1.5 million in Series A funding from Rincon Venture Partners, 500 Startup, DailyCandy founder Dany Levy, Daher Capital, Bee Partners, Double M Capital, and Launchpad LA, where she participated in the Spring 2012 accelerator class.
DiNunzio’s growing Web empire is based on the mission to “help women get more of the fashion that makes them look and feel great, while spending less.” The now battle-hardened entrepreneur knows more about her audience and her sector than most founders on the day of a new product launch.
At first glance, $1.5 million may not seem like a ton of money for a company with nine full-time and four part-time employees, and with imminent expansion plans. But, DiNunzio has shown herself to be an adept yet extremely frugal online marketer who quickly grew Recycled Bride to profitability. She now faces the challenge of doing the same with Tradesy.
There will be no shortcutting the long road ahead, but this founder is one of the few embarking with a faint roadmap in hand and a head-full of momentum behind her.
[Image source, The Fashion Cult]