MP chatted with Trisha Bantigue, CEO and co-founder of Queenly, a leading online marketplace for the formalwear industry. She was recently featured on the Forbes 30 Under 30 2022 list and was the cover for the Art & Style category. Bantigue was born in the Philippines and immigrated to the US at 10. Before founding Queenly, she worked at some of the biggest tech companies like Google, Facebook, and Uber. Queenly is backed by prominent Silicon Valley investors such as Andreessen Horowitz, Y Combinator, C-level executives from Uber and Pinterest, CEO of Mercari, CEO of The RealReal, and more.

The Journey

The entrepreneurial journey is one of self-discovery. What have you learned about yourself while building your business?

I have learned how resilient I am in certain situations where many people would’ve given up. 

We’ve experienced a global pandemic where no events were being held for people to wear formal dresses. We’ve also gotten hit with many unexpected obstacles that led to a lot of stress and anxiety. 

I learned that I am way stronger than I thought I would be as a businesswoman, and I’m proud of myself for continuing the work we started four years ago despite all the hardships. 

The entrepreneurial journey is often lonely. Have you experienced loneliness as an entrepreneur?

Yes, of course, more times than I could count. 

Even though I have a very supportive cofounder and an understanding husband, there are times when I do feel like the burden is all on me. 

As the company's CEO, you’re usually held to a higher standard and the face of the company. That’s enormous pressure to take on 24/7, and it’s difficult to deal with. 

Earlier this year, I needed to reach out to a professional for help because I felt so empty and lonely inside, despite having accomplished many things like being on Forbes 30 Under 30. 

I knew something was wrong when I couldn’t feel happy or excited, so I started taking antidepressants. 

This is a taboo in the industry and the executive world, but I want to be open about it to destigmatize it further. 

I want others to know that they are not alone, that they don’t have to do it alone, and that it’s okay to seek professional help when times get rough. 

On top of that, I had an incredible support system that stuck with me every step, so I am very grateful for them. 

The Psychological Warfare 

Entrepreneurs generally sleep less, work more, and let their health slip. This combination, combined with loneliness, often results in insecurity, self-esteem issues, and low self-worth. Have you experienced any of these issues as an entrepreneur?

It is very common to experience imposter syndrome as a first-time CEO, especially as a female minority founder. 

There were many times when I felt like I was not enough or that I was not capable enough to keep going. 

I’m not entirely sure where it stems from, but I know it’s very common amongst many entrepreneurs. 

At the end of the day, I have to tell myself, “Well, why can’t I? Many before me have far fewer credentials, so why can’t I succeed?” This mentality usually helps me get back on track, but it does not go away when you try to ensure you are doing your best for your company. 

Trisha Bantigue of Queenly
Photo courtesy of Trisha Bantigue

Newer entrepreneurs often equate their personal success with the success and value of their business. If their business fails, they are a failure. If their business succeeds, they are a success. Have you experienced this warped perception of reality?

When I first started, I did experience feeling like my worth was directly connected to the success of my business. 

The pressure to succeed was even higher with a husband who formerly succeeded with his startup company. This pressure was very toxic and self-inflicted. 

I soon realized that I was only hurting myself in the end by thinking this way, and so I started to rework my mindset on it. Now I understand that life is so much more than my career and what I accomplish with my work. 

It gives me peace and clarity when I don’t get so hung up on feeling like a failure if my business fails. 

I highly recommend this to anyone starting a business.

What are your three biggest fears as an entrepreneur, and how do you manage those fears? 

Not doing everything I can to mentor my employees, failing as a company, and falling into depression due to stress from work. 

1. Being A Good Manager

First, I care a lot about the employees I’ve hired, so I always want to ensure that I am a good manager for them. My goal is always to provide resources, improve their skill sets, and ensure they enjoy their work. I never want my employees to feel burnt out, neglected, or like they’re not growing up.

2. Scared of Failing 

Second, of course, I’d be lying if I said I was not scared of failing overall because I still care a lot about my company getting to the finish line - whether that’s IPO or an acquisition. 

3. Being Depressed

Third, since I know how easily depression can creep in from the burden of stressful work situations, I’m scared of falling into that pit again. 

I think I was at my lowest the past year, which was eating me up from the inside. 

I want to ensure I can take care of my mental health while I do my business, regardless of any obstacles. 

The Mistakes

What are three mistakes you made early on as an entrepreneur, what did you learn from them, and how can others avoid these mistakes?

1. Incorporating Before I Had My Product

First, I was very excited to start my company, so I first filed for incorporation. I didn’t know I had to pay taxes for that year, even if I didn’t make any revenue just yet. 

2. Buying 1,000 Boxes Before I Had Any Orders

Second, I ordered so many boxes right away, thinking I would have 1,000 orders off the bat. 

That was not the case, and I had stacks of cardboard boxes in my small SF apartment for the longest time. 

3. Not Being Fully Confident With Myself

Lastly, I was not confident in myself early on, which showed a lot when I pitched to investors. 

I had a lot of anxiety, fears, self-esteem issues, etc., which affected my performance as a CEO. 

Confidence is critical when it comes to building a business, so definitely keep that in mind. 

The Advice

How can newer entrepreneurs develop a healthy work-life balance even when it seems like an impossible task?

Your identity should not be fully integrated into your work. 

A strict rule of not having phones during meals, dedicated time with your significant other at home, going out on the weekends to relax from work, etc., are all great ways to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

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