Tracy Sun

Co-Founder, Poshmark

To be a successful entrepreneur you need to maintain a healthy dose of delusion and an equally healthy dose of reason. And both of those were skills that I cultivated and developed at Tuck.

For Tracy Sun T’05, who studied psychology and biology at Columbia and has an abiding interest in fashion, how people choose their wardrobes was both a fascinating subject and an irresistible opportunity.

Five years ago she co-founded Poshmark, a mobile phone application that allows women to buy and sell clothes using only their smartphones. It was an idea perfectly in tune with the times. Recall that in the last months of 2011, smartphones were not yet ubiquitous, the photo-sharing social media platform Instagram had just launched, and the word “selfie” was just coming into common usage. Online retail was the hot ticket in Silicon Valley, but almost no one was talking about mobile as a channel for commerce.

Into that environment Sun and her partners launched Poshmark exclusively as a mobile app. That allowed users to indulge their fashion fixation wherever and whenever they pleased—coffee shops, airports, PTA meetings. Soon Poshmark’s growing user base was checking the app seven to nine times per day.

Poshmark was among the first e-commerce companies to go mobile-first. By design, it didn’t have a website for the first three years. Even now, 90 percent of the company’s revenue comes from mobile, says Sun, who serves as Poshmark’s vice president of merchandising. The app connects buyers and sellers, handles payment, and even generates shipping labels. This ease-of-use contributes to Poshmark’s growth, but the real driver is the social component, Sun says. The app provides a forum for women to share and discuss items they like—and purchase them with a couple of swipes. It’s a powerful combination.

“We had a lot of faith in the early days, and now we have data that show if we connect the right people, conversion will come,” Sun says. “Poshmark is a technology company, a fashion company, and in many ways a grand social experiment.”

The company is a fitting destination for Sun, who originally planned to be a neurosurgeon. When she began working in the field, however, she discovered that despite her love of science, the prospect of a career in academia was stifling. She went to Tuck looking for a change.

“At Tuck, I took advantage of the opportunity to meet with visiting executives. I would grab office hours with any visitor who would come, and what I realized was that it was the entrepreneurs who really inspired me,” she says. “To be a successful entrepreneur you need to maintain a healthy dose of delusion and an equally healthy dose of reason. And both of those were skills that I cultivated and developed at Tuck.”

Sun found her Silicon Valley opening in the unlikely marriage of data and fashion. Fashion had proven resistant to the data-first approach common in the e-commerce world, Sun says. “Fashion is a fast-moving industry, and if you don’t rely on people you’re never going to get it exactly right,” she says. “There are a lot of sites that focus on influence and collaboration and style, and they’re very beautiful and editorial. But the problem is there’s no way you can editorialize enough to drive meaningful revenue.”

Online shoppers often start with a search for a known product, let’s say Tory Burch Reva flats. Those particular shoes are almost a commodity; they can be found on thousands of websites any one of which could make the sale. The challenge, Sun says, is getting that customer to come back.

“What happens on Poshmark is you search for Tory Burch Reva flats and you meet a person who is selling those shoes out of her closet, or a boutique owner who is selling those shoes on Poshmark,” she says. “When you land on that profile you see all the other things that she is selling out of that closet or that boutique.”

While most e-commerce sites sell so-called head brands that are top-of-mind for Google shoppers, half of Poshmark’s sales come from independent brands that buyers discover through other Poshmark users. That’s just how Sun and her co-founders planned it in 2011.

“We’ve stayed true to our vision of building a community of sellers and making them successful,” Sun says. “We went from 50 sellers to 1.5 million sellers—that’s one in 50 women in America who are selling on Poshmark.”

Continue Reading

Related Stories

The Resilient Founder: Sarah Ketterer T’87, CEO of Causeway Capital

As Sarah Ketterer T’87, CEO of Causeway Capital Management, will attest, weathering the inevitable storms that arise in global financial markets requires ample grit, teamwork, and humility. 

Read More

How to Shake Up an Industry, with Tomo Cofounder Carey Schwaber Armstrong T’10

Carey Schwaber Armstrong T’10, cofounder of Tomo, is working to transform the homebuyer experience.

Read More

Bridging the Generational Divide: Meet Kinsome Cofounder Eben Pingree T’13

With his latest venture, Kinsome, cofounder Eben Pingree T’13 is helping deepen bonds between grandparents and their grandkids through an AI-powered social journaling app.

Read More

Closing the Financing Gap for Local Businesses: Meet Honeycomb Cofounder George Cook T’17

Honeycomb Credit works specifically with small businesses and allows consumers, nonprofits, and other organizations to loan small amounts of cash to a particular venture.

Read More

The Uber for Customer Support: Meet Chatdesk Cofounder Andrew Olaleye T’13

Contacting customer service feels like a chore to most consumers. But Chatdesk cofounder Andrew Olaleye T’13 says the exchange doesn’t need to feel dreadful.

Read More

Addressing the Opioid Crisis through the Power of Community: Meet Steve Kelly T’18

As cofounder of Boston-based Better Life Partners, Steve Kelly T’18 is focused on providing same-day treatment for opioid use disorder by tapping into a network of community organizations.

Read More

Making the Most of Time at the Laundromat: Meet Courtney Bragg T’18

For Courtney Bragg T’18, founder of Fabric Health, the key to helping the millions of low-income people across the country started in an unlikely place—the laundromat.

Read More

Building Solutions for the Childcare Crisis: Meet Shefali Shah T’09

Upfront cofounder Shefali Shah T’09 has long wanted to be a part of the solution for one of the country’s most pressing problems: increasing high-quality affordable childcare for all.

Read More

Meet Stemless Cofounder Koushi Sunder T’13

With Stemless, entrepreneur Koushi Sunder T’13 is offering solutions for the emerging cannabis industry.

Read More

Sweet Success: Meet Entrepreneur Sarah Bell T’14

A conversation with Sarah Bell T’14, cofounder of Spring & Mulberry, a plant-based, naturally-sweetened chocolate brand.

Read More

Building a Better Burrito: Meet Red’s Founder Mike Adair T’09

Mike Adair T’09, CEO of Red’s All Natural, credits his Tuck experience with helping him launch a leading brand in natural frozen foods. 

Read More

Walk of Faith: Meet Grain Management Founder David Grain T’89

“If you are pushing hard and facing an unusual amount of resistance, it’s probably not ‘go time’ yet,” says David J. Grain T’89, founder and CEO of Grain Management, LLC.

Read More

Entrepreneurial Spirit

Biochemistry and business are an optimal blend for founder and former CEO of High West Distillery David Perkins T’90.

Read More

Tuck Relationships Run Deep at .406 Ventures

Classmates and spouses So-June Min T’95 and Liam Donohue T’95 reflect on their winding path as co-founders of the Boston-based venture capital firm .406 Ventures.

Read More

Why We Need More Women Entrepreneurs—And Investors

A conversation with venture capitalist Elizabeth Davis T’20, an investor with the Anthemis Group’s Female Innovators Lab.

Read More

Blair Crichton

Meet Blair Crichton T’18, co-founder of Karana, a new whole-plant based meat company launched in Singapore.

Read More

Meet Allobee Chief Strategy Officer Anne Forsyth English T’08

Allobee is connecting business owners nationwide to an underutilized workforce of experienced, professional women—a mission that deeply resonates with Chief Strategy Officer Anne Forsyth English T’08.


Read More

Meet Military Veteran and Fitfighter CEO Sarah Apgar T’11

A commitment to public service is a current that runs through T’11 Sarah Apgar’s career and education.

Read More

Laura Scott

At Wayfair, Tuck alumna Laura Scott completely transformed the company’s operations. Now she’s dipping her toes into the startup world with Takeoff Tech.

Read More

The Guru’s Wisdom

CarGurus founder Langley Steinert T’91 has plenty of good advice for budding entrepreneurs, but nothing is more important than loving what you do. 

Read More

Juliet Horton

With Everly, Juliet Horton T’14 is changing how couples plan their wedding

Read More

How to Make a Successful Startup Pitch

In her seven years as a venture partner at LaunchCapital in Cambridge, Mass., Heather Onstott T’07 has heard about 1,000 pitches from startups.

Read More

Susan Hunt Stevens

In 2006 Susan Hunt Stevens T'98 started a blog as a "a guide to going green without going berserk." Years later the idea evolved into WeSpire, a platform that uses technology and social media to promote sustainable living.

Read More

Kinya Seto

CEO of Lixil Corporation Kinya Seto T'96 is leveraging his entrepreneurial smarts to tackle the global sanitation crisis.

Read More

Katrina Veerman

With PK Coffee in Stowe, Vermont, Katrina Veerman T’01 turned a passion into a livelihood.

Read More

Andrew Smith

Andrew Smith T'07 chose Tuck first because he was looking for a beautiful environment where he could spend time thinking about how to maximize his impact on big challenges in the world.

Read More

Gibson “Gib” Biddle

NerdWallet's Gib Biddle T'91 came to Tuck as a marketer, but then realized he was more of a builder.

Read More

Rohit Dugar

Former investment banker Rohit Dugar T'07 is transforming his beer-brewing hobby into Hong Kong's first craft brewery—and using his Tuck experience to navigate the challenges of entrepreneurship.

Read More

Daniel Revers

The new Revers Center for Energy, made possible by Daniel Revers T'89, expands Tuck’s energy programming in the classroom and beyond.

Read More

Jack O’Toole

For Jack O’Toole T’14, “building” and “contributing” are words to live by. As a Marine, he did both.

Read More

Roger McNamee

Investor. Philanthropist. Entrepreneur. Roger McNamee T’82 is all of these and more in a career that has taken him to the top of the tech world.

Read More

Barry Hume

After graduating from Tuck, Barry Hume T'95 joined PepsiCo’s Boston-area operations as finance director—a position that quickly provided the opportunity for advancement, but with a difficult choice to make.

Read More

Dennis Lasko

What's for dinner? Pantry, a new food retailer founded by Dennis Lasko T’08, has the answer.

Read More

Jeff Coleman

T’87 Jeff Coleman’s quest for better nutrition led him to a new, whole-food fuel for athletes and a surprising second act.

Read More

Louie Cheng

PureLiving China founder and CEO Louie Cheng T'03 is helping to improve indoor air quality in a country known for its pollution problems. 

Read More

Jacques-Philippe Piverger

According to Jacques-Philippe Piverger T'07, the one-word solution to energy poverty in developing countries, is Luci, a low-cost solar light.

Read More