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ThirdLove CEO Heidi Zak on Innovation and Being the Anti-Victoria Secret
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ThirdLove CEO Heidi Zak on Innovation and Being the Anti-Victoria Secret

Co-Founder and CEO of ThirdLove Heidi Zak

By Jarrett Banks

ThirdLove Inc. launched in 2012 and positioned itself as a body-positive bra option. Exec Edge sat down with Co-Founder and CEO of ThirdLove Heidi Zak to hear about how the company is innovating in the lingerie category and using technology to grow the business.

ThirdLove’s name reflects what the founders say are the three important things women seek in their closet: style, feel and fit. Ms. Zak, a former Googler, said the company launched a program dedicated to help women entrepreneurs of color. It’s shaping up to be a big year for the brand that has been called the “darling of millennials.”

Exec Edge: For those unfamiliar with ThirdLove, tell us a bit about the brand?

ThirdLove is the number one digital brand among millennials in the U.S., according to NPD’s 2020 Intimate Apparel Awards. We are proud to have invented half-cup sizes and continue to be one of the most size inclusive brands in the industry, with more than 80 size options, including bands ranging from 30”– 48″ and cups AA – I. To date, over 18 million women have used our Fit Finder quiz to find their best bra size.

We believe that every woman deserves to feel comfortable and confident, which is evident from the design of our products to our philanthropic efforts. ThirdLove has partnered with renowned organizations such as I Support the Girls, Soles4Souls, Good360, and St. Anthony’s to support women make powerful life changes, and has donated over $40M worth of products to date.

In October 2020, we announced Kyütee Beauty as the inaugural recipient of our new program, The TL Effect, and we just opened the application process for Cohort 2, our program dedicated to encouraging and supporting early stage consumer-focused companies run by women entrepreneurs of color.

Exec Edge: Why did you create ThirdLove? 

In 2012, I was shopping at Victoria’s Secret for a new bra and I felt pretty frustrated. I disliked everything about the process – from finding the time to drive to a store, the awkward bra fitting process, the overwhelming fragrances that lingered in the air, as well as the images on the wall that looked at women through a male gaze. Ultimately, I wound up leaving with a bra that didn’t feel well-made for me and my needs. With that in mind, I knew there had to be a better way, and I thought my personal experience and background in both retail and tech could be the perfect combination to change the way women shop for bras.

Exec Edge: How has your role as a leader changed while operating a business during a pandemic and what advice would you give other leaders?

The most important thing as a leader has been to over-communicate during this challenging time. We’ve set up bi-monthly company update meetings, weekly notes from me to the team, and many slack channels on different topics to keep our team informed and connected. Additionally, it is more important than ever to support your teammates compassionately while creating unique ways to keep the company culture, despite some of the barriers of working from home.

As the WFH mandate became essential, we offered teammates the opportunity to have monitors and desks delivered to them to ensure that everyone was set up for success.  In addition, we instituted daily morning team stand-up video chats to kick off the day to create a sense of routine that traditionally comes with working in an office. We began monthly company-wide wellness days to make sure our team was getting the time-off they needed, and our people team has been great about doing personalized check-ins with every ThirdLove teammate. Our “Culture Club” really stepped up to create monthly virtual events to help us stay connected and celebrate special moments.

Exec Edge: Has COVID-19 affected your business and what has ThirdLove been doing to adapt?

In March we had to rethink our business model pretty quickly – it was really about making sure we were running the business profitably and for long-term success. That said, we have been hyper focused on pivoting our approach to prioritize comfort for customers still spending a lot of time at home. For example, we’ve been experiencing higher demand for our wireless bras and lounge wear – which we’re leaning into with our product offerings.

As always, our goal is to meet or exceed our customer’s expectations and leverage this time to show our customers the convenience and superior shopping experience when buying a ThirdLove bra online – instead of having to go into a store to do so. Ultimately, we expect to benefit from one of the lasting impacts of the pandemic: more consumers are shopping online and this acceleration is unlike anything we’ve seen as the landscape is continuing to change overnight.

Exec Edge: How do you expect to see ThirdLove grow in the future?

In 2021, we are focused on investing more into top-of-funnel brand marketing and expanding into new products and categories.

Exec Edge: What’s been your biggest challenge while leading ThirdLove?

As a business that was founded in my living room with a team of three, there have been some natural growing pains along our path to success. When you’ve worked so close to something and have been involved with every aspect of the company, it can be hard to let go of the details. I’ve learned that hiring the very best team members and giving them the room to run, with the support and mentorship they need, is a crucial element of growth. I am incredibly grateful for each team member’s contributions as we continue to grow ThirdLove and evolve into a lifestyle brand.

Exec Edge: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

The best advice I have ever received is that you need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, which seems especially relevant in light of recent events. As a leader, some of your biggest opportunities for growth and advancement come from a place of discomfort.  If you don’t allow this, you are limiting yourself, and you’ll be stuck making the safe decisions. Innovation, and success, come from taking risks.

Jarrett Banks


Exec Edge

Twitter: @Exec_Edge

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