Founder Friday: What ThirdLove Is Made of with Heidi Zak

Founder Friday: What ThirdLove Is Made of with Heidi Zak

As a #ByWomenForWomen company, we love celebrating brands that are led by fellow female founders. Our new series, Founder Friday, is a chance to get to know some of these standout women, including our very own Heidi Zak!

Six years ago, I had the crazy idea of starting my own company to solve one of my major pain points: I hated all my bras. I was certain that I couldn’t possibly be the only woman struggling to find a well-fitting bra, and I definitely wasn’t the only one that found lingerie shopping uncomfortable.

Turns out, I was right.

Today, more than 11 million women have completed ThirdLove’s Fit Finder, and the company—what was once my crazy idea—has grown 300% annually.

There was one specific moment that really sparked my idea to start ThirdLove: I was getting ready for a holiday party in 2012 and the bra I was planning to wear was so uncomfortable. It was the 11th hour and I had two options: head out to cram myself in a fitting room for a new bra or stick with the ill-fitting option I already owned.

It was a choice between bad and worse. I wanted a third option.

I starting taking the idea of building ThirdLove with my husband Dave seriously. Even though my background was in technology and retail, I hadn’t ever designed a bra. I knew my company was going to do things differently, so I needed a designer that was willing to break the mold and start from scratch to give women impeccably fitting bras, made with premium details.

We were building a bra company, and I was determined that ThirdLove be #ByWomenForWomen. I wasn’t going to bring in a designer that couldn’t see women beyond a fit model. I wanted a designer who would actually listen to our customers and design for what they needed. I took a shot and reached out to Ra’el Cohen on LinkedIn to see if she was interested in leading design at ThirdLove.

Ra’el accepted and became our first hire. From that day forward, ThirdLove was off and running.

Those early days felt fast and furious. We knew that to be a successful e-commerce brand, we needed top-notch customer service. If our customers couldn’t try our bras on in a store, they had to trust us to deliver a high-quality product and they needed to be able to reach us if they had any questions or issues. So we hired a team of Fit Stylists. This team, now more than 140 bra experts, help solve fit issues by working directly with our customers via text, chat and phone.

From the beginning, data and innovation were at the core of everything we did. Our entire team, from designers to engineers, would set aside time to sit in one room and sort through every single return. We manually entered the reasons customers gave for returning the bra in a giant spreadsheet, and realized that we were sitting on a treasure trove of fit and style data from our customers. They told us exactly what wasn’t working, and we could fix it. Ra’el took this information and turned it into the 15+ styles and 70+ sizes we offer today.

I’d like to think we weren’t the first company that realized how valuable it was to actually listen to women. Our customers were never shy about telling us what they thought, whether it was ways to improve or that ThirdLove made the best bra they’d ever owned. They constantly gave us feedback on everything from seasonal colors to our Facebook campaigns, and we listened to them the entire way. As a woman leading a bra company, this approach didn’t feel like rocket science.

Yet I quickly realized we were doing things differently.

We were the only brand fitting our bras on real women instead of fit models. We added half cup sizes and extended our band and cup sizes for women who couldn’t find the right fit with traditional brands. We expanded our Naked Shades to complement a broader range of skin tones. We added 24 new bra sizes so more women could find their perfect fit. We launched our first national campaign featuring street-casted models and produced by an all-female team to celebrate who women actually are, and got applause from some of our biggest celeb crushes.

That campaign, titled “To Each, Her Own,” is emblematic of everything ThirdLove stands for. Women can finally see themselves reflected on billboards, their bodies of all shapes and sizes held up as the exemplar of beauty. Our crazy idea has made a real difference in the lives of millions of women, but our work isn’t done. We’re all the more ready to think bigger. Listen harder. And to make women everywhere proud to wear ThirdLove.