How I #BreakTheMold: An Interview with ThirdLove Co-Founder Heidi Zak
As part of our new #BreakTheMold series featuring inspirational, trailblazing women, we sat down with our very own Heidi Zak, ThirdLove Co-Founder, to find out how she manages running a company, family and everything else.
What was your “aha moment” with ThirdLove? When did you know this was something you should take seriously?
A few years ago it was time for me to go bra shopping and, per usual, I was dreading it. I disliked the whole process, finding time to get to a store, getting “fitted”, trying on tons of bras to hopefully find one that fit, and then the bra would start to fall apart after just a few washes. I was over it.
I thought to myself: “there has to be a better way” — a way to turn bras from a hassle to a means of empowerment. Women shouldn’t be spending their energy worrying whether their straps are slipping or having an itchy back from tags rubbing on your skin all day. Make a bra that fits perfectly, looks great, is easy to shop for from home, and offer it at a great price point. And that’s how ThirdLove was born.
What is it like working with your husband every day, and did you have any hesitation about it at first?
Dave and I spent many nights post-work mulling over many business ideas. After a few months of iteration, we finally realized we had come across a really large opportunity and that we both wanted to take the plunge. We had met at business school and worked on a few projects in the past together, so knew each other’s working styles and felt confident we could have fun and would complement each other's strengths.
We actually don’t interact as much during the day as you’d think. We’re each on various calls and meetings and are generally focusing on very different things. We’re so lucky to share the awesome moments, the “highs” together. But the “lows” are extra low in our household since we’re both invested in the same thing. Luckily for us, there have been a lot more highs than lows over the past few years.
What’s the hardest part of founding and running a startup?
Wanting to do everything at once, but knowing I can’t. There is a constant challenge to identify the biggest opportunity and spend energy on the initiatives that really matter. We’re focused on getting every woman into a great-fitting bra — that’s what I have to keep in mind when making every important decision.
How do you find balance between family (raising kids), running a business, staying fit and finding time for yourself?
I would need much longer days to feel like I could have it all, or do it all. I’m a lot of things — a founder, a mom, a wife, and a friend. The key is understanding that, some days, some of those groups are going to get more attention than others. I’m still coming to grips with that, but you can’t devote 100% attention to each thing every day, and that’s okay!
Besides running your business, what’s another way that you #BreakTheMold and stray away from the conventional?
“I tune out most of the ‘advice’ about success. There are a lot of people who want to tell women how they should balance it all, but I have to make those decisions for myself. I alone define how to juggle my family and career.”
What’s one thing that people would be surprised to know about you?
Most people are surprised to find out I’m an only child. My friends always say I seem like the girl who grew up with a few older brothers, probably because I’m pretty athletic, adventurous and independent.
What piece of advice do you have for young women just starting out in their career?
"Go after what you want! Don’t give up so easily and don’t take no for an answer."
When I was in business school, I wanted to get a summer internship in retail. There were no retail companies that took summer MBA interns, but I knew I needed applicable experience to get a job when I graduated. So I put together a list of the top 20 companies in NYC that I wanted to work for, fired off emails and submitted my resume online. I wasn’t lining up interviews and no one was getting back to me, so I picked up the phone and cold-called each company, one by one - and it worked!
I was connected with the SVP of New Business Development at Aeropostale, eventually securing a summer internship and then when I graduated a year later, a full-time job. Little did I know I would end up being promoted to a Director and running their International Division.
"Never take no for an answer and push for what you know you can achieve."
What inspires you?
Knowing that our products are actually helping women everywhere. I wanted to create a company and products that made women’s lives easier, not just one that said it does. When a woman has a bra that really fits, she can take her mind off of it—and on focus on the bigger and better things on her plate.
What's next for ThirdLove?
Right now, we’re laser-focused on bras and underwear and designing products for women of all sizes. But we’ll be testing out some new categories in 2017, so stay tuned!
What is the most-used app on your phone – and why?
Gmail app — self-explanatory :).
What’s the first thing you do every morning?
Get my son Zak out of his crib (he’s always waiting with a smile).
What book could you re-read over and over?
Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton.
What is your go-to bra style?
The ThirdLove 24/7 Classic T-shirt Bra, in Naked 2.
Finish the sentence: I #BreakTheMold By _____.
I #BreakTheMold by: defining for myself how to balance family and career.