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Founder Friday: I’m a CEO and a CM(other)O, 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!

The first time I got pregnant, my husband Dave and I had just raised our first round of funding for ThirdLove. We didn’t plan it that way. It just happened.

We were overwhelmed. We didn’t really know what we were doing, and we couldn’t really understand what we were getting into until we were in the thick of it. In some ways, having our first child was very similar to starting our company. There’s never a perfect time to have a kid, just like there’s never a perfect time to start a business.

Our business and our family have grown together from that starting point, and it’s been an amazing ride. I’ve heard people say that you can’t build a business and raise a family at the same time. I’m living proof that isn’t true, but I’d be lying if I said it was simple to do both simultaneously.

I’m a planner — I always have been. I want to know what’s going on and what the game plan is at all times. But once I had a child, that level of planning suddenly wasn’t an option anymore. I had to learn to stay flexible and roll with the punches.

The day that I went into labor was the same day Good Morning America called us to be featured. They wanted me to do an interview, which of course was out of the question. So our Head of Design, Ra’el, ran back to Oakland, grabbed some clothes, and did a live interview with Good Morning America while I was in labor. Was it perfect timing? Of course not.

But it worked out in the end.

Ra’el filled in, did a great job, and ThirdLove was still featured on the show. Ra’el was our first employee, and we knew we could trust her. We knew that we didn’t have to be there for things to go well. And that’s something that I’ve had to focus on personally over the years — learning to let go and trust my team.

I’m an independent type. I’ve always got things under control, and I like to do it all on my own. But raising a family did a good job of breaking that independent streak.

When the baby would scream at 4:00 a.m. for the third night in a row, I started to realize that I needed some help. I had to learn to be the one who takes something from other people for once — and I didn’t feel bad about it.

At the end of the day, it’s just about keeping some sanity in my life.

It wasn’t easy to learn to take time for myself, but it became painfully obvious that it wouldn’t just happen on its own. Between my family and my business, there is always something that requires my attention. I’m essentially working two demanding jobs at once.

I have to carve out that free time for myself. I create my own time by getting up earlier than the rest of my family. I use that time in the morning to workout at home so that I have time to myself before the day begins.

It’s so easy to let life become chaotic. By learning to let go of some control, stay flexible, and accept help when I need it, I found a way to make it work.

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