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237: ThirdLove Agility Through Tough Times with Heidi Zak

Heidi Zak, co-founder and CEO of ThirdLove

On this 237th episode of “Marketing Today,” host Alan Hart speaks with Heidi Zak, the co-founder and CEO of ThirdLove, the 3rd largest online bra and underwear company in the United States. Zak is passionate about making sure all women feel comfortable in their underwear, no matter their shape or size.

Our conversation starts with a glimpse of Zak’s past, growing up in a town of just 3,000 people and working at a farmers market. After college, Zak finally found her way to the Big Apple while working in an investment bank’s retail division. Zak then talks about the cushy job with Google that pulled her out west, the same cushy job that she decided to leave to start ThirdLove. In a market dominated by men, Zak had a hard time finding investors for her women’s bra and underwear company, that is until some men were able to see the “opportunity to do things differently in all aspects.”

We then dive into the challenges presented by COVID that forced ThirdLove to “cut back on marketing expenses to focus on efficiency.” Zak then tackles the issue of creating content when the world is shut down, claiming, “as a marketer, you’re constantly in the cycle of content creation, but sometimes you might not maximize the assets that you’ve already created.” Lastly, Zak discusses ThridLove’s support of entrepreneurs with its TL Effect program in an attempt to show everyone that “you can support causes through what you show to the world!”

Highlights from this week’s “Marketing Today”:

  • Heidi grew up in a 3,000-person town just outside of Niagara Falls and learned a lot from her time working at a farmers market. 1:41
  • It wasn’t until after college that Heidi found her way to the retail group at an investment bank in NYC. 3:01
  • Like most college graduates, Heidi had no idea what she wanted to do after school. 4:09
  • Banking served as an excellent entryway for Heidi to understand basic business skills that she used to build her own company. 4:32
  • Heidi made the switch to the operations side out of a desire to learn more about operating a retail business. 5:12
  • A job at Google brought Heidi out to the West Coast, where she got her first taste of entrepreneurship and the startup industry. 5:50
  • Heidi quit her job at Google to start ThirdLove with her husband after seeing a need in the market. 6:40
  • It was difficult to raise seed money for ThirdLove in a world dominated by men at the time. 7:31
  • When COVID hit, ThirdLove hunkered down and prepared for the worst-case scenario. 8:49
  • The market for bras has changed a little as more and more people have started working from home. 10:24
  • ThirdLove had to cut back the most in the Television marketing sector while becoming more efficient in all other sectors. 11:38
  • In the last month or two, ThirdLove has been able to reinvest in mid to upper-funnel marketing. 12:30
  • Heidi is always testing out new markets to see where the potential lies for innovation. 13:00
  • Creating content became trickier when COVID hit, forcing ThirdLove to do things differently with the same stuff. 14:25
  • Leveraging content from customers and the team has allowed the brand to connect with its audience. 15:32
  • With so many social movements going on in today’s society, ThirdLove has put the elements of inclusivity and diversity at the company’s forefront. 16:55
  • TL Effect supports a new-business female founder of color by providing mentorship, a monetary grant, and promotion through ThirdLove. 17:55
  • Kyutee Nails was the first winner of the TL Effect and provides unique nail services while many salons are shut down. 20:02
  • Competitive gymnastics during her childhood showed Heidi the power of dedication and determination. 21:45
  • Just like Alan, Heidi struggled with how the apparel industry makes its clothing around these one-fit models. 23:14
  • If Heidi could go back, she would focus more on the moment and less on the future. 25:35
  • ThirdLove has been conducting more testing and research with SMS technology to connect with its customers. 28:23
  • Heidi believes that the sheer amount of brands competing for consumer mindshare makes it hard to stand out from the competition. 30:25

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