When Heidi Zak had the idea to build a better bra company in 2012, she had 12 bras in her drawer, and none of them fit. She and her former MIT MBA classmate and Google colleague David Spector co-created ThirdLove, which invented the half-cup and now offers more than 74 sizes — with plans for more in the future.
Spector, who left a position as a partner at Sequoia Capital having invested $63 million in a variety of consumer companies, quickly realized while brainstorming with Zak that this mostly off-line category was ripe for digital disruption. But before they created something that became the “antithesis” of the existing category leader, the co-founders ran into a lot of dead ends in building the technology and supply chain. “There are roughly 30 components in a bra,” Spector says. “We have 15 suppliers for every bra, and each bra is hand-cut and sewn. It’s one of the most complicated pieces of apparel to manufacture.”
Zak says technology is part of everything they do, from fabric to hiring. “It’s made us successful in a short amount of time,” according to Zak, whose first retail job was at an Esprit store. “When I was at Aeropostale, as international director, technology was scary to a lot of people — an afterthought. It needs to be at the core of everything.”
Today, customers can use ThirdLove’s online Fit Finder to find the perfect bra in 60 seconds — and more than 12 million women have done so. “We’re just getting started,” Spector says. “It’s a $130 billion industry globally. There are roughly 3.5 billion women in the world, and every one of them in some shape or form wears a bra.”
Zak says the company, which has donated thousands of bras, became cash flow-positive in early 2018. But most pleasing on a day-to-day basis are the notes from a diverse range of customers who have never owned a bra that fits, says Zak. “They say our bras make them feel more beautiful, comfortable and confident.”