David Spector
David Spector, co-founder of ThirdLove

Many American women have heard of ThirdLove, the online intimate apparel company that has aimed to change the way women buy bras. Its revolutionary half sizes and wide product range have earned both praise and profit, and the San Francisco-based startup is quickly gaining market share against the current industry giant, Victoria's Secret.

Profiles on co-founder and co-CEO Heidi Zak tell the story of a woman who, frustrated with the limited selection of ill-fitting bras available to her, set out to create her own. David Spector, Zak's husband, co-founder and co-CEO, remembers the moment the two of them decided to turn it into a business together.

"We were talking about business ideas, and [Zak] said, 'We need to do something to change the intimate apparel industry,'" Spector said in a CO— interview with C-Suite Network's Gregg Greenberg.

In the United States, the $16 billion industry is dominated by Victoria Secret's in-store retail model. Spector and Zak decided they could do some things differently that would set ThirdLove apart from the status quo.

First, they wanted an online brand that enabled women to shop from comfort and security of their home. They also wanted a superior product that was more comfortable, better fitting and offered more size options than any other lingerie brand. Finally, they wanted women to seamlessly find and purchase their "perfect fit" bra, all on ThirdLove's online platform.

Growing pains

Spector said ThirdLove's biggest challenge was recruiting and hiring a great team – a significant obstacle for any business, regardless of industry or location. Although he says ThirdLove's hiring process is still a work in progress, they've been able to find success by hiring around the company's core values.

"When ... we're interviewing somebody, we really look at them through that lens," said Spector.

ThirdLove now has a recruiting team to source their top candidates, but Spector recalls the beginning of the business when he was directly involved in sourcing and hiring every employee – and every business process and decision, for that matter. Learning to delegate some of those tasks has been an important lesson for Spector.

"The hardest thing … is being able to let go of some of those things that you did from the earliest days," he explained. "But the primary objective for any leader is to try to show other people how something gets done in the way that you want it done."

One unique challenge for ThirdLove was navigating the manufacturing process for their particular product.

"Manufacturing … and constructing a bra is actually really difficult, and we learned that the hard way," Spector explained.

As Spector notes, there are many different components from many different suppliers that must come together at the same time, and doing it on as large a scale as ThirdLove is has proven to be a constant battle on their journey to growth.

ThirdLove's hiring process is still a work in progress.

Building an authentic brand, inside and out

From the beginning, ThirdLove has strived to build an authentic brand that speaks directly to its customers. Spector said the company uses every digital channel they can to reach their customers, as well as some more traditional ad tactics like direct mail, TV, radio and billboards.

Internally, ThirdLove is just as authentic as it is to its external customers. The company culture is one that embraces mistakes, and Spector even talks about it during new hire onboarding and training.

"We want new teammates [who] come in to … feel like it's OK to make mistakes," he told CO—. "At other companies it can be punitive if you make a mistake, and that's really not that way at ThirdLove."

Expanding the company's reach

ThirdLove has already sold its bras to millions of American women, but Spector has high hopes for reaching a wider female population. He said the team plans to do this by continuing to market what ThirdLove does differently, to women at home and abroad.

"We live in a very global economy," Spector said. "When you build an e-commerce business, all it really takes is an ability to put a package on an airplane to get it to someone in another country."

Watch David Spector's full interview C-Suite Network's Gregg Greenberg.

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David Spector says ThirdLove's biggest challenge was recruiting and hiring a great team in an interview with C-Suite Network's Gregg Greenberg. 
Published February 25, 2019