The lingerie brand started the initiative Wednesday in an effort to support the Black community and female entrepreneurs of color.
The “TL Effect” program will select one female entrepreneur of color each quarter, offering her a grant, space in ThirdLove’s San Francisco offices to work and career advice and mentorship from the ThirdLove team to help her grow her business.
“We’re a company that believes in developing strong women,” Heidi Zak, cofounder and co-chief executive officer of ThirdLove, told WWD. “So the idea of backing and helping female founders of color really aligned with the brand and is something we can continue doing.
“When thinking about how we could support the Black community, we wanted to create something that has legs and that can continue to grow and scale and that won’t just be something that we do today or do next quarter. But something that we can do for the foreseeable future,” Zak added.
The TL Effect is open to all women entrepreneurs of color, but will focus on women in the Black community in the first few rounds, Zak said. The program will also focus on start-ups with some kind of consumer product.
“But it can be outside of apparel,” Zak said. “It could be another type of product, but something that has a physical product in manufacturing. We really want to help a woman who has a product up and running, but needs help scaling, marketing and figuring out the go-to market strategy, because we think that’s sort of the sweet spot that we know pretty well as a company and can help the most.”
The exact grant amount has not yet been set. Meanwhile, ThirdLove will help the novice entrepreneur raise brand awareness of her company by promoting it on ThirdLove’s social media accounts, creating a mentorship program where she can learn the fundamentals of founding a company and helping her navigate the fundraising process in order to raise investor capital.
“Having done it ourselves obviously, [we know] that initial stage is really hard to get off the ground,” Zak said. “And to raise seed money can be challenging. But since we’ve done that a bunch over the last eight years, I think that’s a place we can help. And we definitely have so many functional experts at ThirdLove excited to be able to participate and mentor as well.”
The direct-to-consumer intimates brand was founded in 2013 by Zak and her husband David Spector.
By 2015, ThirdLove’s total revenues hit $1 million. Four years later, the company had multiple million-dollar days. As of 2019, The NPD Group rated ThirdLove the third-largest women’s innerwear apparel e-tailer in the U.S., behind only Victoria’s Secret and American Eagle Outfitters’ Aerie. But it wasn’t just consumers who took note. In February 2019, the brand raised $55 million in investor capital.
Zak would not say how many people of color work for ThirdLove, but did say it is “heavily weighted female.”
“We have a substantial number of women of color at our company and men [of color],” Zak said. “But we can always do better.”
And one way to do that is through the TL Effect.
“It’s a way for us to understand the challenges these founders are facing and to take that knowledge and help make ThirdLove a better company,” she said. “Creating that ecosystem in particular has huge benefits that go beyond just the one woman in [the program] per quarter. I know that there have been a variety of people who have helped me and ThirdLove be successful and I wouldn’t be where I am today without that. So the idea of paying it forward is something that has always been really important to me personally.”