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First Person

The Experience Questionnaire: Heidi Zak

Heidi Zak is co-founder and co-CEO of lingerie company ThirdLove.

Where do you come up with your best ideas? 

From my team; sometimes an opportunity jumps out at a meeting. An example is our work with The Unmentionables, which donates bras to refugee camps in Africa, and I Support the Girls here in the US: The idea to donate the returns from our “try before you buy” guarantee.

What is the best non-material gift you’ve received?
My kids. I had them later in life. Their view of the world is remarkable.

What is the best non-material gift you’ve given?
Helping female leaders to the C suite is everything.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced?
Trying to build a team where I can let go. Allowing others to fail and make mistakes and grow — that is leadership, and that is a challenge!

 If you had to choose a different profession, what would you do?

Always wanted to be a food critic. I especially like getting to know chefs and their stories.

What is the most useful mistake you’ve made?
Manufacturing in Mexico, which I chose because it was close to my home in California. I ended up pregnant and living in Mexico — where it was 120 degrees — for two weeks every month. This was a lousy choice; they were a poor manufacturing partner. However, the learning from that mistake is what allowed us to be successful when we moved our manufacturing to Asia.

What’s the strangest experience you’ve had?
When I was raising early funding, a potential investor came for a meeting and brought a younger associate. We recognized each other immediately. Rebecca was a camper in my bunk when I was an 18-year-old counselor at a girl’s camp — a young girl who needed a little extra love and care. I was happy to give it to her. And now here we were — me seeking funding, and she working at one of the top VC firms in the world.

What opportunity do you regret passing up?
No regrets. That is how I make decisions. When I was at Google and thinking of leaving, my husband and I asked ourselves, “If I don’t choose or do X, Y, or Z, do I feel I might regret that?” I believe in opting to do something for the sake of not having a regret.

How do you relax?
I have a Peloton bike at home and the workout is intense. I find this clears my mind.

If you could go anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would you go?
The mountains of Colorado. Winter or summer, I am entranced by the beauty of the landscape.

What is your most indelible childhood memory?

I spent the majority of childhood in a gym, doing gymnastics for 15 years and for 20-plus hours a week. It was hardcore! I can picture each coach, who they were, how they coached.

Describe a perfect day.
First, it is a weekend! I get up and attend Barry’s Boot Camp for a super-rigorous workout. Then, time at the farm for the kids to feed the animals, our favorite bagel spot for lunch, cooking, and having friends for dinner.

When you’re stuck how do you get unstuck?
Having people outside of my core network to advise me. Sometimes it is as simple as having a question asked or framed in a different way. Talking to the same people about the same issues won’t get me anywhere.

What is your proudest moment?
Of late, moving into a new office space, which feels very on-brand — it includes an event space and a book nook for employees to share books they love.

What would you like to experience before you die? 

I’d like to travel to Africa with the COO of The Unmentionables to volunteer at refugee camps and see our donation program at work.

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