Here’s how ThirdLove co-CEO Heidi Zak set out to design a new headquarters that embodies the unique culture of the fast-growing undergarment company.
No more cookie cutter options. That was the goal for Heidi Zak, co-founder and co-CEO of ThirdLove, a fast-growing undergarment brand, when she set out to find a new office space in San Francisco. At least 85% of the company’s 400-person staff is female, including 90% of its data science team, which uses customer data and artificial intelligence to generate custom-fit bras.
Buoyed by $68 million from investors, the company is growing fast, and that put pressure on Zak to ensure she created a lasting headquarters that could accommodate expansion, energize current and prospective employees and embody the company’s unique female-oriented brand and culture.
Zak shared with Out of Office how she created the headquarters she always wanted.
Out of Office: Tell us about your new headquarters.
Zak: We’ve moved every year since we started in 2013. The cost of office space was so high, and if the team grew, you’d have to move. We wanted to embody our brand in a physical space. In our old space, I was kind of embarrassed because we didn’t even have a logo. We didn’t want another cookie cutter option.
We looked for six months and eventually found a turn-of-the-century factory in San Francisco. It’s the old Beats by Dre headquarters with exposed brick, open atrium and tall ceilings. It was a perfect place with staying power. We take up three floors of the space now, using the ground floor as a photo studio and event space.
How did you go about the design process?
We hired Kendall Ermshar Design, which took a human-centered approach to design. They watched to see how our staff used our existing office space and how they worked. The open floor plan, combined with little space, made our work environment cramped. People tended to over-use conference rooms with one to two people. We set out to create more comfortable seating throughout the office—places that let you get away from your desk and spaces for those one-on-one meetings that could really bring more collaborative energy into the rest of the office.
To do this, we tested out everything we could. I spent lots of time sitting in chairs at furniture stores and picking out couches.
What else did you find from those studies?
We realized that there needed to be space to re-energize and de-stress. We made almost an entire floor a communal space, where we now host yoga classes twice a week. Our staff can get massages once a month, and we created a mindfulness space for those important 5 to 10-minute breaks. We also found that people didn’t have enough places to eat lunch, so we created a long farm table for meals and casual get-togethers. It’s improved the way we collaborate and the overall energy in the office.
How did you make a space fit your brand?
Our mission is to make the lives of women better, and 85% of our staff is female. We wanted something that would reflect our amazing ethos and brand. We settled on blush and white, and pops of vibrant yellow and blue.
We printed our manifesto on the wall. It’s 20-feet tall and expresses our values, which emphasize diversity and what it means to embrace your individuality. The final line drives this sentiment home: “Who fits in a box? Now: Nobody. To Each, her own.”
We wanted comfortable seating areas with books written by female authors. Our products are displayed prominently on walls as art. Our conference rooms are named after famous women.
What was the smartest thing you did in designing your headquarters?
Working with a consultant allowed us to bring in an outside perspective and better understand how our teams work and collaborate. Their feedback was invaluable to creating an open and inviting space that is both inspiring and productive while also being true to the core of our brand.
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