After protests erupted in late May in response to the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Tony McDade, some companies felt it was time to vote in support of the Black Lives Matter movement founded in 2014.
But like so many of them, the direct-to-consumer brand ThirdLove fought over how best to respond.
"In June, when everything was heating up around Black Lives Matter, we as a company were thinking about what we could do internally and externally to support the movement," said Heidi Zak, co-founder and CEO of the intimates brand. "I thought what was really important was to do something that was in line with our brand."
Zak wanted whatever they wanted to have a lasting effect and something that the company's internal team could be directly involved in. “We want to literally and figuratively support women,” she noted.
That process led to the creation of TL Effects, a program that supports women entrepreneurs in the color space by giving them a $ 20,000 grant, dedicated office space at ThirdLove headquarters, an extension through the DTC branded social platforms, and access to business – and financial advice from the company founder on topics such as merchandising and content production.
In October of this year, ThirdLove announced that Arah Sims, founder and CEO of DTC brand Kyütee Beauty, was the first recipient of the program, selected from a pool of 650 applicants.
"To be completely honest when we started the application process, I would have liked to have received 100 applications," said Zak.
Sims will be the first of many such recipients as the company plans to select one founder each quarter to assist, she said.
"For people who say there aren't any women of color to invest in, this is different," Zak said of the number of women who showed interest.
As for the process itself, to motivate applicants, ThirdLove has contacted universities, incubators, partners, publications, chat groups and mentoring programs. A team of 18 judges then narrowed the field down to 20 applicants.
The three judges included Zak, Senior Social Manager Courtney Lake and vp for Strategy and Operations Veronique Powell, who each selected their top three candidates from which Sims was ultimately selected. "We all agreed that Arah was the one," said Zak.
Sims was chosen because she already had a full website up and running, was a solo founder who created a brand and product herself, was someone who could really benefit from mentoring, and had a dynamic and passionate personality, Zak explained.
"I was very excited to have the opportunity to be mentored by a founder who has come the way," said Sims of the program. "Times change. Many people and companies come out of the woods to say they want to help."
Sims is already discussing strategies with ThirdLove that will improve their business and brand. "Heidi and her team opened their company (so that I could feel involved)," she said.
As an inspiration for Kyütee Beauty, Sims said that in the early stages of the pandemic, people couldn't get a manicure because salons were closed. Her company's products – elaborate peel-and-apply nail art made from nail polish that lasts up to two weeks – offer consumers a convenient alternative to do at home.