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3 Questions To Help Founders Disrupt Industries

By Heidi Zak, Co-Founder of ThirdLove. Originally published on Quora.

Everyone loves a good underdog story. That is, everyone except a company that holds a massive market share in their industry. They’re pretty happy to keep the status quo going.

But that’s exactly why there may be opportunity for disruption in that industry.

If the status quo isn’t good enough, if customers don’t like what they’re being forced to accept, then there’s an opening. A company that dominates the market doesn’t need to innovate. They don’t need to make major positive changes.

If you have an idea to change that industry, then you might just have a shot at breaking into that market. But there are some questions you should ask yourself while you’re making your move.

1. What are we solving?

When we started ThirdLove, we were going up against the major player in bras and underwear — Victoria’s Secret. They owned over 50% of market share in the U.S., which is unheard of in apparel. But we knew that many women were experiencing problems shopping for bras.

Number one, we knew we could make a better product. So many women end up getting pushed into a bra size that doesn’t really fit, just because that’s what’s in stock. But every woman’s body is unique, and we came to realize that creating half sizes could solve many of the problems women had with their fit.

We also saw a problem with the in-store fittings women have to go through. They aren’t exactly pleasant. You’re in the store with someone you don’t know at all. You’re in this small room, half-naked and uncomfortable — it’s not a great process. We believed we could do something to make that better.

So ask yourself, what problem are you solving? Why will people choose you over the major players in the industry? Because it has to be a compelling answer if you want to pull them away from the competition.

2. How are we going to make it better?

The next question is about how you’re going to solve those problems. For us, we used our half sizes and our Fit Finder to solve the problems we identified.

Half sizes worked wonders for us because so many women were being pushed into these common sizes that didn’t really fit. It doesn’t make them feel special, or comfortable.

We have 60 bra sizes. It’s the exact opposite of one-size-fits-all.

But we also had to solve the fitting problem. For that, we created the Fit Finder, which allows women to interact with technology as opposed to a person. They can find the perfect fit online, without the uncomfortable in-store experience. And the more women who try the Fit Finder, the more data we have coming in. The more data we have coming in, the smarter our product development gets. We can create bras that women love, and more women try the Fit Finder, which leads to more data…the cycle repeats. Our two solutions actually work in tandem.

Always keep in mind that it’s not enough to just identify a problem. You have to actually solve it in a way that customers really love.

3. What is manageable for us right now?

We had trouble finding a manufacturer that would work with us in the beginning. For one thing, we were pitching an idea that didn’t exist yet. That’s incredibly difficult. But we also didn’t want to work with a manufacturer that was working with Victoria’s Secret. And we needed someone who would make our half-cup sizes. That’s actually more work than you might imagine. They have to add more cup molds, and it adds complexity to the supply chain. We weren’t exactly easy to please.

And once we found a manufacturer, we were planning on producing our products on demand. No stocking. As soon as an order came in, we’d produce the product as needed and send off whatever sizes were ordered. That didn’t work. It was very complex and more than we could handle at the time.

So remember to stay focused on how you’re going to disrupt the industry, but also think about what’s actually manageable for you when you begin. Biting off more than you can chew can end up leading to the failure of a great idea.

When you set out to disrupt an industry, you won’t have anything close to the resources your competition does. They have the capital, the people, the experience. But you can still win. It happens all the time. We’re a perfect example at ThirdLove.

If you have the passion, if you aren’t weighed down by the way things have always been done, then you really have a chance to change the status quo.

By Heidi Zak, Co-Founder of ThirdLove. Originally published on Quora.
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