Ask any grown woman to make a mental list of the most awkward, uncomfortable moments of her pre-teen life, and we’re willing to bet that her first experience shopping for a bra is going to rank somewhere in that inventory. The nervous mother, the overbearing sales associate, the racks and racks of foreign-looking objects, the all-too-terrifying tape measure intended to help her figure out her size — all a rite of passage, sure, but a stomachache-inducing one, nonetheless. The sad part is that, for many of us, bra shopping hasn’t become much less traumatic. The lights in the fitting rooms are no less fluorescent, the options are no less overwhelming, and (real talk) it’s still not abundantly clear that we’re definitely wearing the bra size that actually fits us. If we’re expected to wear a bra every. single. day (“barely there” bras are still bras, after all), shouldn’t it be easier to find one?

Heidi Zak, founder and CEO of ThirdLove (“bras designed for the modern woman”), sure thought so. Knowing that bra shopping is such a difficult and frustrating experience for so many, Zak sought out to “solve a problem” with the company, which is best known for innovative features like an online Fit Finder Quiz (no awkward dressing room required!), half-cup sizes, memory foam cups that re-form after wash cycles, a wide range of skin-tone bras meant for every complexion, a try-before-you-buy model, and more.

“Our main goal at ThirdLove was to do things differently and to buck the industry norm,” Zak tells us. “I was personally very tired of compromising comfort for stylish, unrealistic bras.”

But why has the industry norm fallen short thus far, and why do we need to choose between style and comfort in most lingerie brands? The issue, Zak says, is all in the sizing. Most underwear brands base their sizes on a single fit model who wears roughly a 34B. This baseline isn’t compatible with the vast majority of women, which means that the rest of us are left with a less-than-satisfactory fitting experience and bras that just don’t fit properly. Many brands also place a premium on the traditional idea of what makes a bra sexy, rather than acknowledging that no amount of lace can make you feel fierce when you’re totally uncomfortable. Clearly, these are problems.

“It’s no secret that when you look great, you feel great,” Zak says. “The right-fitting bra will make your clothes look better, and — most importantly — be something that you never have to think about. When you’re busy, you don’t have time to think about your bra, and we want women focused on the things that really matter, not slipping straps or a poking underwire.”

In an effort to rectify the fit issues that have previously made it so difficult for many of us to find a good bra, ThirdLove currently offers 60 bra sizes based on a range of actual measurements. Rather than fit models, real, everyday women try out ThirdLove products before they’re launched on the site.

“When we hear from women who say that they finally found their favorite bra with us after years — or a lifetime! — of searching, that makes what we do worth it,” Zak tells us.

Beyond the positive feedback, there are also hard numbers that demonstrate a demand for the kind of personalized, fit-conscious approach that ThirdLove brings to the lingerie market. According to a release, more than seven million women have used the Fit Finder technology since it launched in 2016. ThirdLove’s success calls to mind the old phrase “if you build it, they will come,” along with a little business 101 philosophy: Find a need, and fill it.

To other entrepreneurs who feel they’ve identified a pressing need and the solution to that need, Zak has (literally) one word of advice: Network!

“Get yourself in the room,” she advises. “Whether it’s a local conference, a happy hour, or asking someone out to lunch to pick their brain, there’s no harm in asking. You never know what’s going to come out of those chance encounters, and you should never be afraid to lean on people in your network and ask for their help and guidance.”

We’re definitely grateful that Zak’s networking approach led to ThirdLove — and (we hope) less traumatic bra shopping experiences for women everywhere.

What are your best (or worst) bra shopping experiences? Tweet us @BritandCo!

(Photos via ThirdLove)