Companies run by women, for women - like ThirdLove, founded by Heidi Zak (right) and Ra’el Cohen - are tapping long-ignored opportunities and winning legions of fans in the process. Investors should take note. (Credit: ThirdLove Facebook page.)

Companies run by women, for women – like ThirdLove, founded by Heidi Zak (right) and Ra’el Cohen – are tapping long-ignored opportunities and winning legions of fans in the process. Investors should take note. (Credit: ThirdLove Facebook page.)

ThirdLove made huge financial strides for women-focused companies this week.

When a company only sells products for women, getting male investors to understand the importance of its work can be difficult. But ThirdLove, a direct-to-consumer lingerie company, knocked their latest funding round out the park and scored $55 million in venture capital.

Investors include big-name firms and prominent women investors like Anne Wojcicki, co-founder and CEO of genetic testing company 23andMe; Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube; and journalist Katie Couric.

[Related: Our News Brief on Diversity Among Venture Capitalists]

ThirdLove, founded in 2013 by Heidi Zak and Ra’el Cohen, will use the money to offer more options to consumers through its ”78 Sizes. One Perfect Fit” campaign. Launched Feb. 20 — mere days before receiving the cash infusion — its focus is to sell affordable bras with more availability of sizes. The company presently offers bra sizes from 30AA to 48I — a selling point to Wojcicki, of 23andMe, who says the company promotes “reality over fantasy” when it comes to sizing.

ThirdLove also aims to end the awkwardness that can accompany bra-shopping. By selling direct to consumers, women are able to try on bras in the comfort and privacy of their own homes.

A Step Forward

The news is notable because women entrepreneurs often have to work twice as hard to convince VCs — the majority of whom are men — that they are worth the investment. In general, male VCs tend to invest in companies run by men rather than by women. Especially in the case of lingerie, male investors don’t always seem to “get” its market potential.

Jenna Kerner (left) and Jane Fisher used humor to woo male investors for Harper Wilde, their home try-on service for bras. (Credit: Harper Wilde)

Jenna Kerner (left) and Jane Fisher used humor to woo male investors for Harper Wilde, their home try-on service for bras. (Credit: Harper Wilde)

In another recent example, Jenna Kerner and Jane Fisher of Harper Wilde, whose business model is similar to that of ThirdLove’s, struggled to convince male investors that there is a high demand for direct-to-consumer lingerie. But they got their attention, and their money, by successfully leveraging humor. They kicked off their pitch meetings with a video showing a man awkwardly shopping for boxers at a store much like Victoria’s Secret — complete with a handsy salesperson, premium prices and a sexually charged ambiance. It worked.

On top of building their own brand, ThirdLove’s Zak and Cohen plan to continue paying their success forward to other women, having already donated $13 million in bras to nonprofit I Support the Girls.

Investors would be wise to take note of the success ThirdLove, Harper Wilde and others have seen, both in pitches and in the marketplace. Companies run by women, for women, are tapping long-ignored opportunities and winning legions of fans in the process.

[Related: Our Panel of Growth Experts on How to Make Sure Cash Reigns Supreme]