my biggest setback

The Good Thing About Confessing Even Giant Screwups

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photo: FIGS

My Biggest Setback is a micro-series that asks powerful women to look back at their career’s biggest setback and how they moved on from it to find professional and personal growth.

Even before co-founding health-care-apparel brand Figs, known for its slim-fitting, comfortable scrubs, Heather Hasson considered herself an entrepreneur. “It’s been in my spirit since I was a kid,” she says. After college, she moved to Europe and worked at a high-end handbag company for seven years but found the work “just about aesthetics” and craved a job that would make more of an impact. After a brief stint at Saïd Business School, Hasson moved to Los Angeles and decided to make scrubs after noticing a nurse-practitioner friend working 16-hour days in uncomfortable clothing. Though Hasson, who co-founded Figs in 2013 with Trina Spear, didn’t have a medical background, she saw a need in medical apparel. “Scrubs are a really big deal, not only for cleanliness but also for the power of suiting up,” Hasson says. “They’re a symbol of teamwork and empowerment.” Hasson spoke to the Cut about a disastrous production mishap in the early stages of the company and how it made their business better in the long run.

What was your career goal when you were starting out?
I’ve always been an entrepreneur. I always wanted to create something new and solve problems in creative ways.

What was your biggest setback along the way?
When I started Figs, I had no money. It was just whatever I had in my bank account at the time, which was nothing. The scrubs were being made, thousands of units. I’d designed them, and after they came in, I noticed something looked off. A couple customers emailed in saying, “The pants don’t fit.” They were sending in pictures of all the pants, especially men’s pants. Then I realized that during my entire production run, the men’s pants had been made with a women’s panel in the front. So the entire production run didn’t fit anybody. It was everything I had, every penny I had, and I couldn’t sell anything. I’m the type of person who measures twice and cuts once, and I couldn’t believe I missed this.

How did you deal with it?
At the moment, I was like, I’m out of money. What should I do? You have to focus on being solution oriented. I’m super-resilient and don’t take anything personally. I wasn’t hurt, but I felt so bad for health-care professionals who were getting defunct products. So I called my manufacturer and said, “We need to make another 20,000 units because I screwed up.” I was honest. I told him I didn’t have any money, and he said, “I’ll front you the money.” I paid him back over the next few months, but I was nothing at the time. Why would our manufacturers front us money? I learned it was about how you sell yourself to somebody, because they need to believe in you.

Did you ever consider giving up?
No, never. I can’t imagine the day where I’d ever give up on anything, and I don’t think you can if you have a dream or a vision. At Figs, we’re not on the other side of health care. Nobody’s dying, and we’re all okay and alive. You can’t give up unless you’re incapacitated. You have to keep going, especially if there’s a bigger purpose. Every day, I feel like I’m fighting for health-care professionals, and that’s what gets me up. There’s so many people who will give up on you. If you don’t believe in yourself, then nobody’s going to believe in you.

How do you feel about the setback now?
Honestly, I no longer see it as one because of how we solved for it at the time. It was actually a blessing in disguise. From that setback, we built massive global quality-control teams. I’m so happy it happened when we were young because we learned from it and grew. When you’re faced with adversity and you figure out how to come up with a solution, that’s where the good stuff happens.

The Good Thing About Confessing Even Giant Screwups