Meet the Founder: Heida Thurlow of Chantal

In 1970, Heida Thurlow moved from Germany to the United States. In 1971, she launched her very own cookware line. Heida continues to serve as the CEO of Chantal where she’s constantly innovating while staying true to the brand’s reputation for timeless elegance.

Along the way, Heida also co-founded the Helping Afghan Women Project, enabling the women of Afghanistan to spearhead the future of the nation. She’s also a generous benefactor for Alzheimer’s disease research and patient care. For decades, Heida has pushed the industry forward while constantly giving back to the global community.

Recently, Heida took time out of her busy schedule to share the story of her inspirational journey and her advice for the leaders of tomorrow.

A portrait of Heida Thurlow, the founder of Chantal cookware.

01 Why did you start Chantal?

I started a cookware company over 40 years ago when nobody wanted to hire me as a mechanical engineer here in Houston.

I named my kitchenware company Chantal because I always admired Coco Chanel. She was the first woman succeeding in the fashion industry, and I am the first woman to start a cookware company.

02 What obstacles did you face along the way?

Getting a bank loan as a female entrepreneur was impossible, until I met a female loan officer, who believed in me.

Graduating Class of Ingenieurschule, Essen Germany with Heida Thurlow as the only graduating woman.

03 What lessons do you have for other entrepreneurs?

Don’t give up! Sooner or later you will figure out how to succeed in your business.

Luckily, I was able to find a fantastic COO in Cathy (Korndorffer) She is very structured and analytical whereas, I am full of new product design ideas – Cathy is there to make sure that we always ask the right questions before pursuing those concepts. We balance each other perfectly.

04 What’s on the horizon for Chantal?

We are busy adapting our company and our products to the changing retail environment.

Our goal has always been to create beautiful, healthy, and non-toxic products and we are continuing on that mission.

I am thinking of succession planning, but I am having way too much fun!

Heida Thurlow standing among the beautifully designed kitchenware

05 How do you keep work/life balance? What drives/inspires you?

I am very proud of my three adult children who all started their own entrepreneurial businesses.

Balancing my family and my business has always been a challenge for me. Once I joined an organization of like-minded successful businesswomen, it helped me understand that I was not alone in dealing with this challenge.