Jessica Alba on succeeding in business
While she may have first become a household name due to her fame as an actress, Jessica Alba’s life took a major change while she was pregnant in 2008. Not only was she preparing to welcome a new baby, but she also began to experience concerns that would lead to her eventual rise as a successful entrepreneur. After scrutinizing the ingredients in many of the baby shower gifts she received, Alba began to realize just how huge a need there was for safe products. It was this realization that eventually led her to co-found Honest Company, which offers a wide number of non-toxic baby, personal, and household products. As Alba discovered first hand, launching a major brand is not easy, but it comes with plenty of lessons that can also be major opportunities to grow.
Never let anyone talk you out of a good idea
When she first came up with the idea for her company, Alba admits that she was met with plenty of responses that were far from enthusiastic. “Everyone I approached was skeptical. There wasn’t one person who said, ‘Yeah, that can happen.'” she said. “I heard ‘Just do one thing really well and then you can expand’ a lot. But I wanted this to be a whole lifestyle brand. Everyone I talked with in Hollywood could not wrap their heads around the idea.”
At the time, Alba was known not only as an actress but as a sex symbol as well. What had proven to be a strength in the entertainment industry quickly became an obstacle. While a gorgeous body can help score some pretty killer movie roles, Alba was the first to admit that it did her no favors when her interests shifted to selling diapers. Luckily, she didn’t give up on the idea and continued to seek out business partners who understood her vision.
It’s all about teamwork
Though there were plenty of people who didn’t believe in Alba’s idea, she was fortunate enough to understand that all she needed was one person who did. For the first few years, she had to settle on that person being herself. She was so passionate about the idea of bringing safe, affordable products to families that for three years she invested a great deal of her own money to help turn her dream into a reality. “I believed [the company] needed to happen,” she said. “I needed to invest enough in the idea so people could see it was real. I invested in product development and quite a bit of some of the design.” At one point, even her own husband became concerned about how much of her own money she was putting into making the company a reality.
This led him to reach out for advice from his friend Brian Lee, who had helped build other start-ups like LegalZoom and ShoeDazzle. Ironically, Lee went on to become Honest Company’s co-founder as well as its first CEO. At the time, Alba may not have had a great deal of experience in the business world but discovered that finding an experienced partner helped to open up a lot of doors. “He legitimized it,” Alba commented on Lee’s respected reputation in the business world. “A lot of people can be a celebrity. You don’t really have to have any talent to do that. You can, I don’t know, let cameras follow your life.”
Put together a flawless gameplan
Before the team went out to pitch for investors, they decided to take their sell for a few test drives. By reaching out to friends who had built successful businesses, they were able to identify many of the major questions they’d come up against. By having friends who weren’t going to invest in the company poke holes in their presentation, they were able to solidify it until they knew it was ready to present to actual VCs.
Go with your growth
Even after Honest Company’s launch and several years of successful revenue, the hurdles were far from over. While Honest Company was initially able to label itself as a tech start-up, due to many sales coming directly through the company’s website, eventually they realized it was time to expand. The realization would lead to several growing pains, including an 80-person staff cut in 2017.
Even Lee, who specialized in running start-ups, realized that it may be time to bring on a new CEO as the company prepared for a more omnichannel sales approach. While Lee remained on Honest Company’s board and continued serving as an advisor, Honest brought in a new CEO named Nick Vlahos, a former chief operating officer at Clorox.
“We want to transform from a primarily ecomm distribution model to a more omnichannel one. I always wanted the Honest Company to be a brand that is global and … having Nicholas join our team is going to make that more of a reality.” Alba explained in an interview. “His background is incredible, having worked with Burt’s Bees and then obviously having the experience overseeing so many different brands at Clorox. We’re all scrappy entrepreneurs learning as we’re going. It’s nice to have his leadership in place. It’s really cool.”
Share your experience
While the men who rallied to help make Alba’s dream a reality were no doubt instrumental in helping make the company a success, she has also admitted that she’d love to see more women in the board room. Among the recent changes that Honest Company has put into play is an in-house program geared toward helping women rise through the ranks in the company.
“We’re also creating a program inside of the company, so no matter where you come in, at any entry-level job or up, there’s a path for you… to get you up to where you want to go in your life, and up to that C-suite executive capabilities,” Alba revealed, “So we’re going to have a curriculum, and a program and a mentorship in-house, inside of The Honest Company, for women specifically. It’s necessary.”
Whether or not you end up attempting to climb the ladder at Honest Company, Alba’s journey has proven to offer a wealth of wisdom when it comes to what it takes to turn a dream into a successful career.