Strategy

Jessica Alba comes clean: Why she didn’t start a perfume line

Myriam Robin /

When actress and mother-of-two Jessica Alba started her cleaning products business The Honest Co., people didn’t know what to think.

“People thought I was nuts,” she told American late-night host Jimmy Fallon yesterday. “They said, ‘why couldn’t you just do a perfume or something?’ Laundry detergent is not sexy.”

Nonetheless, Alba ploughed ahead, starting the company in January 2012 with Brian Lee. Alba approached the Santa Monica lawyer turned co-founder after he helped Kim Kardashian launch her e-commerce shoe business, ShoeDazzle.

The Honest Co. sells non-toxic and ecofriendly products aimed at modern families. It offers a monthly subscription service, where customers can receive customised bundles of things like nappies, skin care and cleaning products.

Alba told Fallon she created the company because they were the sorts of products she wanted and wasn’t able to find in the market.

“I created a company because I wanted these products to exist. I wanted clean, safe, effective products that were affordable and beautifully designed. And I couldn’t find that in the marketplace.

“I think there wasn’t really a family brand that spoke to me as a young mum. We’ve had a two-year anniversary, and now we make cribs.”

Previously, Alba has told Fast Company she was inspired by the need to limit her baby’s exposure to chemicals by a book called Health Child Healthy World about all the toxins children were exposed to.

“So I went to the author of that book, Christopher Gavigan, and I hounded him for a year. I said, ‘I appreciate you’ve given me a handbook, but you haven’t given me a solution. Let’s make the solution’.”

Together, they developed a baby-care and household-cleaner company eco-friendly enough to meet Gavigan’s standards. Their flagship product is a green disposable nappy. “We felt like the disposable-diaper industry was the greatest area of opportunity for innovation,” Alba says.

One of The Honest Co.’s points of difference is that its products shouldn’t be vastly more expensive than the non-organic products available on the market.

“I wanted a company that’s transparent,” Alba said. “I was sick of people saying, ‘This is our green line, it costs a dollar more,’ but it’s the same stuff that’s in everything else. They deleted one fragrance.”

The Honest Co.’s had quite a bit of success with investors – it’s already raised $52 million in two round of venture capital funding. The company says it’s had double-digit growth since its launch, but has yet to reveal more detailed data than that.

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Myriam Robin

Myriam Robin is a reporter for SmartCompany and its sister site LeadingCompany. She has degrees in economics, international studies and journalism. She likes writing about businesses taking risks and doing new things.

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