Influencers & Profiles

“I was getting rejected by so many people”: How Jessica Alba built a $1 billion company

Cara Waters /

 

Movie star turned mogul Jessica Alba’s business The Honest Company is valued at USD $1billion ($1.4 billion).

Since founding The Honest Company three years ago Jessica Alba is starting to receive just as many accolades as an entrepreneur as she does for being a movie star. Her online subscription business has made its name selling products that are completely safe and non-toxic.

The Honest Company is predicted to turn over $US250 million this year and has a current valuation of $US1 billion. Alba spoke at the Women’s Innovation Panel at Salesforce’s Dreamforce conference in San Francisco in September about how she ignored those who doubted her vision.

I was pregnant with my first daughter… just a little over seven and a half years ago and I had an allergic reaction to laundry detergent that my mum recommended I use.

I found out there are lots of untested and potentially harmful detergents in everything from hand soap to laundry detergent. 

I thought “Isn’t there just one brand I can trust?” “Isn’t there just one brand that makes safe products?”

I couldn’t find one brand that did it all, so I created it. 

[Potential investors] pretty much just looked at me cross-eyed. They were like, “Right you want to create a business, good luck”. They were like, “So why don’t you just do perfume, we can do a licensing deal?” 

I was like, “That’s really going to make a difference to the world”.

I was getting rejected by so many people. Instead of that making me devastated and going away, it made me more determined.

I learnt that if there’s more than 20 questions you can’t answer in a room then maybe you need to go back and reassess what you are doing. You want to narrow it down to four or five. 

I sought out [business partner] Brian Lee … he created the first ecommerce subscription model.

I pitched a 30-page deck, it was too long. I got it down to four or five. I addressed an issue and I came up with a solution. 

I knew that The Honest Company needed to exist and that it needed to happen not just for my family but for everybody’s family.

It was a bit of a social justice issue. It was a non-profit issue that I built a for-profit business around. 

I am part of the digital generation. We get information online, we share content online. I learn about products online.

It used to take a village to raise a child, it’s now online, it’s how we do it. It’s the internet, that’s our village. It was important for me to launch online.

[The Honest Company] is my third baby. I care about every piece of the company from the way the website is flowing to how we are marketing to potential customers.

The first month we were up people were emailing us… saying how they were trying the product out and it was changing their lives.

At the end of the day we invest in our employees and our culture at the Honest Company. It is so important for us. 

I love when we hire people who are parents because I know they can multitask and they are very efficient with their time. If they’re there for six hours it’s going to matter and they are going to happen, whatever it is.

It’s important to shut down and shut off.

Now weekends are my family time. I wasn’t always this way. I was working 24/7 and I didn’t know when to stop.

But now that I have kids … every night is so precious because in two weeks, three weeks they are going to be different people.

I look for common sense and people who want to collaborate [when hiring]. That for me is more important than a degree. And real life experience.

You’ll never know that something is going to succeed if you don’t try and put yourself out there. 

SmartCompany attended Dreamforce as a guest of Salesforce.

 

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Cara Waters

Cara Waters is a former SmartCompany editor. Previously, Cara was a senior reporter for the Financial Times' website and worked for The Sunday Times in London.