What do you know about starting a business? That was the question posed to Jessica Alba as she tirelessly pitched the idea for what is now a billion-dollar empire. “I had a lot of people telling me for like three years that I was cuckoo bananas,” said the actress while discussing her entrepreneurial journey at the BlogHer18 Creator’s Summit in New York on Thursday.
It’s been over 11 years since the impetus of Honest Beauty, yet her hunger for turning passion and purpose into profit remains. As most of us know, Alba didn’t necessarily grow up with dreams of selling personal care products. Instead, we watched her climb the Hollywood ladder and make a name for herself in a slew of films (Sin City, Honey) and the TV show, Dark Angel.
But after suffering an allergic reaction from laundry detergent in the midst of her first pregnancy, the beauty boss quickly realized the only way to get what she wanted–safe, yet stylish products–was to create them herself. Reflecting on her quest to fulfill the basic needs of her family without jeopardizing their health, Alba says that most of what she discovered in “alternative” stores was crazy expensive, really hard to shop for and fell into one of three very bland color categories: cream, beige or hemp.
Beyond that, the ingredients being used were ridiculously dangerous compared to the brands being sold outside of the states. For instance, around the time she started to develop Honest Beauty, “there were about 11 chemicals that were banned in personal care in the United States, while there were over 1,100 banned in Europe.”
So she did something about it. And contrary to popular belief, those beginnings were very humble, to say the least. Writing fancy business plans and crunching numbers were never her forte, so instead, Alba started the only way she knew how: by getting it all down on paper. What started as a simple desire in her head turned into countless inspiration collages (think Pinterest, but IRL) piled into binders upon binders.
From there, and at the insistence of her hubby Cash Warren, Alba did her research to find a partner that would be able to take her ideas and morph them into a business plan worthy of execution, while also assisting in the areas she didn’t excel. After that, she took her mission even further by expanding into policy and making regular trips to Capitol Hill, where she lobbied for chemical reform.
And while we could wax poetic about all that Honest Beauty has accomplished in store aisles, what Alba is proudest of is creating a community that values transparency, as well as the wellbeing of women. For example, one of the standout benefits to working with Honest Beauty is a generous maternity leave policy, that affords women 16 weeks of paid time off and men eight weeks.
“And as they ease back into work, maybe it doesn’t start full time. Maybe it’s three days a week until they get their child care together or they feel more comfortable. We work with them on that. I also built a really beautiful nursing space in our office with pumps and refrigerators and couches. So they can do it all with dignity. [Breastfeeding] is something that should be celebrated, not shameful,” she said.
“I felt so alone when I was pregnant with my first daughter. I was 27, it wasn’t planned and it happened. And it was the best thing that really happened, but I was very overwhelmed. And I feel that having a community, especially around that time in your life, is important.”
Above all, what running a business from the ground up has taught Alba is how important it is to not only do the work, but do it in a way that inspires others to take that first step, however big or small it may be.
“I didn’t realize until about three years ago, how important it is for women to see someone like me. My parents were teenagers when they got pregnant. They had three jobs each my whole life. The fact that I had the capacity to dream and think that I could eventually be a leading lady. And that people like me would want to be represented on the big screen. Listen, I didn’t have agencies lining up to work with me. I had everyone telling me no way. I just pushed through and I made it happen. And I think that representation now as a business leader is just as important.”
The moral of the story? No matter what your goal is, remember four important things: remain patient, stay humble, know what you’re good at and what you’re bad at, too. It’ll make or break your next big idea.
Credit photo. StyleCaster