An Honest conversation with Jessica Alba about business, therapy and motherhood (Exclusive)
Jessica Alba is not afraid to be Honest.
Her integrity and unparalleled work ethic is what's sustained her Honest Company in remaining a key player on the shelves sitting next to the big guys, Procter and Gamble and Estee Lauder. Alba's vision pioneered the baby and beauty product newcomer as one of the first direct-to-consumer brands, all while having babies, being a wife, a friend and starring as Nancy McKenna in Spectrum's "L.A's Finest."
In the 8 years since launch, the 38-year-old actress and businesswoman has made sacrifices and faced challenges along the way, but more importantly, built a billion dollar non-toxic consumer brand with no plans to slow down. The Honest Company's newest line of Eczema products, set to come out later this month, is said to be their most 'complex' formula yet, invented by their in-house female-led team of chemist.
AOL's Laura Galvan sat down with the Honest founder at the New York EDITION hotel to talk about the growth of Honest, the importance of therapy and the like-minded business women she calls upon for support. Spoiler alert: they include Tory Burch and Rebecca Minkoff.
Check out our conversation with Jessica Alba below:
You've gown Honest into this massive consumer lifestyle. What shocks or excites you most about from where it started to where it is today?
I would say how much I've learned over the years as far as the business acumen. It's crazy how much you learn in a really short period of time. You just learn as you go and learn through trial and error. I think also when we started it was just direct to consumer and I knew it was early in direct to consumer, but three years later we really rolled out into retail partners, but then also maintained our direct to consumer business. I think that's the thing that's pretty unprecedented and how the rest of the industry still hasn't caught up to that.
What does being a female founder in this day and age mean to you? Especially since you have daughters.
I never knew how rare it was until I was in the position. It's important for my girls to see that I can have an idea. I don't have to know or be an expert in something. I can try and work towards something and you can set a goal and you can achieve it. And seeing an adult and their parent go through that humanizes me in a way, but it also hopefully shows them that if they work hard and if they pursue something that they can achieve their dreams or goals.
What advice would you give to young women starting her own company that might feel intimidated by the dominated male presence in the boardroom?
I mean men dominate the boardroom still, it's just I think there's now an awareness that you need to at least have some representation of women. It's not equal in many cases. It is intimidating, especially when you are in situations that you've never been in before. I would say try to find a mentor in business that you can lean on. I would force people that I would meet along the way -- men or women who have been in business. But if I met a women and she had more experience in business, I was not shy about asking as many questions as possible because you feel so alone often and being able to learn from other people who know.
I remember I was going through some stuff with the business and I called Tory Burch. I also called Rebecca Minkoff and I talked to Diane Von Furstenburg and Mary Dillon, who's at Ulta. I just took any opportunity I could to reach out to women and try and pick their brains and ask them like 'hey, I'm in this circumstance, what would you do if you were in my shoes?' and often they would have a similar story. So, I think you can't be shy or feel like you're bothering someone by reaching out. Guys have absolutely no problem doing that. They're not like 'oh I don't want to offensive or a bother.' No, go ahead and do it because you usually only get one or two shots at it and you should try and pick as many brains as possible.
What's the best of advice you've gotten from business-like minded women?
It depends on where I'm at in what stage. If I need advice on corporate infrastructure, [for example] who do you really need in your C-suite verse how do you handle people who mange other people and how do you know who's really getting the work done and how do you identify your key players knowing you still need the support system around the key players? How do you reward behavior for people who go above and beyond?
They are all different things at different stages. How you pivot your business completely online to being also a retail business? How do you think of your trade spend and marketing spend and working capital vs. advertising dollars? It just depends where you're at in your career and in your business and then you kind of go from there.
As a mother of three, there must be tons of personal sacrifices that go into running a successful business. What are you top tips for working mothers?
I think it's anybody who has any personal life outside of their work life. Whether you're a parent or you just simply want to have a personal life. I think even people who are single or dating or newly married or what have you, dads too. I think we all struggle to figure out what that balance is and certainly the American way is to work you to the bone. We don't really give the same type of emphasis on how important is to take a break as they do say in Europe -- where everyone gets August off [laughing]. I know that's a generalization but you know, they do think it's important to take that time in order to sort of recharge and continue on.
I think there's something about quality of life that you kind of have to figure out and for me, I've gotten better with age because it just feels like it goes by so fast and if I spend all of my time doing one thing it doesn't feel right in my soul. I think it's important if you want to have family or if you want to just live your life and have drinks with girlfriends or go on dates, you should be able to do that and cultivate some type of life for yourself. We have to be respectful as a company to not expect people who work for us to only live and breathe the company.
You recently opened up about going to therapy with your daughter as a healthy means of communication. Why is it important to continue to normalize seeking therapy and the misconceptions around it?
People are afraid of what they don't know and I think people like to give generalizations about things that they don't know. Until you experience something and immerse yourself in it and also what therapy is for me might be very different for what it is to someone else. And so, you can't treat two things the same way. You have to give respect and space for it to be different for different people.
I didn't grow up with it. It's very weird for Latinos to talk about your problems and air your dirty laundry or whatever it is. I actually don't think of it as a bad thing and I think opposite to my family. It's nice to be able to talk something out and if i'm not seeing eye to eye with my daughter on something, there's some type of miscommunication and there must be a better way to talk to her so I want to find a way to be a better mom to her. Especially, if she's going to develop into being a pre-teen very soon and there's hormones she's developing very quickly and her brain and her body and all of it. I just want to really be there for her in the best way. I found that was one of the hardest times of my life. And so I hope that I can be there for her and show up in the best way that I can.
So that's purely why I am going. I didn't grow up with it. It's very taboo in my family and people don't talk about it freely or openly or anything like that. They're all very confused by me [laughing]. Luckily, I feel okay to allow my family to have their opinion and that I respectfully have mine. I feel like that is a luxury that I get to have because not everyone gets feel that way -- they feel that what their family feels about something is how they need to.
Where do you see the future of Honest heading?
Where we're heading is very much in line with where the consumer is. Certainly the Gen-Z and millennials in really wanting transparency on what's inside the product and having transparency in what the corporate environment is. So, more and more, I think the younger generation doesn't feel like they need to go to a retailer to get products. They can go directly to the brand and they can have an immersive brand experience and I think they like that storytelling element. We're going to continue to improve on our communication, our transparency and lean into the thing that is the backbone of who we are as a company.
Now, we were sort of one of the first in this space and we've been able to pave the way and a lot of big companies are trying to copy but what's great is that anyone who does their research (the millennials and Gen-Z) they know what's authentic and what's not.
This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.