Beauty Trends

How Jessica Alba Brought The Honest Company to Its IPO — Interview

This is all to say that Alba, who admits she’d never done anything even remotely like this before launching the brand, is more than leading the way, she’s paving the road. We caught up with Alba after Honest’s IPO to learn about her most valuable business lessons, the beauty ritual that helps her get it all done, and more.

On the Best Advice She’s Ever Received

“Anytime I could get advice, I would,” Alba says, noting that time and time again, business leaders would echo the same sentiment: “If you build a brand that stands for something, then basically you are differentiated. You are doing something that only you can do and the details matter.” So, when an obstacle arises, Alba goes back to the mission, which she describes as “putting people’s health and wellness first, thinking of the planet, applying more conscious business practices, and all that we do [in] diversity and inclusion.”

She adds, “The further away we’ve veered from the truth of who we are and why we’re here? That’s when you find yourself having challenging days,” Alba says. “In a lot of ways, trusting my gut and staying focused on the mission; the more I do that, the better everything is.”

On Battling Imposter Syndrome

Alba notes that, for many, setting aside one’s ego to prioritize the business can be a defining ingredient for success, but for her, it was the opposite extreme. “I have imposter syndrome I had to overcome.” she says. “Whenever I have doubted myself, whenever I just felt like maybe I didn’t deserve to be here or someone else was more capable than me. I would say that’s when the business suffered.”

Nearly a decade after officially founding the brand (plus a few more years plotting and planning before that, Alba notes), she controls those doubts by thinking of her daughters and employees. “Thinking about my girls’ journey and their confidence level and how I want them to operate in the world, then also the women who have chosen to join my team and show up every day with their full selves,” she says. “[This is] my biggest driver in me finding my voice in the business world and not allowing myself to be overshadowed by men, frankly.”

On Her Biggest Lesson

Taking time to find the right colleagues was a huge learning curve for Alba. “It took me three years to even go from the idea to find the right folks that would partner with me,” she recalls, noting that she allowed herself to be pulled in different directions by individuals she eventually had to separate from. “I went through different iterations of the business and what I set out to do from day one. You have to constantly reassess what you’re doing and really hone in on why you’re doing it…I decided not to partner with certain people [and] go back to my original plan…I spent probably a year and a half getting sidetracked in the process.”

On Valuing Your Own Time

Entrepreneurs often spend endless time on the valuation of the brand — but Alba says she wishes she’d focused on her own value, too. “Allowing yourself to be compensated [after that first moment of success],” she says is vital for stamina. “It took me too long to even consider myself in the equation because I was so focused on the business…I think you need to make space for yourself and you need to value your time.”

On the Biggest Mistake She Learned From

“I’ve made a lot of mistakes,” Alba says. “But I would say the one thing, if I can…Just make sure that everyone on your team is moving in the same direction and that you’re surrounding yourself with people that are aligned with your vision. It was a hard lesson for me and I feel like I had to learn it a few times.”

On the Value of Diverse Hiring

“It’s hard for people in a lot of these sectors to do anything differently because they haven’t seen it,” Alba says about hiring practices that reverberate throughout various parts of business. “We hope to be one of those companies that can kind of defy the status quo…once you get more comfortable seeing women in leadership roles, a Mexican woman founding a company, the more of that is allowed — and that’s part of the conversation — I think it opens more doors for more people of color, more women, to have that seat at the table.”

On the DTC Debate

Honest is an omnichannel brand, first selling direct-to-consumer online then adding retailers like Target during expansion. Alba’s learned the pros and cons to each. “There’s value in both,” she says, noting that building community online while providing information about the brand and product is crucial to driving DTC sales. “If you just think of access to your story [and] access to your product, I recommend that you do start online.” A retailer’s minimum orders, packaging requirements, and other requirements, while exciting, can crush new businesses, she says. “There’s also a lower barrier to entry,” she says about DTC, noting how complicated traditional retail can be. “I recommend bringing in people who’ve done it before, that can kind of help you work through a lot of those pain points if it’s possible.”

On Knowing Innovation Takes Investment

“If you rely on third-party partners to formulate…you are so dependent on your co-packers and their ability to formulate to your standards, whatever clean means to you,” Alba says about a common practice in beauty where a third-party lab and factory makes and packages products for a variety of brands. “You end up not being able to do a ton of innovation because they’re just thinking of bulk buying raw materials and raw ingredients. So that’s why you see out in the marketplace lots of brands that come out around the same time with a lot of the same types of products, it’s because they’re all using the same kind of co-packers.”

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