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The question Jessica Alba asks every day as her $1 billion startup preps for IPO


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Honest Co., which makes environmentally friendly baby products, generates about 80% of its revenue from a service that delivers diapers and other items every month, according to CEO and co-founder Brian Lee.

It’s estimated that the company this year will bring in at least three times last year’s sales, or more than $150 million, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

Jessica Alba, 33 and the mother of two, says she was inspired to start the company after discovering that many household products were filled with toxic chemicals. She said in a statement she believes investors are making “a meaningful impact in the marketplace.”

Honest Co. is now likely gearing up for an IPO as it looks to grow beyond the U.S. and Canada to China, England and Australia. Alba recently did a Q&A with MarketWatch on what it’s like to start a company from scratch while juggling an acting career and motherhood. She also opened up about past money mistakes, what she does first thing in the morning, and what book she thinks everyone should be reading. 

MarketWatch: What’s been the most challenging part of getting a startup off the ground?

Alba: Delivering a product and executing an idea from A to Z is an uphill battle and an evolving process. I don’t believe in doing things a certain way just because they’ve always been done that way. Process is helpful to give you benchmarks and guidelines but isn’t the only path you need to take. While I appreciate it, we try as a company to approach developing an idea into a product with a more open outlook.

MarketWatch: What part of the process of starting your own company surprised you the most?

Alba: The most surprising part of starting my own company has been how much I have to listen to my intuition and trust my gut. I didn’t realize how much entrepreneurs rely on that.

‘I really have to stop every time and think about the ROI: Will this be worth the time spent away from what I love the most on Earth?’ Jessica Alba, on balancing work with family time 

MarketWatch: What’s the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the past few months?

Alba: Every time I have to leave the house, whether that’s to the office or halfway around the world to shoot a movie, it’s a tough decision! I have to believe that everything I do sets the right example and gives them more opportunity because I’m leaving my babies and they’re the most important thing in my life. I really have to stop every time and think about the ROI (can you tell how much I work?): Will this be worth the time spent away from what I love the most on Earth? Then again, they’re both in school all day, so they’re pretty busy figuring out themselves.

MarketWatch: What’s your favorite book, and what book do you think everyone should read?

Alba: My favorite book is “Leadership the Eleanor Roosevelt Way” [by Robin Gerber]. She’s a dreamer, but she understands the process. Reading it reminds you how much she inspired people around her to push themselves, including her husband. She believed an individual’s power was limitless. She always challenged the status quo and I inherently identify with that. The book I think everyone should read is mine, of course! I wrote “The Honest Life” to show what worked for me, but I think anyone can find something in it to inspire them to live healthier and happier and stay true to who they are. It doesn’t hurt that the science was proofread by Dr. Philip J. Landrigan of Mount Sinai Hospital, so it’s a great reference, too.

MarketWatch: What are the first three things you do when you wake up in the morning?

Alba: I wake up my two angels, Honor and Haven (or, if they’re in the bed with me, they wake me up). We have breakfast together and I have my coffee as the emails pile up in my in-box. I take about 10 minutes to get my face on and center myself, then I’m out the door for whatever lies ahead.

MarketWatch: What are three apps on your smartphone that you can’t live without?

Alba: Since I’m not the generation that’s down with Snapchat, I’m an Instagram fan because there’s so many ways to capture and share our lives with it. As a visual person and a storyteller, it’s fashion editorial and film school all in one. I’m always looking for fresh music, so I love Spotify for giving me a soundtrack to my life. The UCLA Mindful Meditation on iTunes U is a lifesaver for finding a moment of peace — it’s also a nice change for something digital to not be a distraction.

MarketWatch: As you juggle a startup, movies and kids, do you have any tips for women on staying balanced?

Alba: Not at all! I’m still trying to figure it out myself and everyday I learn something new. And then I promptly forget it the next day. No matter how different women are, we all seem to share the guilt that we’re not doing enough. If anything, I would say that as long as you’re doing your best, it’s more than enough.

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