How Jessica Alba's acting career prepared her to build a $1.7 billion startup
Adam Rifkin stashed this in Founders
Acting taught Jessica Alba not to take rejection personally.
In a few short years, Jessica Alba has turned The Honest Co., her startup that sells eco-friendly household products like premium diapers and toothpaste, into a $1.7 billion company.
And while Alba’s celebrity status has been a pillar of the brand, she says her career as an actor has helped her in another crucial way: dealing with rejection from investors.
In a new interview, Alba told Vanity Fair about trying to get Brian Lee, a cofounder of LegalZoom.com, to invest early on in Honest Co.
Lee, who was a friend of Alba's husband, agreed to a meeting, but passed on investing. He wasn’t convinced by the idea behind the company. After Lee passed, Alba says two other investment deals fell through. Things were not looking good.
But, though Alba’s celebrity afforded her with many other financial opportunities, she didn’t give up on Honest Co.
“Actresses are used to rejection,” she explained to Vanity Fair. This is certainly true. An up-and-coming actor can face rejection dozens of times for every gig he or she books. Going out on auditions is a brutal process, and in some ways it provides a fertile training ground to develop the thick skin any startup founder trying to raise capital needs.
18 months after Lee rejected Alba’s pitch, he had a baby of his own. And when Lee's wife started “manically” researching household cleaners, he finally got it. “In the time between the first and second meeting, my wife had changed our whole life. Jessica’s goal to make safer products for the family resonated with me,” he told Vanity Fair.
Lee wasn’t the only one, based on the company’s growth so far. Though it wasn't always certain, Alba’s success in business should not, perhaps, be completely surprising if you look at the way she approached her acting career.
Vanity Fair writes that Alba sought out “tentpole franchises” like "Sin City," "Fantastic Four," and the "Meet the Parents" series. She wasn’t just an artist looking to express herself, but an businesswoman trying to put herself into successful franchises.
In Alba's acting career, this didn’t always pan out. She was in plenty of flops. But it seems that Alba’s attitude in approaching business has finally led her to an even bigger blockbuster hit than she could have hoped for in Hollywood.
The Honest Co. sells natural and eco-friendly household products like premium diapers and toothpaste.
According to one of The Honest Co.'s early investors, Jeremy Liew, about 80% of that revenue comes from customers who receive a monthly delivery of diapers and other products.
Last summer, The Honest Co. raised $70 million at a valuation close to $1 billion.
Since founding The Honest Co. in 2011, Alba has been able to leverage her celebrity to throw the company into the limelight, garnering attention for her environmental and social goals. Like Toms and Warby Parker, The Honest Co. donates some of its products and revenue, meriting a B Corp certification from nonprofit group B Lab. (B Corps are also known as benefit corporations.)
"I wanted clean, safe, effective products that were affordable and beautifully designed, and I couldn't find that in the marketplace," Alba said on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon." "There wasn't really a family brand that spoke to me as a young mom."
I was doubtful about the Honest Company when it first launched, but it's turned out to live up to its mission statement to actually be a good, honest company.
I'd like to see more celebrities use their fame to start good companies.
And somehow Jessica is still listed last in the list of founders, it isn't even alphabetical so there is no excuse for that.
Nathaniel, I remember reading in one of her interviews that she goes out of her way to highlight her cofounders because she doesn't want her fame to overshadow their contribution.
Lucas, I was skeptical too but perhaps this is a better model for celebrities going forward than starting Yet Another Clothing Line.