She’s one of Hollywood’s leading ladies, but Jessica Alba is nothing short of an entrepreneur. A devoted mother, Alba found herself frustrated trying to find the perfect products for her home and her daughters. So, she took matters into her own hands and launched The Honest Company, her line of non-toxic and eco-friendly family products. While we’d love to describe her latest business motive ourselves, we had the pleasure of chatting with the charismatic actress about why ‘honesty’ comes in different forms.
Life+Times: What was the original mission in launching The Honest Company? Was this a subject that has always been important to you?
Jessica Alba: When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I sought the best products for her because, like all moms, I wanted to create a healthy home for my baby. Easier said than done! Finding the healthiest products, even here in the US, was difficult with all the greenwashing and everything that goes on. So, I’d end up shopping online, buying non-toxic products from Australia and Europe, or from different health stores just to clean my house and bathe my child. It was too time consuming and so expensive. To me, it was a social injustice that the average family couldn’t easily find or purchase safe products at a reasonable price. So, I created Honest because my mission was to make healthy, non-toxic products—the basics!—accessible for children and families everywhere. Becoming a mom definitely made me more aware of and concerned about everyday toxic ingredients, but I’ve always been eco-minded because I grew up with the droughts of Southern California. Before it was about not wasting water or repurposing every container we purchased—instead of buying glass jars, we’d reuse old tomato sauce ones (still important things to do). But now my focus has shifted from eco for the environment to eco for the health of my family. The foundation I was taught as a child—to live mindfully—I apply to my family, with their health as the number one priority.
L+T: Since the company’s inception – how much has the brand changed since your original idea?
JA: It took over three years to see The Honest Company come to life. The initial resistance to my business idea made me take this huge concept and hone it along the way to better reflect the realities of the economy, the marketplace, and even the requirements of the Honest product formulations. Recently I found e-mails I exchanged with people a few years ago about my ideas, and it’s funny how much things have evolved since then. Today Honest is expanding faster in areas that I didn’t anticipate penetrating until later next year, but the values of the company are the same as what I always wanted to create—our products are accessible, high performing, safe, and fashionable. Alexander McQueen, Murakami, and Banksy are all inspirations.
L+T: Was there a certain instance that you figured you needed to take matters into your own hands and help to make a difference?
JA: When my daughter Honor was six months, I found her in her crib eating a diaper. There were gel beads all over her face, body, and crib sheets. Little did I know at the time, conventional diapers are filled with tiny gel beads that make them super-absorbent but also cause some of these diapers to explode if they get too full. Worried about chemicals and the harm they could cause her, I ran to read the package labeling. It was silent about any harmful ingredients. I called the diaper manufacturer and they wouldn’t reveal the contents. I swear, I even called 911. Thankfully, Honor was all right. But that scary moment led me to research what’s really inside the disposable diapers our children wear everyday. And there’s only one word for what I found. Shocking. Even the supposed green alternatives were laden with toxic chemicals linked to a number of serious health problems. This did not sit well with me. So based on this—along with all the other information I had learned from scouring the Internet and reading Christopher Gavigan’s Healthy Child, Healthy World: Creating a Cleaner, Greener, Safer Home—I knew I had to find a way to create The Honest Company.
L+T: What’s behind the name? How come you land on “The Honest Company?”
JA: For everything at Honest, I look to my day-to-day life and motherhood as source of inspiration. And it was no different when I chose the company name. My daughter Honor’s name inspired the choice. Not to mention it’s reflective of the type of company we created—one that is transparent about what it does and the ingredients it uses, as well as has open conversations with our community.
L+T: There’s also a philanthropic element to your business model. Can you tell me a little bit about this too?
JA: It was extremely important to me to that The Honest Company have a cause component as part of its DNA. And because we care passionately about helping all families, we knew there was only one business model for us—one that addresses critical health and social issues affecting children and families. So today with every purchase made, Honest donates money, product, and time to Baby2Baby, an organization that provides essential baby gear and clothes to Los Angeles families in need. This year alone, they served 50,000 children in the community. My partners and I hope that by making this our mission from the start, we encourage other businesses to join us in actively transforming the world for the better.
L+T: But this isn’t just for the kids – grown adults alike are flocking to your products. If you had to recommend one product that everyone should have in their home – what would it be? Why?
JA: Ah, an impossible question! I love them all, especially because the products are really great for everyone. Women can use our shampoo because it’s safe for colored hair—your highlights won’t fade. The body oil is great for moisturizing, massage, and we’ve even heard from some customers that they use it as a hair oil to smooth the ends (I still have to try that!). But if I had to select one product, it would be our healing balm. It soothes lips, treats really dry skin, heals cuts and scrapes, helps with razor burn, and is perfect for mixing with our lotion when you travel a lot and need an extra moisturizing boost. I could go on and on because it’s seriously a cure all…at least in my opinion.
L+T: What are you currently working on? In both realms of your professional life; movies and The Honest Company?
JA: I’m currently working on my first book The Honest Life, which will be published in Spring 2013. I wanted to create a colorful how-to for people who want to make a healthy and non-toxic home without giving up the fun fashionable things. In it, I share personal stories about transitioning to an eco lifestyle, family recipes, DIY projects I do at home with my girls, and even natural beauty products that actually work. I hope people will be inspired to make the ideas their own and find what works for them. In the midst of everything, I’ve been able to squeeze in a few movies including A.C.O.D. (“Adult Children of Divorce”) and the animated film Escape from Planet Earth. Filming both was really fun and actually seemed relaxing—I finally got a few good nights of sleep in a quiet hotel room instead of sharing my bed with toddlers! I got to work with an awesomely talented team of comedians on A.C.O.D. and it was great to play the nemesis in the Escape from Planet Earth, a role I don’t often get to explore. And coming up, I’ll be working on Sin City 2. Hopefully, I can live to tell about it because the workouts to prepare for the role are kicking my butt. And at The Honest Company we’re currently exploring everything from nutrition to home and nursery to expanding our current product categories, like personal care. Our ear is always to the ground—we love to hear from our community and take the feedback we learn from Facebook, our blog, and customer support to create products they really want.