They told her to do a fragrance like all the other celebrities.
But actress and entrepreneur Jessica Alba wouldn’t be dissuaded from pitching The Honest Co. for nearly three years before someone finally said yes.
That yes came from Brian Lee, The Honest Co. CEO who joined Alba, sporting her new shorn locks, at SXSW Interactive Sunday.
When the Sin City actress was pregnant with her first child Honor, Alba experienced an allergic reaction to a laundry detergent and began researching the chemicals found in laundry products—even ones that purported to be safe and gentle. When she couldn’t find any, she set about to create one.
Although Lee said no the very first time she pitched him, he identified with Alba’s struggle to find better products for her baby, this time having just welcomed his first child.
“I saw the way my wife changed her behavior, making organic purees for the baby,” Lee says.
So, The Honest Co. launched in the same fashion that many successful products have, fulfilling a void that existed in the market.
Her original name for the company? “Love and Honor,” Alba says. “But that sounded too bridal.” They arrived at the name The Honest Company.
“We’re not a perfect company,” Lee says. “But we’re an honest company and we want to be as open as possible.”
In her article on Forbes, she also shed some light on her experience and what she did in transition for her to shift the perception of her from a “Girl in Bikini” to a full fledge entrepreneur:
Alba also spoke of early setbacks during the The Honest Company’s launch. “We launched with a beta website that could have crashed at any minute,” she said. In the first five weeks, the company sent out its signature bundles of diapers and baby wipes without charging any credit cards. “I mean, that’s enough to put you out of business,” she joked.
She was also unapologetic about the choices she made as a Hollywood actress before launching Honest — some of the proceeds of which went towards the company’s early seed round.
“I made a lot of money in entertainment at a very young age and I saved it,” she said, describing the roles she took in her twenties as rooted in financial rather than creative decisions. “I just needed to make as much money as quickly as possible, knowing it was going to go away at some point. I was very deliberate about it.”
Alba told of a childhood spent watching her parents working three jobs each, cutting coupons, living on a budget, and fighting all the time as a result.
“They just didn’t know how they were going to keep the lights on,” she said. “I didn’t want to live like that.”
Now that The Honest Company is three years in (and valued at $1 billion), Alba is focused on the future — despite her incredible, speedy success.
“One billion feels like a small number for the opportunity of what’s possible,” she said. “For me, as a person at home with my kids? It’s crazy. It’s awesome.”