Entrepreneur

Jessica Alba gets her hands dirty (and then clean) as an e-commerce entrepreneur

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When she isn’t walking the red carpet or training for fight sequences in action movies, Jessica Alba is a startup founder striving to get her fledgling company off the ground. Earlier this year, she cofounded The Honest Company, an e-commerce site that sells organic, nontoxic products for babies, families, and homes.

During a chat with the actor at TechCrunch Disrupt, Alba regaled her journey from Hollywood star to web entrepreneur.

After having her first child in 2008, she found that it was difficult to find safe, high-quality baby products. As a new mother, using products she could trust was of the utmost importance. Yet few resources lived up to her standards or were easily accessible. Rather than passively acknowledging the problem, she began searching for a partner to build The Honest Company.

“Jessica first approached me after the birth of my first child,” said cofounder Brian Lee. “There are so many toxic products out there and a rise in chronic disease. I felt that we as a people have done something to the environment and to our homes that are causing this type of reaction in our children. Like any parent, you want to best for your children. I wanted to be a part of it and solve this problem.”

Lee is a serial entrepreneur who previously founded Legalzoom.com and ShoeDazzle.com. While he has experience in e-commerce, he had never worked in the parenting and children sectors.

“Every business you start is in a new industry and product,” Lee said. “The Honest Company is a technology company because we rely on technology to deliver our products. But it is really much more of a mission based company than I have ever been a part of. Inherently, everyone from our customer service department¬† to our warehouse staff understand what we have to accomplish and why. You could be best technologist from Facebook or Google, but if you don’t believe in what we are doing, we will not hire you.”

Passion is the underlying, motivating force for many entrepreneurs, but the issue of childcare and parenting strikes a deep emotional chord for entrepreneurs and customers alike. The Honest Company is Alba’s first startup. While she says that her long days and busy schedule sometimes mean less time she has to spend with her children, Alba said that her dedication to the cause keeps her going.

“It is so hard,” Alba said about building a company. “You have to work day and night, and you have to be passionate. Otherwise, it is not going to happen. But if your dream does become fully realized, you can build an incredible experience and an incredible company.”

A firm belief in the vision behind a company is what keeps entrepreneurs going in the face of adversity. Alba said when she first began pitching her ideas to potential investors and partners, many were skeptical that an actress could be genuinely interested in things like laundry detergent and diapers. She is committed to making making higher-quality products accessible to parents. The Honest Company currently offers a selection of “Honest” products, which are available on a monthly subscription basis or for individual purchase.

Right now, the inventory deals mostly with cleaning products, but the goal is to create a premium, highly trust brand in childcare.

“Anything that touches your family or your baby, we want to be a part of and extend that brand to resonate with mothers everywhere,” Lee said. “As soon as they see our logo and product, they will know it is the safest product for their children. At same time, entrepreneurs think there are endless possibilities. The trick is to keep everyone focused, execute, and make sure the core service is healthy.”

One of the benefits of working with stars is their ability to attract interest and publicity. Lee has partnered with celebrities on business endeavors before, but said a pretty face and big name is not enough for to build a successful business. They must have determination and authenticity as well, and Alba, it seems, has plenty of both.

She is just like any young, scrappy startup kid that sees a problem and strives to fix it. Except better looking.


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