How Hollywood actress Jessica Alba created a billion dollar company

Despite her on-screen successes Jessica Alba had to fight to establish herself as a founder, but found a way to succeed.

Some say it takes to be taken out of your comfort zone and having more to gain than to lose to become founder.

That certainly appears to be true for Jessica Alba, the American actress and co-founder of The Honest Company, a consumer goods and beauty brand with an arsenal of products ranging from make-up to baby diapers and an emphasis on eco-friendly ingredients. She began her first career as an actress in Hollywood, recognized for her roles in "Dark Angel" or "Sin City" before turning to entrepreneurship.

Despite her on-screen successes it wasn’t easy in the beginning for her to be taken seriously as an entrepreneur she reveals in the Bits & Pretzels Podcast. "There was so much resistance. The whole entire time." Yes, everybody knew her from the movies, but that didn’t help with investors:

"People can take a selfie with you and show their friends that they took a meeting with an actress. They are looking at you sideways in every single room, like: do you really think you can create a business? Come on now!"

Today, Alba has established herself in business. Her company has raised over $500 million in funding to date according to Crunchbase and now sells more than 100 consumer products in North America and recently launched in Europe as well. But her early experiences have taught her how to work hard and keep your eyes on the goal.

"If you've met with people telling you 'No', or telling you you can't, or telling you it's impossible, that is usually a good reason to keep at it. I would always look at those kinds of naysayers as fuel to drive me to continue to reach that goal."

She also had to realize that no matter how successful a company is, it will hit roadblocks at some point. In 2017, Alba’s firm settled a nationwide class action lawsuit claiming it misled buyers about the ingredients in its laundry detergents and dish soap. A second labeling lawsuit was settled for an undisclosed amount. Even though she had a lot to learn Alba was able to push through the hurdles of running her own business and today she wants other female entrepreneurs to do the same.

"You know what? It's not that hard, it isn't. I did it. If you really believe in something, you will figure it out."

After all, both in Hollywood and in tech mostly men still run the show. In Q2 2019 only 3 percent of global capital went to companies that were female-only funded according to Crunchbase. But that has to change according to Alba, because more diversity usually leads to better performance:

"It's actually a better business model if you lean into diversity, it just is, you'll have a better outcome and you will have more diversity of thought as you tackle issues and challenges."

About Jessica Alba

Jessica Alba became famous for her roles as lead actress of the television series "Dark Angel" (2000–2002), "Fantastic Four" (2005, 2007) and "Sin City" (2005). She founded The Honest Company in 2011, a consumer goods company that sells baby, personal and household products. In 2015, she launched Honest Beauty, a color cosmetics and skincare range.

Podcast Chapters:

1:33 It's a man's world
2:38 But nothing without a woman
5:10 Can you mansplain that?
8:25 An Honest company culture
12:37 “We lived paycheck to paycheck”
14:41 The modern Cinderella story
17:49 What is honest about Honest?
20:15 So much resistance
22:48 A startup is like raising a baby
25:44 Barack Obama & his daughters
31:05 A female boost for business

Production & Editing: Regina Körner, Migo Fricke, Hubert Honold. Design: Christian Lohmeier. With help of Janek Postpischiel.