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Jessica Alba – the billion-dollar woman

How the actress went from Hollywood superstar to founder of an ‘honest, not perfect’ business empire

<i>Aquarius</i>
1 Dec 2015 | 12:00 pm
  • Jessica Alba.

    Source:Getty Images Image 1 of 2
  • Jessica Alba.

    Source:Corbis Images Image 2 of 2

Jessica Alba already seemed to have it all: a gorgeous family, loving husband, dazzling movie career, and perfect hair. So why, then, did the actress who made a name for herself in box-office hits such as The Fantastic Four and Sin City, go on to found The Honest Company? The answer, it seems, is family.

“When I became a mom, I finally became the person I am, that I always should have been,” Jessica says on the ‘Who we are’ page of her company website, referencing her daughters Honor, seven, and Haven, four. “It’s the most satisfying job in the world. But it can also be overwhelming and confusing. I created The Honest Company to help mums and to give all children a better, safer start.”

She expanded on this in an interview with Parenting.com after the launch, saying, “That’s probably the thing that’s surprised me the most about motherhood. Just how secondary everything else is. Nothing else really matters to me aside from my children and their well-being.”

The Honest Company aims to make “safe, eco-friendly, beautiful, convenient, and affordable” products for children and homes and, while it’s faced some criticism this year, it has been hugely successful.

Here, we look at why Jessica Alba is a woman to celebrate, with a thriving business and down-to-earth values, and how it was her family who changed it all.

A head for business

To go from a crowd-pleasing actor to founding a business empire that Forbes has estimated to be worth $1 billion [Dh3.6 billion] this May, is no mean feat.

However, as the 34-year-old says, everything changed when she had her kids, and it was them who gave her the inspiration and motivation to launch her business. Frustrated by a lack of non-toxic, eco-friendly and ethical home products for families, she took matters into her own hands. “If you want it done right, you gotta do it yourself,” is a mantra of both Jessica and her co-founder, father-of-three Christopher Gavigan, who echoes her worries.

“Parents get a lot of advice about what to feed their children and how to baby-proof their home,” parenting expert, Christopher, says on The Honest Company’s website, “But many are still completely unaware of the toxic risks posed by everyday basics, like diapers, home cleaners, body washes and laundry soaps.”

“Everything I stand for and all I’ve done over the past 15 years has come to this moment,” the former CEO of Healthy Child Healthy World adds of the company he established with the Hollywood star. “I’m thrilled to launch a brand that offers some of the most thoughtfully designed, innovative, and safest products available.”

Launching the company was a risk for the pair – professionally, personally and financially. And although their e-commerce site is now one of the most successful in Silicon Valley, it took pluck to start it up. “It took three years of me spending my own money, trying to figure out where to manufacture, what the product suite would be and what this lifestyle brand is all about,” California-born Jessica told Yahoo! Finance. “I did a lot of research and funded it with my personal money. Everyone told me I was crazy. It’s not very sexy to make safe household cleaning products.”

Regardless, their company has been an astounding success since launching in January 2012, but for Jessica, there is still a long way to go. “If we really want to make a difference in the world and people’s health, it’s billions and billions of dollars, not just one [billion],” she told Forbes.

“I’ve always been business-minded. I approached Hollywood like a business. I was very calculated,” she says of her professional savvy. “I wanted to be treated like a guy; I wanted to [fill seats]. I saved my money, invested wisely and marketed myself. I’ve been building my own personal brand over time.”

Business hasn’t all been smooth sailing, however, with two consumer lawsuits launched against the company in September. However, Alba seems unfazed, calling the lawsuits’ allegations “baseless and without merit,” according to news reports.

Humble beginnings

Jessica was born in the southern Californian city of Pomona, to Cathy and Mark Alba. Her father was in the US Air Force, which meant that his military career saw the family move from city to city, with stints in Mississippi and Texas. 
“I was really sick when I was a kid,” Jessica has said of her childhood, during which she suffered from allergies and asthma and was regularly struck by pneumonia, which could lead to multiple-week-long hospital stints in hospital. “My mom was with me a lot, and it was tough on my family because my mom had to spend a lot of nights in a cot next to my bed in the hospital.”

Despite her difficulties growing up, she has always been a driven individual, starring in her first role in 1994, aged 13, after persuading her mother to sign her up for an acting competition in Beverly Hills, where the prize was free acting classes, when she was just 11 years old. “I never just did what people told me. I questioned everything,” Jessica has said of her younger self. “When I look back, it is really no surprise that I started working at 12.”

With a regular stream of smaller roles from 1994 until 1999 – including a part in the Flipper TV series – it wasn’t long before she got her big breakthrough role in James Cameron’s Dark Angel. It was the sci-fi television show that turned her into a household name and won her a Golden Globe nomination in 2001.

However, she herself has said that, while acting was an enormous focus for her professionally, it doesn’t match running her own business empire. “With a movie... it’s not like your whole life is hanging on this thing,” she has said. “[But] with a business, your whole life is hanging on this thing – people have to love it.”

Family and a ‘new perspective’

For Jessica, her kids are the centre of her world, a feeling that mothers the world over will relate to.

“When I became a mum, I just kind of opened up and got a new perspective,” the actress revealed of motherhood, and her focus shifting from the movie industry – which she has dubbed, ‘the shadiest in the world’ – to her own business. “I have fearlessness and a confidence that I think you can only get with experience and age. Some people get it earlier, but it took me a while.”

The actress and her producer husband, Cash Warren, welcomed their first daughter, Honor Marie Warren in 2008, and their second daughter, Haven Garner Warren, followed in 2011.

When it comes to managing both her professional and family commitments, she’s frank about where her priorities lie. “I don’t think I balance it to be honest. It’s hard, overwhelming and it’s not anything I ever feel I am doing perfectly right,” she told Parade magazine when she was asked how she balances being a working mum with her business.

“I wish there were two of me and 48-hour days so I could get everything done. But for me, I have to try and not think that everything has to be 100 per cent perfect all the time, and leave room for error. As long as my kids feel loved and a priority, everything really is secondary.”

“Before I had kids, I was always so focused on my career,” she added in a separate interview, of her shifting priorities, “and it was always such a big thing for me.”

Jessica married Cash, the son of TV-actor Michael Warren, in 2008, and when it comes to fatherhood, she sings her husband’s praises.

“Cash is a super-dad,” she said of her husband of seven years. “If I’m with Haven, he’ll make Honor lunch or take her to the park. They see movies and draw together — she’ll even watch sports with him.”

And Cash, who is the producer behind In The Blood, cannot help but gush about his wife’s success.

“Her launching The Honest Company has helped her understand what I’ve done for the last 11 years we’ve been together,” he told HuffPost Live. “She’s worked so hard and I couldn’t be more proud.”

And he lets her know. “Whenever I doubt myself for a second, he’s the first one to come up and say, ‘You can do this, I believe in you’,” Jessica divulged to Us Weekly when she was in the early days of launching The Honest Company. “I don’t know what I’d do without him there. And he’s so good with the kids. We’re really happy.”

Jessica diaries

jessica

Street style icon

Jessica says fashion is “a huge part of my life” – and it shows. Even when she’s casual she’s perfectly put together from head to toe, making her a fashion blogger’s favourite.

Films

Feisty female

Jessica says her movie choices are defined by the desire to provide a strong female character, which she does as The Fantastic Four’s Sue Storm, and it’s why she wouldn’t appear nude in 2005’s Sin City.

family

friends

Fun, family and friends

Jessica and husband, film producer Cash Warren, dote on their daughters Honor Marie, 7, and Haven Garner, 4, and Jessica credits them as the inspiration for her successful company, Honest. Children are also a point of bonding between her and close friend and fellow actress Jaime King. In fact Jessica is godmother to Jaime’s son James Knight Newman.

<i>Aquarius</i>

Aquarius