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Mompreneur 101 with Jessica Alba

From one mom to another, Jessica Alba rejoins Salt & Nectar today to share the lessons she’s learned about starting The Honest Company and offers meaningful advice to other aspiring entrepreneurs for getting started, turning a business dream into reality, and balancing it all with family life.

Image by Justin Coit courtesy of Honest.

Salt & NectarYou’ve mentioned how being a mom inspired The Honest Company mission and its products, but how has being a mom prepared you to run the business?

Jessica Alba: I think having to put yourself second is one key component. For me, being a mom is about putting my children and their wellbeing first. In running a business, it’s also never about my interests or me; it’s about the company and every decision we make is from the point of view of how to best serve Honest.  Therefore, being comfortable putting another’s interest above your own is something all moms and successful entrepreneurs have in common and both do on a daily basis. Multitasking is another way being a mom prepared me for starting my own business. You have to multitask as a parent to get anything done…from preparing breakfast and lunch at the same time as you’re getting your kids dressed and leaving for school, to giving them baths at same time you’re preparing for dinner, and more. When you’re starting a new business, you’re doing 50 different things at once and you’re wearing several hats. Parents can’t stop halfway through making their kids lunch or drop them off half way to school, just like in business you can’t start 50 things and not complete any of them.  Multitasking is key and doing it well is an art I hope to master one day.

Jessica enjoying having her daughters at work. Image courtesy Jessica Alba/Honest.

Salt & Nectar: Many moms have great ideas for a business concept but don’t know where to start and aren’t really sure if it’s something that could become profitable. What’s your advice for putting it in motion?

Jessica Alba: Surround yourself with experts in your field of interest and ask questions! Learn from them. After gaining as much knowledge as you can about the marketplace and the opportunity, you should then target partners who can help you convert your idea into something tangible. Be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses and try to build a team that complements your skill set.  

I am not an environmental specialist. I am mom who cares. So no matter how much research I did and continue to do on eco-friendly and non-toxic living, I am not an expert in biochemistry. I found an expert in that field for creating the formulations for the products I envisioned. I also found experts in forming start-up companies and running e-commerce businesses. As a mom who relies on convenient online shopping, I knew the Internet offered new opportunities to build a brand and get product out there. I partnered with Brian Lee [co-founder of LegalZoom and ShoeDazzle] and Sean Kane [former PriceGrabber.com executive], who built the business model around my idea.  Don’t try to do it all yourself.  

Once all these pieces are in place, you will then be in a proper position to raise capital and launch your company.  Despite being in a rough economic climate, there are still venture investors, private equity groups, banks, and individuals who are looking to give money to moms, women, and small businesses with unique ideas.   

Salt & Nectar: You told us that when you first pitched the idea of eco-friendly products, people suggested that you instead focus on clothing, fragrance, and lines that are more typical for celebrities to launch. Despite this resistance to your concept, you weren’t deterred. Any advice for moms for staying the course after they receive the first of possibly many “NOs”?

Jessica Alba: It ultimately took me three years to see Honest come to life. I think it’s a good thing if the road doesn’t prove to be easy because you’re forced to defend why you’re doing it, what your intentions are, and refine your strategy. If I didn’t get so much initial pushback, I wouldn’t be as confident about Honest being on the right path today. In hindsight, the rejections were a blessing in disguise and I feel it was through that experience that I was able to assemble the best team possible to bring Honest to life.  

Salt & Nectar: It’s no secret that the business world is male dominated. How did you prepare for and overcome the obstacles that women and moms are more likely to face when starting a company from the ground up?

Jessica Alba: It is intimidating. Because I’m an actress and because I’m a mom, I definitely encountered people who were like, “Oh geez, what does she know?” But I do know about diapers, I do know about housecleaning, and I do know that I want to put safe products on my child and use safe products in my house.  

And, yes, it’s a fact that men have historically dominated the business world across almost every sector and category. Hopefully we will look up in a few years and see a more diverse landscape. But not to be deterred, we also must remember that women currently control 89% of household spending. So I know we have a better understanding of consumer behavior and desires, giving us a competitive edge. Reflect this in how you position and speak about your company. Find the hard facts and real data to back up these sentiments that as women we know what households want and need. This will lay the foundation and help open the door, but once you step inside move beyond those statistics and deliver a forward-thinking, original business plan.

Salt & Nectar: What are your recommended must-have resources for mompreneurs (besides Mary Poppins)?

Jessica Alba: I often fantasize about finding more hours in a day. Truly, having a good support system and people that can give you reliable and constructive criticism—whether an online community, family and friends, your partner—is a must. My husband Cash has been integral in my development as an entrepreneur. He listens to me vent, gives constructive criticism, and often helps me look at things from other perspectives. It’s important to have people who challenge and question you but also motivate you to find solutions.  

Prepared in advance: Jessica's homemade food for Haven. Image courtesy Jessica Alba/Honest. Salt & Nectar: You must be great at juggling—handling your career as an actress, your work at Honest, and your role as mom. Any time management tips for other moms?

Jessica Alba: Because I start work the moment I wake up (I check my phone for new e-mails, my daily schedule, and other appointments), my mind is already moving a mile a minute and I find that I can’t focus on things in order to get out the door on time. So I pick my outfit out, Honor’s outfit out, and Haven’s outfit out the night before. I like Haven to have homemade baby food if I can do it, so I set aside time on Saturday or Sunday to make it for the entire week. For Honor, I cook her meals so I can use an ingredient for a few days. If I make broccoli or cauliflower, I make enough for different meals—sauté it in olive oil one day, serve it cold with cucumbers the next, blend it with marinara sauce or meatballs the following day, and finally stir fry it in ten minutes. It’s really about making efficient, creative use of your time.

Salt & Nectar: Although the company is only three months old to the public, you’ve been working on it for over three years. Based on the lessons you’ve learned as a mompreneur, what are your top three tips for moms out there looking to start a business? 

Jessica Alba: {1} Understanding the marketplace for your business is key. {2} Realistic business expectations and coming to terms with the fact that it may be too much of a lofty dream and tailoring it appropriately. {3} Sticking to your guns. If someone can persuade you to depart from you idea, it’s a sign that the business might not be the right fit for you.

Salt & Nectar: Any other secrets to your success as a mompreneur?

Jessica Alba:  One secret is recognizing, accepting, and embracing that your business is always going to be a work in progress. The initial resistance to my idea made me take this huge concept I had and hone and edit it along the way to better reflect the realities of the economy, the marketplace, and even the requirements of the product formulations. Recently I found e-mails that I exchanged with people a few years ago—even a year ago—about my ideas, and it’s funny how much things have evolved from then. The values of Honest are the same as what I always wanted to create, but the scope of our focus is different. And today it’s expanding faster in areas that I didn’t anticipate penetrating until next year, like personal care. Another tip, which goes hand-in-hand with the first, is be nimble, listen to your customers, and respond to them by investing in and delivering products they want. All companies need to have a real dialogue and connection with the people they are serving and they should be prepared to iterate on their product based on the feedback they receive.   

Salt & Nectar thanks Jessica for taking the time out of her busy schedule to share mom-friendly business tips. In the meantime, if you want to learn more about The Honest Company, visit its Web site, dialogue with the team on Facebook and Twitter, and watch the live video chats with Jessica and co-founder Christopher Gavigan on Vokle.

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Reader Comments (20)

Fabulous interview! Thanks for sharing. I love that she's willing to say it took 3 years to get the Honest Co. going. People wanted her to focus on clothing and other things. Her advice about doing market research is also important. Her family pics are gorgeous. What a CUTE baby!

March 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChristina Simon

What great info on starting your own business. Great interview.

March 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSR

Great info about starting a business! I learned a lot!

March 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPauline Gaines

It's so nice to see this other side of Jessica Alba, aside from those magazines etc.! She is very inspiring! Well done!:)


March 26, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercarla

Wonderful article! I LOVE Jessica Alba, and I'm glad I've stumbled upon your website as well, what a great concept. I learned a valuable piece of information in college that I will never forget and that is something Jessica mentioned in her interview, "women control 89% of household spending." Indeed we do, so in fact we are the driving force to major decisions AND the stimulation of our economy. I too love the fact that it took Jessica 3 years to create Honest; as sometimes I struggle with wanting to do so much at one time and have wonderful ideas, it's a grounding thing to know that great things take TIME. Patience!!! :) GREAT interview.

March 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

Christina and Jessica, we agree that it's both very useful and inspiring to have a better understanding of the timeline it takes to launch a start-up and the market research that helps get to that point. And, Jessica, one thing another entrepreneur told me once is that you don't have to wait for the perfect idea -- just good idea -- to start a business and perfect it as you go along, which dovetails with Jessica Alba's points that you need to edit and refine your idea in response to resistance and constructive criticism as well as be nimble in response to customer wants and needs once you're up and running. Thanks for reading, everyone!


March 26, 2012 | Registered CommenterSalt & Nectar

Jessica Alba has what it takes to have health be an invesment into future generations and not just the present.
Although it is beautifull to support her efforts because she has health as her glow and this should spread.
We need to take care of those that have no voice and that is the babies that want such products if they could speak. She explains herself so well that I truelly enjoy reading her answers.....what a beautifull person. :))

March 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRobert Soto Coral

I've read a lot about Honest recently, and I look forward to trying some of the products...my daughter's eczema is fairly severe and I really need to find products without toxins...very hard to do!

March 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPractical Parenting


March 26, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterkaca95

its awesome jessica u n ur cute lil baby r one in million u n ur baby r very very cute .....!!!!!!
<3 luv u both .....

March 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRahul Ahlawat

Hi from France ! That's amazing how you give the best you can for your Honest company. Maybe it will be the most important thing of you life, before the movies... Congratulations indeed. We have 3 boys (14, 11 and 7) and on the french riviera they got the best, natural food on earth (maybe you could find ideas here !). Also, as one of my sons had stress and eczema we found out that the best way for him to get through was thermal cure. I don't know how you could link that to the honest company but maybe that would be a track to perform ? :)

At least, that's another subjet, if you are still with me lol, I must say that without playing, you gave strong emotions to thousand french people on the net, in the biggest french roleplay guild. We've made an incredible story in the Star Wars background and you are... my avatar... :D Since then, me and the french team are trying to contact you, that's all about the incredible "Atlantia Project". If you want to know more... you really should, you got my mail. Seeya Jessica, and if ever you never contact me, please be sure that you live in my heart, somewhere in France, and that thousand people love Atlantia ;))


March 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPym

Hello Jessica
First thing I would like to tell you is you and I know you have heard it before :) You are BEAUTIFUL and just
to see a pic of you makes my day,Now I am not a crazy fan it is a positive thing :) I just have a question out
of curiousity what do you think about the Kardashian thing with the fan flouring her.

Thank you

March 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRudy

Wonderful interview and insights.

I was hoping the question of start up capital and cash flow would be raised as these are two areas most new businesses struggle with. Particularly with a product range, an initial investment would be required. Many moms and families would be in a position where they'd also need to work full time leading up to that launch

March 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCandice

Such a great interview! I will admit I really had very little insight into who Jessica Alba was other than being a beautiful woman. She's incredibly smart, well spoken and driven. I'm very impressed by how much she's been able to accomplish and that she's still able to find time to really focus on being a mom! Kudos to her. Her company sounds great - I will definitely check it out further.
Thanks for sharing all these great tips with all of us other "mompreneurs"!

March 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGina Osher

So nice to see a celebrity mom who cares and seems like such a wonderful person (and mom)! Great interview and I can't wait to check out her company's products.

March 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMissy

Thank you Jessica for this wonderful article. There are so many fears and worries as being a mom and trying to start a business. The great encouragement and knowing that there will be obstacles to face, but to never give up on your dream. I love how this article covered all the unobvious challenges to come. Thanks again from one mom to the next.

March 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSarah Dalisay

Interesting interview, Jessica : ) You've accomplished so much! And I like that you developed the Honest Company rather than a fragrance or clothing line. You seem to have so much more depth than a lot of others in the entertainment industry. Congrats on all your success!

March 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNicole

A really great article, thanks Jessica Alba for doing your bit to make the world a better place, I am sure that your success will be massive. Your words ring true for me as I have just started up my own business and your clarity of vision is fantastic & inspirational.
Thank you

March 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRon (WestAus)

Jessica Alba is a beautiful woman on the inside which make her gorgeous on the outside. She is a down to earth real person who's unique ideas and views have and will continue to inspire many people and we are blessed she was brought into the spotlight so she may help us be better and healthier people. Thank you Jessica your children are blessed to have you as well as you are blessed to have them. Good luck in life and your ventures.

March 28, 2012 | Unregistered Commentershawna b

What a great story and such sweet pictures of Jessica and her new baby!

September 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarlie

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