Jessica Alba tells impact crowd that business without values is ‘old school capitalism’
Being successful in business no longer means you need to you leave your values behind.
So says Hollywood actress-turned-entrepreneur Jessica Alba, whose own business, The Honest Company, is based on the belief that doing good for people and planet will also go down well with modern consumers.
Speaking at the GSG Summit last week, Alba said: “When you feel like in order to be successful you have to leave your good character or your values at the door, that’s such an old school way of looking at capitalism... and I think it’s just a really tired model.”
She said that diversity, inclusion and giving women “a seat at the table” were good ingredients for success. “Diversity in thought” created “better solutions to your challenges”. But “the only way to do all of that is to stand for something”.
When you feel like in order to be successful you have to leave your good character at the door, that’s such an old school way of looking at capitalism
The Honest Company sells beauty, baby, cleaning and other consumer products that aim to help people live a healthy, happy life. It focuses on quality ingredients and products that aim to be good for you while also being accessibly priced. At one point it was valued at more than $1bn, and Vogue Business reported earlier this year that for 2020 it was approaching over $350m in sales. Since its inception in 2012, the company’s ‘give back’ scheme has also donated omore than 22 million products and over 18,000 employee volunteer hours.
Speaking to GSG Chair Sir Ronald Cohen, Alba said her initial interest in healthy products began when she was expecting her first child at the age of 26. Having herself suffered as a child from serious allergies and asthma, she worried about what her own baby would react to.
With her father in the military, she explained that she also grew up without much money, so realised that access to healthy products and food was difficult for many people. Making her products accessible and as affordable as possible was therefore also a key driver.
Her impetus in starting the business was being able to offer people “who didn’t even know it was possible” to live a healthier, better life. “That’s what drove me every day,” she said.
Alba described the “hurdles and challenges” in the early years of trying to get the business off the ground, including meeting with venture capitalists when she was seeking her first round of major investment.
It took me three years to even know how to put together a deck that anybody would want to invest in
“I don’t want people to think it just happened overnight. It literally took me three years to even know how to put together a deck that anybody would want to invest in. I was turned down by so many people and I wanted to create this holistic lifestyle brand and it was really difficult for a lot of people to understand, including business people and investors.
“It wasn’t until I was eight months pregnant with my second child that I pitched the company to eight different VCs,” she said.
“When we did finally get our investors… I remember in the first board meeting one of them said, ‘Ok you are creating healthy products that are good for people, you are trying to be good for the planet as well, you are a direct-to-consumer business, you also want to give back; you just can’t do all of this – so why don’t we take out the give-back element to your business model.’
“So I was like, ‘How about we keep it in and in three months if this is just not worth it and we feel like we want to look at the model differently then let’s do that but how about we just launch with that because I really feel like the modern consumer cares about this stuff.’
“I really wanted to have a ‘give back’ because there are people who cannot provide those basic essentials for themselves or their families.”
“To this day I think the thing that I’m probably most proud of is that after three months my VC didn’t’ make me take that element out of it.”